Book Review: The Unspeakable Mind

by Shaili Jain, M.D.

Health Editor’s Note: I found this book to be very insightful and more importantly very understandable in explaining the world of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder.) PTSD is not just for those who have been in war and military combat situations. The human mind is designed to help us to deal with assaults to our bodies, whether physical, emotional, or mental.

You are scared, horrified, startled and your natural “fight or flight” responses go into action and escalate your body’s wish, automatic response to save yourself. Being raped, in a fire, in an accident of any type, witnessing harm to another, other horrifying events are all acts that are worthy of sending someone into the world of PTSD. Sometimes the mind cannot help us get through the stressful situation unscathed. Even when the event, that caused the intense trauma is no longer in existence, the mind goes back to that awful time and stays hyper-aware which creates a new world that is no fun to live in. This book gives the reader the ability to recognize symptoms of PTSD, educates in the ways of help, and is easy to understand for the individual with PTSD and thus is also helpful to family members……Carol     

The Unspeakable Mind:Stories of Trauma and Healing From the Frontlines of PTSD, Will be available in hard cover on May 7, 2019.  Shaili Jain, M.D. ISBN: 978-0-06-246906-9, hard cover, Science, Harper Collins Publisher $29.99. The Unspeakable Mind: Stories of Trauma and Healing from the Frontlines of PTSD Science

About the Author: Shaili Jain, M.D. is a psychiatrist and PTSD specialist and currently serves as the Medical Director for Integrated Care at the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System. She is a trauma scientist affiliated with the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and a Clinical Associate Professor affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Her work has been published in some of the most prestigious medical journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, Psychiatric Services and the Journal of Traumatic Stress, in addition to being featured in national publications such as The New York Times. Her medical essays and commentary have appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Psychology Today, Kevin MD, STAT, public radio and elsewhere.

The Unspeakable Mind is poised to do for trauma what The Noonday Demon did for depression in 2001 in that it brought this devastating disorder to the forefront of public discussion.

Untreated PTSD reshapes the human mind in insidious ways but it is possible to transcend unspeakable trauma and learn to thrive

Words of the author, Shaili Jain, M.D.

To most Americans, “PTSD” is a familiar acronym — but PTSD is a phrase that is often sloppily invoked, misinterpreted and steeped in confusion.

There is a dangerous lack of public awareness of how PTSD goes far beyond the horrors of war and is an inescapable part of all our lives. For sufferers, it can leave a devastating imprint on the brain and the body and shape lives in penetrating ways. A vast number of people are suffering silently with a condition that scientists have deemed a pressing public health concern. Beyond the suffering of individuals, PTSD has a tangible imprint on our cultures and societies around the world.

Just as Andrew Solomon’s National Book Award-winning The Noonday Demon transformed our understanding of depression, THE UNSPEAKABLE MIND lays bare PTSD’s roots, inner workings, and paths to healing. Jain’s groundbreaking work demonstrates the ways PTSD cuts to the heart of life, interfering with one’s capacity to love, create, and work—incapacity brought on by a complex interplay between biology, genetics, and environment.

PTSD is a disorder of memory famous for causing nightmares and flashbacks; lesser known is how it renders a person’s emotional life barren. For every PTSD sufferer, 10 to 20 other people in their lives are also impacted, most commonly family members. They are at a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety and PTSD themselves.

PTSD seeps beyond the confines of the mind to infiltrate cells and bodily organs. It has emerged as a risk factor for a host of medical conditions from heart disease and cancer to obesity and autoimmune disorders. New research shows how PTSD resulting from mass traumatization such as torture, slavery, and genocide can leave an imprint that spans generations.

More than half of American report experiencing a traumatic episode where their life is threatened, they are rendered helpless, and their sense of normalcy is shattered. While the majority will heal with the tincture of time, a sizeable minority will not. At any given moment in time, 6 million Americans are suffering with PTSD that requires treatment.

● Rape is the trauma most likely to lead to PTSD, closely followed by combat exposure, child abuse, sexual molestation, and physical assault.

● PTSD can be tough to diagnose and sufferers are often hard to reach. Barely a third of people with PTSD receive mental health treatment.

● For every 100 service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 20 will develop PTSD.

● High rates of PTSD are also found in police, firefighters, first responders, low income women, and teens living in high crime areas.

● Genetic factors probably account for one-third of the overall risk of developing PTSD after surviving a trauma.

Since 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been a huge growth in the science of PTSD, a body of evidence that continues to grow exponentially. With this new knowledge have come dramatic advances in the effective treatment of this disorder. “We have better tools than ever to identify potential PTSD sufferers and offer preventative care and early interventions that can mitigate the long term-effects of trauma before PTSD becomes entrenched,” says Dr. Jain.

Dr. Jain draws on a decade of her own clinical innovation and research and argues for a paradigm shift in how PTSD should be approached in the new millennium. She highlights the myriads of ways PTSD care is being disrupted to make it more accessible, acceptable and available to sufferers via integrated care models, use of peer support programs and technology. By using data to identify those among us who are most vulnerable to developing PTSD, cutting edge medical interventions that hold the promise of preventing the onset of PTSD are becoming more of a reality than ever before.

Combining vividly recounted patient stories, interviews with some of the world’s top trauma scientists and her professional expertise of working on the frontlines of PTSD, The Unspeakable Mind offers a textured portrait of PTSD that is unrivaled in scope. A nuanced cartography of a widely misunderstood condition, this book is essential reading for understanding the pathways via which human beings can recover from unspeakable trauma. Dr. Shaili Jain has created a valuable resource that will stand as the definitive guide to PTSD and have an impact on sufferers, loved ones, and health care providers for years to come.


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  1. This is a very good report by Ms. Duff. Consider all the people in Israel who planned and executed the 9/11/01 attacks in New York. They were aided by a number in New York as well, members of the Port Authority who sold the buildings to Lucky, the mayor, now Trump’s lawyer, who sped up the removal of debris so it couldn’t be tested for radioactive and other incriminating chemicals, members of police forces in NY and NJ who released the dancing Israelis or hastened them onto planes back to Israel, and on and on and on, the judge who prevented all objections to the official story, etc. Her husband Gordon has written many articles on all the gory details. How come none of the perpetrators of this massive crime do not have PTSD? While the victims she discussed were normally not involved in the execution of the horrible events she describes, what if they had been as in this case? Do they possess a conscience? Wouldn’t any normal person who participated in any way, shape or form in the 9/11/01 attack have some horrible guilt feelings and others described here? How about Bush and Cheney and the four star generals who obviously stood down or were ordered to do so? Observe the deafening silence from all of them. “Conscience doth make cowards of us all.” How come not a single one has come forward with the TRUTH?

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