Join @suzanne from 7pm AEDT discussing and exploring Post Traumatic Growth, a theory 'that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward.' - Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1996
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Thanks for joining Lauz and me for Topic Tuesday tonight. We’re talking about post-traumatic growth. It’s both an incredibly old concept and an area of relatively recent academic study. The Greeks and Romans liked to tell stories of ‘heroes’ who survived a terrible event and returned home with new insights and greater wisdom to share with their community. Modern day research began, less poetically, through investigating the experiences Vietnam veterans.
One of the earliest studies in the 80’s found that 61% of returned soldiers who had been prisoners of war reported some beneficial changes from their experience. Somewhat surprising. Research has since extended out to include many other populations and types of traumatic experience. These include victims of crime, refugees escaping civil war and communities who survived bushfires. People who we would expect to really understand loss and the impact of trauma.
The findings tell us that a significant number of people who experience a traumatic event go on to report positive changes in their lives. These positive changes have been called ‘post-traumatic growth’ or PTG.
We don’t know exactly how many people experience post-traumatic growth as some studies report it as low as 30% and other as high as 90%. But when you consider that the lifetime prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder sits at around 7%, you can see that PTG is a more likely outcome.
Tonight I’m hoping that we can chew this idea over and share our views and experiences with post-traumatic growth. I’ve got some info to share but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks @Lauz@NikNik. And hello @suzanne. Looking forward to the evening. However I may need to come and go a bit, got dinner happening right now. But if I miss anything, I will be back to catch up when I can. Thank you.
@suzanne I read about post traumatic growth in a book about PTSD that my clinical psych lent me to read a couple of years ago as I was undergoing a guelling series of exposure therapy. I found it very interesting, although I have forgotten a lot of what I read now.
So, hitching a ride on @BlueBay's point, before we start I think it’s important to note that PTG can be a challenging concept. At first glance, it might seem to be seeking to minimise genuine experiences of suffering. To help clear this up, here are a few things that post-traumatic growth isn’t:
- A denial of the impact of traumatic events. PTG happens IN ADDITION to expected trauma reactions not as an alternative to them.
- The same thing as resilience. PTG is not about a return to some version of your previous level of health or functioning but to growth beyond that.
- The opposite of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Survivors can, and do, experience both. In fact some studies indicate that ‘intermediate’ levels of PTSD are associated with the highest level of post-traumatic growth. One does not rule out the other.
- A reflection of superiority in some way. We still don’t fully understand the circumstances in which PTG occurs. It is slowly being unravelled but we know that factors like genetics and the availability of good support, are likely to be connected. These are beyond, or only partially within, our control. So there’s never any room for judgement, towards ourselves or others, about who does or doesn’t experience PTG.
- Wishful thinking on behalf of mental health professionals and academics. The studies are mostly based on self-reports which means that the survivors themselves report these changes. There’s probably room for argument about bias in phrasing the questions or interpreting the results but the weight of evidence is sitting pretty firmly on the side of PTG at this point.
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