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Chimpanzees Suffer PTSD Like Humans

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afflicts chimpanzees from laboratories in the same way as it does human trauma survivors, according to a paper published this week in vol. 9(1) of the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. Building an Inner Sanctuary: Complex PTSD in Chimpanzees demonstrates that psychological suffering crosses species lines.

“Chimpanzees who survive a laboratory and humans who survive traumas share a common suffering,” says co-author Theodora Capaldo, EdD, director of Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories, a campaign of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS). “Yet, science imposes a species barrier on compassion. Only Homo sapiens are allowed true protection from research. Our findings bring a truth to the table: In the face of suffering and fear, trauma is common to us all.”

The paper is co-authored by Gay Bradshaw, PhD, PhD, Lorin Lindner, PhD, MPH, Gloria Grow, founder and director of Fauna Foundation sanctuary, and Dr. Capaldo.

The paper analyzes case material of two chimpanzees rescued from research, Jeannie and Rachel. Diagnosed with complex PTSD, they show that chimpanzees, like humans, suffer when confined, stripped of agency, repeatedly physically injured, and subjected to constant fear and stress. Jeannie and Rachel’s symptoms — hypervigilance, dissociating, violent self-attacks, insomnia, ritualistic behaviors, inability to tolerate touch and limited social skills — are representative of human trauma survivors as well as other chimpanzees from research.

“The paper challenges a system that likens chimpanzees to humans when attempting to justify their use to study human biological disease, but refuses to acknowledge the full extent of their emotional, behavioral and cognitive similarities since that acknowledgement argues against their use,” says Dr. Capaldo.