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How hypnotherapy can help with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Recent news has held a number of articles showing an increase of people, mainly servicemen, suffering from, and seeking help for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But what is PTSD? How would you know if you’re suffering from it? How can you help yourself? And how can you get help?

Before becoming a therapist I served in both the military and the police, so I’ve seen my fair share of traumatic events. I’ve suffered from a form of PTSD following a life-changing accident, and seen a number of others suffer from the symptoms of PTSD. I’ve helped a number of people suffering from this, often hidden, disease.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how can you help?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following any traumatic event that makes a person feel helpless or threatens their safety. In the main  PTSD is associated with battle-scarred soldiers (combat is the most common cause in men) but any life experience that overwhelms you can trigger PTSD, especially when a person feels out of control. Some examples would include: War, Natural disasters, Car or plane crashes, Terrorist attacks, Sudden death of a loved one, Rape, Kidnapping, Assault, Sexual or physical abuse, Childhood neglect or any other event that leaves a person feeling trapped or helpless.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can affect those who personally experience the catastrophe, those who witness it, and those who pick up the pieces afterwards, including emergency workers and police officers. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.

Main types of PTSD symptoms:

  •  Re-experiencing the traumatic event
    • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
    • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
    • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
    • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
    • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
  • Avoiding reminders of the trauma
    • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
    • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
    • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
    • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
    • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)
  • Increased anxiety and emotional arousal
    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • Irritability or outbursts of anger
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Hyper vigilance (constant “red alert”)
    • Feeling jumpy and easily startled
  • Other common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Anger and irritability
    • Guilt, shame, or self-blame
    • Substance abuse
    • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
    • Depression and hopelessness
    • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
    • Feeling alienated and alone
    • Physical aches and pains

PTSD shows differently from person to person and while the symptoms of PTSD most commonly develop in the hours or days following the traumatic event, it can sometimes take weeks, months, or even years before they appear.

How PTSD differs from a normal trauma response

Following any traumatic event almost everyone would show some symptoms of PTSD. It’s quite normal to feel stress, or numb, in, and following, a stressful situation. It’s very common to have bad dreams, feel fearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. These are normal reactions to abnormal events. In the majority of people these feelings are short-lived. They may last for several days or even weeks, but over time they ease. With PTSD the symptoms don’t improve, things don’t get better and they may even get worse. When a person gets stuck in a past event stress becomes PTSD and the sufferer remains in psychological shock. Their memory of what happened and feelings about it are disconnected.

How can I help myself if I’m suffering from PTSD?

Reach out to others for support

You may be tempted to withdraw from your loved ones or from society in general. But it’s important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. Support from other people is vital to your recovery from PTSD, so ask your close friends and family members for their help.

Consider a support group, where you can share and help each other through this time. Support groups for PTSD can help you feel less isolated and alone. No local support group? Look for an online group.

Avoid alcohol and drugs

You may be tempted to turn to alcohol or drugs. But while they may temporarily make you feel better, they actually make things worse in the long run. Drug use worsens many symptoms of PTSD, such as emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and depression. It also interferes with treatment and can add to problems at home and in your relationships.

Challenge your sense of helplessness

Overcoming your sense of helplessness is key to overcoming PTSD. Trauma leaves you feeling powerless and vulnerable so it’s important to remind yourself that you have strengths and coping skills that can get you through tough times. You could try volunteering your time, giving blood, reaching out to a friend in need, or donating to your favourite charity. Direct positive action empowers you and challenges any sense of helplessness.

Practice relaxation or meditation techniques

Find someone who can help with learning to meditate or can help you achieve a deeply relaxed state. There are many meditation teachers, and groups to help with this. Ananda Healing offers such services with Amanda Lund-Batchelor.

Spend time in nature

Fresh air and nature helps to bring about a sense of peace in many people. Studies have shown that an aimless walk in a quiet place can help to change the chemical balance of the brain and body, easing symptoms of PTSD and providing positive health benefits too. Focusing on strenuous outdoor activities can also help challenge your sense of helplessness and move on from the traumatic event. Evidence suggests that servicemen pursuing outdoor activities like hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing etc may help with PTSD symptoms and ease transition back into civilian life.

What help and treatment can I get with PTSD?

There are many different treatments that you can seek to help with PTSD. Being a master hypnotherapist and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner I will focus on those. Especially when you take into account the following facts and figures. In “Psychotherapy” magazine (Volume 7, Number 1), different types of techniques were reviewed, the techniques that proved to generate the greatest success in providing lasting change were the following (listed in order of success rate)*:

  1. Hypnosis : 93% recovery after 6 sessions (approx. 1 1/2 months @ 1 session per week).
  2. Behaviour Therapy : 72% after 22 sessions (approx. 6 months @ 1 session per week).
  3. Psychotherapy : 38% recovery after 600 sessions (approx. 11 1/2 yrs @ 1 session per week).

Early treatment is always going to be preferable, so if you, or a loved one, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, contact Duncan from Ananda Healing to find out how he can help. As an additional benefit of the therapy at Ananda Healing, Duncan will donate 25% of all treatment fees to the Help for Heroes charity.
* Figures taken from healmyptsd.com

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