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Anthropological Discourses on the Globalization of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Post-Conflict Societies

Moghimi, Yavar MD

Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: January 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 1 - p 29–37
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000410985.53970.3b

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a construct that has moved far beyond its origins in Veterans Administration hospitals after the Vietnam War. It is now commonly used in post-conflict societies by humanitarian agencies and researchers. This article looks at the ever-growing expansion of PTSD and reviews medical anthropologists’ critiques of this cross-cultural dissemination of Western psychiatric knowledge. The article also reviews post-conflict ethnographies and their results, which often highlight a mismatch between local priorities and the psycho-social services being provided by outside agencies. Finally, the author highlights interventions that are currently being undertaken by humanitarian agencies in an attempt to bridge psychiatric expertise and local forms of healing. Although PTSD is a useful construct for conceptualizing the experience of those who have suffered traumatic events, it does not lend itself to universal cross-cultural application and should be cautiously applied in post-conflict societies. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2012;18:29–37).

Moghimi: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC.

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Yavar Moghimi, MD, George Washington University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 2150 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20037.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.