The Evolving Definition of PTSD: Background information when reading Anything Is Possible

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Anything Is Possible

Amgash Series #2

by Elizabeth Strout

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout X
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2017, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2018, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
Buy This Book

About this Book

The Evolving Definition of PTSD

This article relates to Anything Is Possible

Print Review

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a central theme in Elizabeth Strout's novel Anything is Possible, a condition clearly experienced by Vietnam vet, Charlie Macauley, but also by other characters. Returning to Amgash, the scene of her abusive childhood, causes Lucy Barton to have a full-blown panic attack. Lucy's parents may also have suffered from PTSD – her father as a result of service in World War II, and her mother from her own abusive family background, suggested in Strout's previous novel, My Name is Lucy Barton, when Lucy's mother cannot touch her own daughter and explains that growing up she never slept but only catnapped.

PTSD was first officially recognized as a health condition in 1980, five years after the end of the Vietnam War. In 1983 Congress instructed the Veterans Association to conduct a story of post-war psychological symptoms amongst veterans. The resulting study – the National Vietnam Readjustment Study (NVVRS) found that 15% of veterans suffered from PTSD.

40 years on, more than 270,000 Vietnam veterans still show symptoms. These include:

  • flashbacks
  • avoidance of situations or people that trigger memories of traumatic events
  • isolation
  • hyper-arousal including anger outbursts, tension and hyper vigilance

Resulting problems include depression, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse and the consequent breakdown of family relationships or workplace difficulties. Recent studies have shown that Vietnam veterans reaching retirement age find that with more time on their hands, memories of trauma can resurface with damaging effects.

In the 1980s the diagnosis of PTSD was conceptualized as originating in experiencing a massive trauma. War, torture, rape, natural disasters were the triggers for PTSD. Since then the definition of PTSD-causing trauma has expanded to include domestic violence and child abuse. It is also now recognized that secondary exposure to trauma can cause PTSD – for example for first-responders attending to a trauma scene or for those, particularly children, living in a situation where sexual or life-threatening violence is commonplace.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and medications including anti-depressants are the mainstays of current treatments. One new approach still in its infancy is rapid intervention. Can those most directly involved in traumatic events like the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Haitian earthquake and violent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, be treated before symptoms of PTSD develop?

Not everyone involved in trauma of this kind will suffer full-blown PTSD symptoms but research is ongoing to assess the effectiveness of offering Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD), although results are disappointing so far.

Another new area is "psychological first aid" where first responders, emergency workers and school crisis response teams are trained in supporting victims of trauma to reduce initial distress and immediately begin helping individuals foster strategies for coping in the short and long term.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a wealth of information on this and other related topics in its National Center for PTSD, dedicated to research and education about PTSD and trauma.

Filed under Medicine, Science and Tech

Article by Kate Braithwaite

This "beyond the book article" relates to Anything Is Possible. It originally ran in May 2017 and has been updated for the March 2018 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Women of Troy
    The Women of Troy
    by Pat Barker
    Set in the liminal days following the Trojan War, The Women of Troy follows Briseis, who the reader ...
  • Book Jacket: The Magician
    The Magician
    by Colm Toibin
    Thomas Mann — the subject of this biographical novel by Colm Tóibín — is ...
  • Book Jacket: Cloud Cuckoo Land
    Cloud Cuckoo Land
    by Anthony Doerr
    Anthony Doerr's Cloud Cuckoo Land may be even more remarkable than his Pulitzer-prize winning work ...
  • Book Jacket: The Turnout
    The Turnout
    by Megan Abbott
    'We grew up together,' Dara finally repeated. But Marie only looked at her and said quietly, '...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Morningside Heights
by Joshua Henkin
A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Flesh & Blood
    by N. West Moss

    This beautifully written memoir offers insight, understanding, and joy.

Win This Book!
Win Sisters of the Great War

Sisters of the Great War by Suzanne Feldman

A powerful novel of two unconventional American sisters who volunteer at the front during World War I.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

L Said, S M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.