2002 Research Fair Archive - Interdisciplinary Abstracts
PTSD for Brittain and Me
Vera Brittain displayed symptoms of Post-Traumatic Disorder in her literary war account, Testament of Youth. Through psychological description and explanation of the official diagnostic manual DSM-IV, I will discuss how Brittain suffered from PTSD. Brittain's pre-war psychological predisposition was a necessary precursor to her loss of innocence when her world erupted in fear, helplessness, and horror at the beginning of the Great War. As those who were close to her died during the War she experienced a breakdown of her physical and psychological integrity. Following her initial traumatic event Vera Brittain re-experienced this trauma by recurrent and distressing thoughts and dreams of the events in which her hyperarousal symptoms acted as cues for reliving the trauma. After the War Brittain persistently avoided stimuli associated with her trauma and displayed a general numbing responsiveness, which failed to produce what Jonathon Shay calls a "listening audience" while she attended school. But ultimately she possessed the ability to create a listening audience with her memoir. By writing a narrative about her account of the War Brittain created an environment in which she gained control of her trauma by linking the past, present and future, and by which she communalized her trauma in a didactic nature to a sympathetic audience.