Friday, March 8, 2013

Super PTSD (TRS): Victims living with Abusers

Maya, Wisdom Quarterly; Henry ( to Patti Carmalt-Vener, Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy (
The conscious mind may not remember, but the body does -- for years and years -- affecting our relationships and everyone around us (

TRS, unlike PTSD, occurs when
victims are under the control of their abuser.

Shsssh, baby girl, it's our secret.
On her first visit to a psychiatrist, my wife was diagnosed as suffering from trauma reenactment syndrome [TRS]. I tried to look this up in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV but didn't find anything. Can you explain it?

Gina's father died in Viet Nam, and she has no recollection of him. She was raised from age 3 by her mother and a very sadistic stepfather. To save her mother from repeated beatings, Gina submitted to sexual molestations. He never physically hit her, and as a child she rationalized it wasn't so bad as long as he didn't hurt her mother anymore. She was forced to come straight home after school, stay home on weekends, and was isolated form friends and family. Neither Gina nor her mother told anyone what was happening.
They both went to live with Gina's aunt when the stepfather was put in a hospital.

Between ages 14 and 18, Gina lived with her aunt and her mother and then left for college. Between ages 20 and 24, she joined a religious cult and was subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

The only time she was ever physically violent was when she attacked a woman right before she left the cult. That's a hated memory, as she never wants to be like her stepfather.

Gina and I met at Alcoholics Anonymous when she was 29. Both of us have been sober and together ever since. Gina is wonderful, but she still suffers. Her job requires her to socialize, and that's very difficult for her. She also has nightmares about her childhood and is fearful I'm going to leave her (which I'm not). Due to her intense low moods [although any mood disturbance lasting more than two weeks would have triggered her pharmaceutical-medical model doctor], the psychiatrist prescribed medication.

I'm very concerned about her. I'm planning on seeing her psychiatrist with her, but your knowledge is welcomed.

DEAR HENRY: Trauma reenactment syndrome is a complex form of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), diagnosed in people who have experienced prolonged and repeated trauma. PTSD mainly deals with a single traumatic event [like rape]... PTSD does not include trauma such as the intense abuse Gina endured... TRS occurs when the victim is in some type of captivity and under the abuser's control. This can include prisons, religious cults, families where a child is abused and unable to fend for him/herself, and in marriages from which she is unable to leave [for example, because of children]... More

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