Urs M. Nater, Christine M. Heim

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


The case study by Dr. Schechter presents a fascinating account of a 29-year-old mother presenting in a hospital with her two children (5 years and 8 months, respectively), with the younger child exhibiting seizure-like symptoms at arrival. As the case study unfolds, the reader learns that the mother and her older child also suffer from seizure-like symptoms. Despite efforts by the doctors to identify a medical cause for these seizures, no medical explanation for these symptoms can be found. Over the course of her life, the mother had been diagnosed with a variety of psychiatric conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and conversion disorder (non-epileptic seizures). It becomes evident that she had suffered repeated and severe physical, sexual, and emotional abuse during her early childhood and adolescence. Although she reports that her children have not been exposed to any severe trauma, the children exhibit similar symptoms, including PTSD-like symptoms and non-epileptic seizures. Mother and children seem to have benefitted from psychotherapeutic intervention. In summary, two interesting phenomena have occurred: (1) after being exposed to severe stress early in her life, the mother developed a variety of psychiatric and medically unexplained somatic symptoms; and (2) these symptoms have been passed on from one generation to the next. The mechanisms underlying these phenomena are unclear and difficult to illuminate. The author of the case study thoroughly examines the potential psychological mechanisms translating trauma experienced early in life into somatic symptoms and the subsequent transmission of these symptoms from mother to child.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFormative Experiences
Subtitle of host publicationThe Interaction of Caregiving, Culture, and Developmental Psychobiology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780511711879
ISBN (Print)9780521895033
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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