The Diagnosis and Treatment of PostTraumatic Stress Disorder

Keyhill Sheorn, MD is a general psychiatrist with a full-time solo practice who specialises in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To help you with challenging cases, Dr. Sheorn is especially adept at determining what is, or is not, PTSD. As winner of the Most Highly Regarded Expert Witnesses 2017 award, we spoke to Dr. Sheorn to find out more about her exceptional work within that respected field.

Dr. Sheorn is the director of Psychotherapy Training at the Medical College of Virginia’s Department of Psychiatry, and is the recent past president of the Virginia Psychoanalytic Society. Dr. Sheorn lectures nationally, providing continuing education to physicians, attorneys, and associated professionals in those fields. She has been in her current job role for 28 years.
Keyhill Sheorn, MD begins this insightful interview by detailing her work as a full-time solo practitioner.
“Time is spent in my practice diagnosing and treating patients who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Only about 8% of people exposed to trauma develop the disorder. It can be useful for the others to have a diagnostic evaluation and help them to understand the differential diagnoses that might explain their current symptoms, if this is not PTSD. A higher incidence of PTSD, of course, is to be expected with rape, or combat-related trauma.

“Treatment for an acute traumatic event is normally between eight and twelve sessions. Longer-term therapy is required for adults with residual childhood trauma, repressed trauma, or survivor guilt. Many modalities of therapy are suggested for PTSD. My specialty is desensitization, and then psychodynamic psychotherapy for those patients capable of, and desiring, the insight into their suffering.”
Keyhill then offers her thoughts on winning the Most Highly Regarded Expert Witnesses 2017 award, before telling us why expert witnesses are essential for cases today.

“I have an earnest belief that the people who really are suffering are being partitioned out in court by the people who are misrepresenting injury for financial gain. I am glad for this award, if it allows me to dispel some misconceptions about PTSD to both the public and legal system.

“For my specialty of psychiatry, I think it’s helpful for victims to have someone stand up for them in court, when it comes to that. And it can be good for a jury or the court to be able to hear the facts in a manner that takes some of the complexity out of psychiatric matters. Everyone understands physical injuries, because most of us have endured that at some level or another. But debilitating psychological pain is difficult to see or feel or comprehend, if you haven’t gone through it, or loved someone who has experienced it. Experts are so exquisitely important to describe these matters.”

Dr. Sheorn then provides us with some insight into her work, knowledge of this industry sector and the kind of cases she has provided expert witness testimony for.

“The DSM 5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is widely available online and in book stores. Diagnostic PTSD check-lists are easy to print out and use as ‘proof’ of injury. Were it that easy to diagnose this disorder, we wouldn’t need trained clinicians. And yet, attorneys are relying on these patient-reported facts to guide their cases.
“My unique knowledge allows me to serve both plaintiff and defence. Because I treat the disorder, I have an in-depth understanding of the pathology. Because I teach and talk about the disorder, I have the other vantage point of being able to grasp what is not PTSD and explain why that is so.

“In terms of any cases I have worked on, these matters, by their very nature, must stay private. However, there have been cases of personal injury, work-related injury, imagined injury, Munchausen, Munchausen-by-Proxy (where the psychiatrist was causing the illness). There have been cases of survivor guilt, unconsciousness during the traumatic event, and bizarre stories that turn out to be true. There is a wide complexity of the diagnosis of the disorder.”

Dr. Sheorn then shares with us her concluding thoughts, including her professional hopes for the future.

“Looking ahead, I see myself as doing more of the same, perhaps with a narrower focus as the courts see fewer inauthentic cases of PTSD. In my professional capacity, I would hope that attorneys would feel comfortable to just pick up the phone or send an email asking a few basic questions about their cases, before they get so far down the road. Vast resources are being used on exaggerated claims which might be better reserved for actual victims.

“The treatment of PTSD is very specialised and tailored to each unique patient. Not everyone responds the same way to trauma, so not every modality of treatment works for each one. It is important for victims to know that they can keep trying to find the right person to help them. This is a highly treatable disorder that does not have to last a lifetime.”  

Company: Keyhill Sheorn, MD

Name: Keyhill Sheorn, MD


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