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

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Anything Is Possible

by Elizabeth Strout

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
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  • Published:
    Apr 2017, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

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Beyond the Book:
The Evolving Definition of PTSD

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 ...

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