Helping with PTSD
PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder caused by experiencing, witnessing a life-threatening event such as natural disasters serious accidents, terrorist attacks and violent deaths, along with personal attacks, such as rape and robbery, creating a shock to the system. When this occurs meaning and understanding goes unprocessed leaving the individual in a state of confusion. Without having processed a traumatic event the brain stays in the fight and flight response this results in anxiety and hyper-vigilance amongst a number of other symptoms. The DSM-IV, Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders outlines clearly the symptoms necessary for a comprehensible diagnosis. Here is an outline of the diagnostic criteria. Moreover, an unprocessed traumatic event produces symptoms as a signpost for the need for closure and process much like a splinter will infect a person physically until removed unresolved trauma will infect a person psychically.
A point that needs to be made regarding PTSD is that a traumatic event is relative to the individual’s interpretation and the person need not be exposed personally. Trauma can occur through witnessing an event indirectly.
Those suffering with PTSD can experience a number of other disorders such as depression, a sense of helplessness can occur were loss of control and meaning frequently arise, panic attacks can happen when anxiety and expectation builds with no learnt ability to control unconscious processes. Addiction can result were the need to self medicate is the best option for the individual.
PTSD is most common among individuals who are exposed to horrific incidents throughout their lives such as ambulance workers, police, fire brigade and military personal. However, it appears in 5% of men and 10% of women in their lifetime (Kessler et al. 2005) and as high as 15% in emergency workers (Kinchin 2005).
Main symptoms of PTSD.
PTSD has four major aspects within the DSM 5 diagnostic criteria.
Flashbacks are a notable element of PTSD. The part of the brain that stores the memory, the event has no concept of time and the experience of a flashback is very real for the individual, as if they are back at the event. The brain in such an instance does not distinguish between fantasy and reality, the event is real. Furthermore, the unconscious mind is literal and without conscious input stored traumatic events cannot be questioned rationally as processing is incomplete. The autonomous unconscious action of the brain is beyond reasoning. Therefore trying to stop a flashback would be like asking someone suffering a fit to calm down.
Studies have shown that those who experience PTSD are highly hypnotizable. The Mechanisms of instantaneous trance induction are evident when trauma occurs. In the moment of shock, there is disequilibrium in the system allowing the unconscious mind to be receptive and open. In such a state, the mind is highly suggestible and like a computer hard drive the brain is programmed by the traumatic event. Hence, the very mechanisms that form the PTSD, trance, hypnotic state are used to relieve the condition.
Another key element of PTSD is dissociation. Moreover, during the experience of trauma a person dissociates from the event due to lack of meaning and understanding which without does not allow for integration.
Treating PTSD successfully requires the integration of the memory allowing for coherent meaning and understanding. However, meaning is relative to the individual person’s value and belief system.
Unprocessed trauma creating PTSD can be likened to a duvet cover shoved in a small cupboard not folded properly it pushes the door. What it needs is to be taken out folded carefully and placed back
Those that suffer from PTSD have two distinctive abilities which are used to assist with healing, these are the ability to dissociate and enter hypnosis.
Hypnosis can be used in a variety of ways. The individual can re-experience the trauma from a dissociated position, watching the event from a distance without being caught in the fight or flight response, gaining understanding and meaning as to integrate the traumatic event. There are those who may wish to experience the event full on to release and discharge the build up of energy that may have occurred at the time. Physical ailments can manifest due to unreleased emotions, it is important to be aware of emotions related to one’s trauma that were not expressed at the time if a person is suffering from some physical ailment. Techniques such as The Silent Abreaction means that a person does not need to scream or beat a cushion to release anger and rage.
Specific techniques used with hypnosis allow unconscious conflict to be resolved and cognitive restructuring, integration to take place resulting in freedom from flashbacks and resolution of the condition.
The Posttraumatic Self.
PTSD can have a life changing affect spiritually as it has a tendency to break down all previous assertion regarding the meaning of life. Mostly, being shaken to one’s core concerning one’s highest values can open to greater meaning and understanding. Hence, a person can birth a different part of himself or herself through such an experience. An opening in consciousness will always come with some element of change, renew and expanding often delivers birthing pains. For some returning to the person you were before is not going to be part of the healing process and this is relevant to each individual as each path is different. However, personal growth through gaining wisdom and emotional maturity are what occurs when a person is shaken at their core and this is all a process of deep change. Most notably, moving from victim to survior brings about self empowerment.
Through one’s life experience and healing a person can become more of who they are.
My Study in PTSD has been with Dr Geoff Ibbotson of the National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy.
Kinchin, D. (2005) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury, ISBN 0952912147. Success unlimited, Didcot, Oxfordshire, UK.
Kessler, R. et al. (2005) Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62, 593-602.
If you wish to discuss treatment then please phone me on 0208 508 3377 for a free confidential assessment