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Edited by Mardi J. Horowitz, M.D. New York, New York University Press, 1999, 550 pp., $75.00; $27.50 (paper).
An editor immediately runs a substantial risk when titling a book "Essential Papers on…," since readers will expect to see their favorite classics. As I began perusing Essential Papers on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I had in mind, of course, my own list of essential and classic papers that I hoped to see in the volume. The problem is that lists of essential papers often only overlap in some areas. This is true here. One would expect to see Lindemann’s paper on symptoms of acute grief, Pynoos and Eth’s paper on children witnessing violence, Shore’s study of Mount St. Helens, and at least one paper by Bonnie Green and Jack Lindy. These are present. Similarly, Lifton and Olson’s paper on the Buffalo Creek disaster, published in 1976, was a major contribution to our recognition of the impact on health and community function of the threat to one’s life and exposure to death. Eitinger’s work on concentration camp victims represents an entire genre of publications on which the studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been built. However, it is surprising to find a paper on eye movement desensitization in such a volume. What makes a paper essential, what makes it a classic, is much in the eye of the beholder.
Dr. Horowitz has put together an interesting collection of papers, many of which are important readings for those interested in individual responses to traumatic events, and, yes, some are essential readings. Dr. Horowitz has been a major contributor himself in this area, and his paper describing intrusive and avoidant symptoms, which led to the Impact of Events Scale—perhaps the most widely used instrument in studies of trauma—is a superb example of an essential reading. The volume is slanted toward individual responses with a substantial emphasis on dissociation. In addition, there are a few epidemiological studies and a few papers on war-related trauma.
The volume is broken into three parts, which, with some detective work, the reader can identify as related to diagnosis, explanation, and treatment of PTSD. Twenty-eight papers are included, three from Horowitz and his group. Previous volumes in this series have included Essential Papers on Addiction(1), Essential Papers on Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder(2), and Essential Papers on Short-Term Dynamic Therapy(3), as well as others. The reader will find a number of papers of interest and, without doubt, several that are on every person’s essential and classic list. Others can be skimmed or avoided, and occasionally an undiscovered jewel will be found by the diligent reader. This book will primarily find value for teachers who desire a ready reference of papers on PTSD and for those who want to have a ready source of these specific papers in a single volume.
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