The Things They Carried: Catharsis and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Topics: Posttraumatic stress disorder, Anxiety disorder, Psychological trauma, Vietnam War / Pages: 13 (4359 words) / Published: Feb 28th, 2012

The Things They Carried: Catharsis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder “Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to” (O’Brien 20). Tim O’Brien is the author of The Things They Carried, a fictional memoir written from the perspective of the narrator, whose name is also Tim O’Brien. This fictional O’Brien’s experiences cover many themes, most notably those of fear, guilt and humiliation. In this novel, O’Brien uses a distinct blend of fact and fiction as an outlet for his actual experiences in Vietnam. Because O’Brien suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he uses “story-truth versus happening-truth” to distance himself from his experiences. This make the reader feel the emotional power of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a soldier. PTSD is a type of severe anxiety disorder caused by traumatic events such as rape, abuse, or military combat, and any other event where there is the threat of injury or death. Formerly known as “shell-shock” and “combat fatigue”, PTSD is a condition for which there is no specific “cure” for. Despite advances in psychology, a definite cure is elusive and there are only theories in which catharsis can be reached. PTSD is less common and can be mistaken for acute stress syndrome. The similarities have both disorders classified in the same category, where PTSD is a more advanced form of acute stress syndrome (Sarason and Sarason 223). The symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories: first, “intrusion”, which “reflects the indelible imprint of the traumatic moment” (Herman 35). This can include flashbacks, where the victim is repeatedly “reliving” the trauma, recurring distressing memories of the trauma, repeated dreams of the trauma, and varying degrees of physical reaction to situations that remind the victim of the trauma. The second category is that of “constriction”, which “reflects the numbing response of surrender” (Herman 35). This includes emotional “numbing”, in which the victim feels

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