Archives for April, 2012


Strategies for Healing the Psychological Impact of Medical Illness

In the preceding blog, we considered the importance of recognizing medical illness as psychological trauma.

In this blog we report on an interview with Michele Rosenthal, author of the trauma recovery memoir, BEFORE THE WORLD INTRUDED, survivor, and host of ‘Your Life After Trauma'.  

Diagnosed with a rare disease, Stevens Johnson Syndrome, at age thirteen, Michele journeyed through two decades of undiagnosed PTSD to eventual recognition, recovery and support of many as the founder of

What she offers in lessons learned is of value for parents of children who have faced illness, as well as adults who wonder how they will ever reclaim their bodies, heal their sense of self and take a new self into the future.

Michele, your journey from illness started when you were only thirteen. Parents suffer so much when they see their children suffer. How did your parents respond?

My parents were phenomenal! They were there in a very active way. Their presence next to me, their translation of what was happening to me, their role in helping the staff understand me in a certain way were all crucial to my safety and comfort.
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Medical Illness as Psychological Trauma: Overlooked Pain

In this era of advanced medical detection and intervention, the medical care of patients and the reduction of mortality for life threatening illness has never been greater.  Against this backdrop of success, however, what is often overlooked by professionals, family, even patients, is the experience of medical illness as psychological trauma.

While some efforts like the emerging field of Psycho-oncology are starting to address the totality of the patient and the American Psychiatric Association now officially considers “ being diagnosed with a life –threatening illness” a potentially traumatic event, it is perhaps most important that patients and families understand why and how medical illness often brings with it- anxiety, anger, depression, panic and post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Understanding, normalizing and validating common stress reactions can demystify and lower anxiety at a time when so much feels beyond understanding or out of control.
Given that the experience of trauma is a function of many variables including age, nature of trauma, duration and personal meaning, people will differ in their psychological response to medical illness.
Some may experience a few symptoms which abate within months, others will deal with a delay in the experience of depression or anxiety until well after the medical crisis, and for others the persistence of emotional distress may warrant professional help.

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“The Hunger Games”: Some Suggestions For Parents

The new film, “The Hunger Games,” based on the novel by Suzanne Collins, has outstripped Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax as the top grossing film this year. Perhaps because it is based on a young adult novel written in the voice of a 16-year-old heroine with many young fans, it earned a MPAA rating of PG-13 despite considerable violence. As such, there has been concern about its impact on the millions of teens who will be viewing it.

Research studies have demonstrated both an increase in aggression and desensitization to violence by children and teens viewing many hours of violence in TV shows, interactive games and films. Longitudinal, cross-sectional, and experimental studies have all confirmed this correlation.

In “ The Hunger Games” what is of particular concern is that the violence is lethal violence of children against children, an activity portrayed as “games.”

The Role of Parents

As parents you can best mediate the impact of what your children have seen or are viewing if you are “media literate” i.e. – you know what your children and teens are exposed to. Accordingly, if your teens have seen or are going to see “The Hunger Games,” it makes sense for you to see it. If necessary, see it separately.
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