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Humanities 2016, 5(1), 4; doi:10.3390/h5010004

Life Sciences—Life Writing: PTSD as a Transdisciplinary Entity between Biomedical Explanation and Lived Experience

Institute for the History, Philosophy, and Ethics of Medicine, Johannes Gutenberg University Medical Center, 55131 Mainz, Germany
Institute of American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University, 55099 Mainz, Germany
Department of Pharmaceutical Biology, Institute of Pharmacy and Biochemistry, Johannes Gutenberg University, Staudinger Weg 5, 55128 Mainz, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Albrecht Classen
Received: 7 July 2015 / Revised: 17 December 2015 / Accepted: 18 December 2015 / Published: 30 December 2015
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Since the second half of the 20th century, the life sciences have become one of the dominant explanatory models for almost every aspect of human life. Hand in hand with biomedical developments and technologies, the life sciences are constantly shaping and reshaping human lives and changing human biographies in manifold ways. The orientation towards life sciences and biomedicine from the very beginning to the end of human life is driven by the utopian notion that all forms of contingency could be technologically and medically controlled. This paper addresses the interrelatedness of life sciences and human biographies in a field where contingency and risk become essential and existential parts of lived experience: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On the one hand, this diagnostic entity is related to (neuro-)biological underpinnings of (a lack of) psychic resilience as well as to those of contemporary pharmacotherapy. On the other hand, PTSD is also understood as based on a traumatic life event, which can be accessed through and addressed by talk therapy, particularly narrative exposure therapy (NET). We argue that a novel focus on concepts of narrativity will generate pathways for an interdisciplinary understanding of PTSD by linking biological underpinnings from neurobiological findings, to brain metabolism and pharmacotherapy via the interface of psychotherapy and the specific role of narratives to the lived experience of patients and vice versa. The goal of our study is to demonstrate why therapies such as psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy are successful in controlling the disease burden of PTSD to some extent, but the restitutio ad integrum, the reestablishing of the bodily and psychic integrity remains out of reach for most PTSD patients. As a test case, we discuss the complementary methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the established procedures of talk therapy (NET) to show how a methodological focus on narratives enhanced by notions of narrativity from the humanities grants access to therapeutically meaningful, enriched notions of PTSD. We focus on TCM because trauma therapy has long since become an intrinsic part of this complementary medical concept which are more widely accessible and accepted than other complementary medical practices, such as Ayurveda or homeopathy. Looking at the individual that suffers from a traumatic life event and also acknowledging the contemporary concepts of resilience, transdisciplinary concepts become particularly relevant for the medical treatment of and social reintegration of patients such as war veterans. We emphasize the necessity of a new dialogue between the life sciences and the humanities by introducing the concepts of corporeality, capability and temporality as boundary objects crucial for both the biomedical explanation, the narrative understanding and the lived experience of trauma. View Full-Text
Keywords: life sciences; life writing; medical ethics; medical epistemology; narratives; pharmaceutical biology; posttraumatic stress disorder; war veterans life sciences; life writing; medical ethics; medical epistemology; narratives; pharmaceutical biology; posttraumatic stress disorder; war veterans

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Paul, N.W.; Banerjee, M.; Efferth, T. Life Sciences—Life Writing: PTSD as a Transdisciplinary Entity between Biomedical Explanation and Lived Experience. Humanities 2016, 5, 4.

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