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The Body Keeps the Score
Cover of The Body Keeps the Score
The Body Keeps the Score
Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
#1 New York Times bestseller
“Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society.” —Alexander McFarlane, Director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies
A pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing in this New York Times bestseller

 
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.
#1 New York Times bestseller
“Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding and treating traumatic stress and the scope of its impact on society.” —Alexander McFarlane, Director of the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies
A pioneering researcher transforms our understanding of trauma and offers a bold new paradigm for healing in this New York Times bestseller

 
Trauma is a fact of life. Veterans and their families deal with the painful aftermath of combat; one in five Americans has been molested; one in four grew up with alcoholics; one in three couples have engaged in physical violence. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.
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    PROLOGUE

    FACING TRAUMA

    One does not have be a combat soldier, or visit a refugee camp in Syria or the Congo to encounter trauma. Trauma happens to us, our friends, our families, and our neighbors. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that one in five Americans was sexually molested as a child; one in four was beaten by a parent to the point of a mark being left on their body; and one in three couples engages in physical violence. A quarter of us grew up with alcoholic relatives, and one out of eight witnessed their mother being beaten or hit.1

    As human beings we belong to an extremely resilient species. Since time immemorial we have rebounded from our relentless wars, countless disasters (both natural and man-made), and the violence and betrayal in our own lives. But traumatic experiences do leave traces, whether on a large scale (on our histories and cultures) or close to home, on our families, with dark secrets being imperceptibly passed down through generations. They also leave traces on our minds and emotions, on our capacity for joy and intimacy, and even on our biology and immune systems.

    Trauma affects not only those who are directly exposed to it, but also those around them. Soldiers returning home from combat may frighten their families with their rages and emotional absence. The wives of men who suffer from PTSD tend to become depressed, and the children of depressed mothers are at risk of growing up insecure and anxious. Having been exposed to family violence as a child often makes it difficult to establish stable, trusting relationships as an adult.

    Trauma, by definition, is unbearable and intolerable. Most rape victims, combat soldiers, and children who have been molested become so upset when they think about what they experienced that they try to push it out of their minds, trying to act as if nothing happened, and move on. It takes tremendous energy to keep functioning while carrying the memory of terror, and the shame of utter weakness and vulnerability.

    While we all want to move beyond trauma, the part of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival (deep below our rational brain) is not very good at denial. Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones. This precipitates unpleasant emotions intense physical sensations, and impulsive and aggressive actions. These posttraumatic reactions feel incomprehensible and overwhelming. Feeling out of control, survivors of trauma often begin to fear that they are damaged to the core and beyond redemption.

     • • • 

    The first time I remember being drawn to study medicine was at a summer camp when I was about fourteen years old. My cousin Michael kept me up all night explaining the intricacies of how kidneys work, how they secrete the body’s waste materials and then reabsorb the chemicals that keep the system in balance. I was riveted by his account of the miraculous way the body functions. Later, during every stage of my medical training, whether I was studying surgery, cardiology, or pediatrics, it was obvious to me that the key to healing was understanding how the human organism works. When I began my psychiatry rotation, however, I was struck by the contrast between the incredible complexity of the mind and the ways that we human beings are connected and attached to one another, and how little psychiatrists knew about the origins of the problems they were treating. Would it be possible one day to know as much about brains, minds, and love as we do about the...

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from October 1, 2014

    Renowned trauma researcher van der Kolk's book is comprehensive in scope. The author explains in clear terms the physical causes and manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), how vast the population of sufferers is, and the devastating repercussions to society in general as a result of inadequate treatment. Anecdotes of patients from all walks of life are used to illustrate how trauma rewires the brain to create dissociated memories. Sufferers do not merely "remember" the event or events but actually relive it, complete with a cascade of excruciating physical and emotional pain. Organizing their lives to avoid triggers can lead to behaviors such as substance abuse that often compound the destructiveness of the original trauma. Inadequate conventional treatments such as talk therapy and pharmaceuticals are being replaced with neurofeedback, mindfulness training, yoga, Internal Family Systems, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapies, helping victims reclaim their minds and bodies and regain self-regulation and personal resilience. VERDICT This valuable work for psychologists, therapists, and public health professionals walks the line between academic medical text and popular nonfiction. More important, it offers hope for the millions of sufferers and their families seeking meaningful treatment and relief from the ongoing pain of trauma. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]--Janet Tapper, Univ. of Western States Lib., Portland, OR

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2014
    Psychological trauma can befall anyone, not just soldiers, refugees, or victims of rape. Trauma happens to people we know, yet we're often unaware of their anguish. Traumatic events leave residue. The imprint on mind, body, and soul have consequences. One-third to one-half of severely traumatized individuals turn to substance abuse. Psychiatrist van der Kolk, the director of a trauma treatment center, provides abundant advice about coping with, treating, and healing all kinds of trauma. He shares stories of patients that illuminate how devastating and debilitating their horrific experiences are. Advances in neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology, and developmental psychopathology have enhanced our understanding of psychological trauma. And while horrible events cannot be undone, a variety of treatments are available to reduce the symptoms of traumatic stress: medications, cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, neurofeedback, theater therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Recovery from traumatic experiences requires patients to learn to live with the memories of the past without being overwhelmed by them in the present. This important and helpful book makes sense of suffering and offers opportunity for healing.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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The Body Keeps the Score
The Body Keeps the Score
Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
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