Optimism and social support have a significant impact in cases of extreme stress and mental distress according to Psychiatrist Dennis Charney.
Charney is well placed to make such observations. As Dean of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and a world expert in the neurobiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, Charney has studied the psychobiological mechanisms of human resilience to stress. Much of what he has uncovered is documented in his most recent book entitled: ‘Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges’.
In a ‘Big Think’ interview (Resilience Lessons from our Veterans), Dr. Charney explains the background to his research, the findings he made and their wider application in treating stress, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions. Here he is in his own words:
We thought if we could understand resilience we could help our patients discover new treatments and help people in general because everybody at some point in their life faces tough challenges. So we started 15 years ago to identify people that we thought are resilient. We interviewed 30 or more prisoners of war from Vietnam, and the reason for that is that we had found out that the POWs from Vietnam who had been held for six to eight years in prison, heavily tortured in solitary confinement for years, many of them had done well when they got out. The most famous example is John McCain.
And through that process over many years, we started hearing the same thing over and over again about what enabled people to get through tough times and that ultimately led to this book that discusses ten ways, ten factors that relate to resilience, and we also became convinced that you can essentially train yourself to be a more resilient person and we hope the book enables you to come up with some ideas to do that.
You can watch Dr. Charney’s full interview, and read the transcript, via youtube: