Bitterness and resentment can make you sick, German experts warn

Bitterness and resentment can make you sick, German experts warnHamburg, Germany  - Forget Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now a team of German researchers say Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED) should be recognized as a medical disorder.

While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be brought on by a serious accident or brutal crime or loss of a loved one, Post- Traumatic Embitterment Disorder can be the result of seething bitterness and resentment which builds up on a daily basis over a long period of time, according to the team of Berlin psycho- therapists.

The team led by Dr. Michael Linden, head of the psychiatric clinic at Berlin's Freie University, reported on their findings in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

They use the term Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED) to describe a subtype of adjustment disorders, characterized by prolonged embitterment, severe additional psycho-pathological symptoms and great impairment in most areas of life.

PTED is a reaction to a severe negative event - such as being laid off from a job after years of sterling performance - which causes anger and resentment and bitter feelings. But losing a cherished and lucrative job is not in itself a life-threatening event.

However, unresolved bitterness about it can spawn an array of serious problems such as depression, insomnia, emotional instability and rage outbursts. And such stress can exacerbate cardio-vascular problems.

Person with PTED may avoid areas where they are likely to meet their aggressor. Although they feel depressed and lethargic, that mood may improve when they contemplate and plot revenge.

They may feel so let down that they lose their self-confidence and their trust in others and even in former friends, and may refuse to socialize, ultimately becoming isolated.

With few modifying external influences, their sense of being victims of injustice spirals.

Overall, Linden says, they become functionally incapacitated, thus removing PTED out of the normal reaction range of responses and into the disorder range.

So on the surface, the symptoms seem to resemble PTSD although anxiety and panic are dominant, while PTED is characterised by anger and embitterment.

At present PTDE is not a recognised psychiatric disorder, yet Linden and co-workers argue that it should be and have published many scientific papers, a monograph and a book reiterating this.

The Berlin scientists observed 50 inpatients suffering from PTED according to previously defined clinical diagnostic criteria. They were compared with another 50 patients, matched by age and gender, who did not meet clinical criteria for PTED but for other mental disorders.

Psychiatric diagnoses were assessed by the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview. Self-report measures included the Bern Embitterment Scale, the Impact of Event Scale, the PTED Self-Rating Scale and the SCL-90.

In this study, clear differences were found between PTED patients and patients with other mental disorders in regard to the quality and intensity of psycho-pathological as well as post-traumatic stress symptoms.

The Berlin researchers say PTED can help further sub-classify and specify adjustment and reactive disorders. (dpa)