FIG1 Twenty-six years ago, a New
Jersey couple announced to their mothers that they were moving to New Zealand.
The husband's mother was devastated by the news and died a few months later.
The wife's mother, however, said, "Oh, that's interesting. I look
forward to visiting you there!" And that is precisely what she has done.
Her most recent visit was at age 80.
Steven Southwick, M.D.: "Psychiatrists are good at assessing
psychopathology, but not very good at assessing people's
Could this true story illustrate how some people, when faced with a
traumatic situation, buckle under, whereas others not only survive but thrive?
Possibly, because finding "opportunity in difficult situations" is
a major characteristic of resilient people, a resilience researcher reported
at a recent meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association in New York
Yet looking for a "silver lining" in storm clouds is not the
only attribute or behavior of resilient people, the researcher—Steven
Southwick, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Yale
University—emphasized. There are a number of others as well.
In addition to the qualities, behaviors, and skills that can help people
successfully cope with crises, some medications may help as well, Southwick
For instance, animals placed on SSRI antidepressants were found to handle
stress better than animals not placed on them. One of the reasons may be that
the SSRIs, like physical exercise, promote nerve growth in the
The most abundant neuropeptide in the brain—neuropeptide-Y—is
known to have a calming effect. Further, soldiers who are more resilient make
a lot of it, whereas individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder make very
little, Southwick and his colleagues have learned. So they are planning to
conduct a study to see if a nasal-spray form of neuropeptide-Y might increase
people's ability to cope with stress. ▪