Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is without doubt the disease of the new century — or at least it would be if it were not for the fact that humans have all too often been the authors of their own foreboding… unkindness to their fellows, wars, exploitation, sexual violence etc. etc. etc… But we still have to deal with it and help clients pick up the pieces.
When we talk about PTSD, we’re not talking about the stresses and strains of modern life, which include things like stress at work, stress at home, stress with the kids, the stress of trying to make the budget stretch out to the end of the month. These are things that most people experience and there are some easy and straightforward methods we can use to relieve stress — hypnotherapists are well versed in the relaxation techniques that result in rapid and reliable relief.
But real PTSD is something rather different and more difficult to live with. PTSD affects people who have been involved in, or witnessed, events that no one should have to bear. We’re talking fatal road accidents, acts of extreme violence, or the grim business of preserving you own life in the deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan. I’m sure you get the idea. Most cases of PTSD are the result of sudden shock or events that unfold relatively quickly, but not all cases. PTSD can also result from days, or months of exposure to chronically stressful situations.
PTSD can also lead to psychological resilience rather than psychological breakdown, although this is not necessarily the case with repeated trauma. There is also a danger of what Harvard University psychologist Richard J. McNally calls Criterion Creep, which is when the boundaries of diagnosis are expanded beyond recognition, or what is reasonable, to include things that are not really all that traumatic.
Examples of things that fall into that category would be: your dog dies of old age; a friends father dies of a heart attack; a failed short-term relationship; seeing a dead enemy solder (not a friend); getting slightly scalded by a cup of tea because you are too fucking stupid to put it in the drinks holder instead of on top of the dashboard when you drive away from McDonalds.
It is true that time is a great healer. The pain of trauma usually wears off over time. But the memory of the event is still there and will always be there — ask any war veteran. Unfortunately, not even the world’s most accomplished hypnotherapist, psychologist or mind-magician can erase the memory of a peak experience. What hypnosis can achieve is create Emotional Distance.
In hypnotherapy, the therapists often work with the emotions to help the client to achieve a change in the way they perceive. The brain often hides behind the heart. Using a combination of relaxation, visual imagery (creative imagination) it is possible to ‘send away’ the painful part of the trauma, leaving only an inert memory.
PTSD — a roadmap:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops in some people who have experienced shocking or frightening or life-threatening events. People who suffer from PTSD often feel stressed, anxious and depressed, even in circumstances when they are not in any danger.
The kind of experiences by which people can develop PTSD would include:
• Rape or Sexual Assault
• Terrorist Attacks
• Physical Violence including Sexual Violence
• Serious Accidents
• Natural Disasters
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:
• Reliving the event, often triggered by things or events associated with the trauma • Flashbacks
• Avoiding situations which remind the victim of the event
• Negative feelings about themselves or others
• Unnecessarily on the alert or the lookout for danger
Recovery from PTSD can be a lengthy process, but there are certain types of therapy available to help victims, including Counselling, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Hypnotherapy.
It is not possible, even using hypnosis, for the victim to forget the experience altogether. With hypnosis, it is possible to create some emotional distance so the sufferer can banish most of the negative feelings and emotions related to traumatic memory.