Presentation at William Allen White Institute in NYC on January 23, 2018

On January 23, 2018 , I will be giving a presentation, entitled “Trauma, Psychosis and Functionality” at the William Allen White Institute in NYC. More details, as well as the registration procedure, can be found from this link.

The presentation will describe personal experiences from encounters with Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who have been chronically hospitalized in psychiatric institutions in Israel for many decades. The Holocaust survivors were interviewed in the context of a study I conducted as a member of the Yale University Trauma Study Group, together with our Israeli colleagues. The findings of the study were published in the paper available from this link, as well as in contributions I published in this paper in Kavod (the online magazine of the Claims Conference, dedicated to issues related to Holocaust survivors), and in a recently published book entitled Psychoanalysis and Holocaust Testimony: Unwanted Memories of Social Trauma (2017, Laub and Hamburger, eds., Routledge). The presentation will describe the unusual and surprising experience of taking the testimonies of the chronically hospitalized patients, most of whom had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and spent decades in psychiatric institutions.

Despite the torrent of research on PTSD since the introduction of the diagnosis into the DSM-III, studies continue to show that the disorder is grossly under-diagnosed, that many individuals suffer from sub-clinical levels of symptoms which are sufficient to create nearly as much distress and impairment as the formal disorder, and that other post-traumatic reactions, primarily depression and anxiety, often follow exposure to extreme trauma. The life trajectories described in this paper highlight the importance of diagnosis of PTSD and other post-traumatic reactions, which in turn determines the availability of appropriate treatment, and in particular, the critical role of social support in maintaining functionality despite symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

                 Irit Felsen

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