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‘Embitterment’ draws Korean psychiatrists’ attention
  • By Song Soo-youn
  • Published 2019.04.12 14:53
  • Updated 2019.04.12 14:53
  • comments 0

The local psychiatrist community is showing keen attention to embitterment disorder, a pathological reaction to adverse life events.

Embitterment was first academically defined by a German scholar in 1990, but a recent survey showed that the proportion of Koreans suffering from embitterment disorder was much higher than that of Germans.

The Korean NeuroPsychiatric Association held a forum on “Korean Society’s Embitterment and Post-traumatic Growth” at Grand Hilton Seoul, Thursday.

You Myoung-soon, a professor at the Public Health Science Department of Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Health, released the result of a survey that measured embitterment in 2,024 Korean adults aged from 19 to 65.

She emphasized that the nation needs various research works on embitterment.

According to Yoo’s study, 14.7 percent of the respondents felt embittered severely, six times more than Germans with 2.5 percent. She measured embitterment by using 19 self-rating questionnaires of Post-traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED). The answers are given on a five-point scale from zero to four. A score of 2.5 or higher was regarded as severe embitterment disorder.

In another score, measured in 18 questions under the Bern Embitterment Inventory (BEI), 45.7 percent was categorized as the embitterment group, compared to the Netherlands’ 8 percent.

You Myoung-soon, a professor at the Public Health Science Department of Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Health, speaks at a forum on “Korean Society’s Embitterment and Post-traumatic Growth,” at Grand Hilton Seoul, Thursday.

“Performance-related embitterment was high in all age groups. This shows that many people feel that their performance is underestimated at work or school,” Yoo said. “People in their 20s and 30s show a high level of embitterment that the Korean society was unfair. They feel resentful that even though they are doing their best, they don’t feel well treated.”

Yoo went on to say that embitterment damages not only the quality of life and satisfaction but health. “It is not easy to treat a person in serious embitterment. We should think about how to distribute resources to support them and change policies. We need to do a survey on experiences and reflect it on policies,” she added.

Physicians are also making efforts to diagnose embitterment disorder and find an effective therapy. PTED is not officially registered as a diagnostic name in the mental illness classification system.

Professor Han Chang-soo of the Psychiatry Department at Korea University Anam Hospital, said he had some patients who visited him even one year after getting depression treatment.

“Among them, some had symptoms of embitterment disorder and showed a violent tendency toward society and themselves. Embitterment disorder persists longer than depression, and it is not treated well with medicines,” Han said.

Korea University Anam Hospital is the first institution in Korea that translated the self-rating questionnaires for PTED diagnosis into Korean and used it for patient care.

Shin Cheol-min, a professor of psychiatry at Korea University Ansan Hospital, said embitterment refers to an emotional state where a patient has a feeling of defeat and a desire to revenge because of disappointment and helplessness caused by long-term unfair treatment. “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) shows anxiety as a major symptom, but that of PTED is embitterment,” he said.

PTED patients lack trust in other people, and it is significant to treat them with initial treatment alliance through acceptance and empathy, Shin noted.

“A cognitive-behavioral approach is also needed to understand the basic beliefs the patient has. Patients with both depression and PTED need to try a formal therapeutic approach, in addition to the conventional treatment of depression,” he added.


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