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About the Author

Bessel van der Kolk M.D. has been active as a clinician, researcher and teacher in the area of posttraumatic stress and related phenomena since the 1970s. He was co-principal investigator of the DSM IV Field Trials for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His current research is on how trauma affects show more memory processes and brain imaging studies of PTSD. He has written or co-written several books including Psychological Trauma, Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society, and The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D.

Works by Bessel A. van der Kolk

Associated Works


2021 (9) abuse (18) audible (10) audiobook (20) body (20) brain (16) child abuse (8) Counseling (26) currently-reading (42) ebook (21) goodreads (11) goodreads import (14) healing (38) health (60) Kindle (24) medical (16) medicine (21) mental health (97) mental illness (22) mind and body (10) neuroscience (35) non-fiction (220) own (15) owned (12) personal development (9) psych (12) psychiatry (24) psychology (278) psychotherapy (18) PTSD (105) read (17) recovery (9) science (52) self-help (63) therapy (32) to-read (349) trauma (254) unread (10) vintiquebooks (9) yoga (9)

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
van der Kolk, Bessel A.
The Hague, Netherlands
Places of residence
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Boston University School of Medicine



The first helpful mental health book I read. The author has the ability to lay out exactly how a person with PTSD or CPTSD is feeling, and why. He was also the first author I read who laid the blame at the lack of help, and, at the time, the lack of the CPTSD diagnosis squarely on the System. He shares not only stories of people's suffering at the hands of violence and abuse, but also a medical system that, frankly doesn't really care about victims most of the time. When he relates the reaction of doctors to actual research that shows how abuse and violence play out in the body (hint: they are not happy to hear it). It has taken decades, and likely a lot of pressure as a result of this book opening eyes to the issue, to get CPTSD as an official diagnosis. So, some of the information in this book will be dated, still, the fight will never end, especially since we live in a society that is unwilling to face the trauma it has caused and continues to perpetuate.… (more)
IriDas | 72 other reviews | Jun 4, 2024 |
According to this book: childhood trauma has a lot to do with adult problems.
Trauma includes rape, incest, witnessing rape, incest, parental problems.... Even a surgery can create trauma similar to PTSD, which in WWI was called "shell shock" until the British government wanted to stop paying for treatment and forbade the use of the term "shell shock."

Traumatic memories are often repressed. When they come back they are different from a normal memory in that they are incoherent, or fragmentary.

2022-10-18: NYTimes best seller #1 & 111 weeks on the list.
The library book loan expired before I finished this book. I've now got it borrowed again, but want to get to the last section before deciding whether to buy a copy.
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bread2u | 72 other reviews | May 15, 2024 |
An interesting framework that needs more empirical support. Useful for thinking about trauma and how it can impact people. Unfortunately there was an undercurrent of misogyny and double standards regarding gender throughout the entire thing. There was a lot of victim blaming regarding sexual violence, including at one point the author stating that an incident in which a young woman was gang raped by her friends was not a simple matter than could easily be understood through roles such as “victim” and “perpetrators.” The author explained the girl’s willingness to hang out and smoke with her male friends as stemming from childhood trauma, which put her in that situation, which is what caused the violent event. Excuse me, what??? Yet, men in the book who committed horrendous acts such as murdering children in Vietnam were given compassion. Just weird.

The book also failed to incorporate the impact of experiences of discrimination and marginalization on mental health. No discussion of racism. No discussion of sexism and misogyny.

Also - the author of this book has since been fired from his position of running the trauma research center because he created a hostile work environment. He bullied his subordinates. So, I am skeptical any time he described childhood trauma as being responsible for why people feel traumatized by events in adulthood, especially when this was used as a way to explain why women become victims of violent male behavior.

TLDR; interesting framework, but the author gives me the ick
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1 vote
stitchcastermage | 72 other reviews | Apr 26, 2024 |
mojomomma | 72 other reviews | Apr 23, 2024 |



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