I read this story recently on BBC that got me thinking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how it’s often perceived.
For a lot of people, it conjures up images of war veterans who have seen active combat and are traumatised by their experiences. Being involved in military combat is one of the events that can trigger PTSD but you don’t need to have been in the army to be affected by it.
Christmas can be a tough time for anyone struggling with PTSD, with a lot of pressure to act “normal” and happy.
In this blog post, I’m looking at what is involved with PTSD, the events that can trigger it and how hypnotherapy can help to overcome it.
Who can be affected?
While we strongly associate PTSD with having spent time in a warzone, it can affect anyone who has been involved in a traumatic event or witnessed one.
Some of the things that can trigger PTSD include being involved in a serious car accident, being assaulted (including sexual assault), experiencing abuse (physical, emotional or sexual abuse, especially long term abuse), witnessing a violent death, being caught up in a natural disaster, being the victim of a terrorist attack and being diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening health condition.
What are the signs and symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD can be very complex and some of the elements of it include:
Flashbacks and nightmares: With PTSD, there can be frequent nightmares and flashbacks of a traumatic event and it can feel as though you’re right back there again. Everyday noises, smells and sights can trigger flashbacks or nightmares, especially if there is some similarity to what you experienced.
Avoidance and distraction: Distracting your mind as much as possible to keep it busy and avoiding situations that could as a trigger for PTSD symptoms. Trying to become emotionally numb is another common part of PTSD. This element of PTSD can mean that symptoms simmer below the surface for some time before they become too much to contain.
Hypervigilance: Many people with PTSD are on “high alert” pretty much all of the time, with the mind constantly on the lookout for “danger”. This result in sleeping problems and many people with hypervigilance struggle to sleep.
PTSD symptoms can sometimes take months or years to come to the surface.
If your PTSD symptoms are quite mild and you’ve only had them for a few weeks (or less), “watchful waiting” is often recommended to begin with. If symptoms don’t improve:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often used to treat PTSD. This is generally a trauma focused type of CBT that is adapted specifically for PTSD.
Another treatment option is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which is designed to reduce negative thoughts and emotions that stem from memories of traumatic events. It puts a lot of focus on the memories of the initial trigger, rather than the trigger itself. Experts think that EMDR may have an effect on the way that the brain processes information so traumatic events aren’t relived in the mind to the same extent.
Medications such as antidepressants may also be offered if you have depression or sleep problems linked to PTSD.
Hypnotherapy works a little differently as it gives you the tools to overcome PTSD symptoms. By accessing the unconscious mind, the traumatic event that first triggered PTSD can be looked at from a different perspective. Crucially, this is a shift to a more positive perspective and negative beliefs that are linked to the initial trigger can be addressed and worked on.
Have you experienced a traumatic event that is causing PTSD symptoms or do you know someone that may be affected by the condition? Contact me today to start discussing how hypnotherapy could help to overcome PTSD and take back control of your life.