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It is inevitable that throughout our lives we will all experience our fair share of stresses, strains and difficult situations. For most of us, recovery from these events will be a natural process which occurs over time, without the need for further help. For others however, certain traumatic and frightening events can trigger a reaction which can last for a period of months, or even years.
This reaction is known as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD for short, a condition which manifests both physically and psychologically and is thought to occur in approximately 30% of individuals who experience traumatic events.
The term PTSD is used to describe a range of symptoms which occur following on from involvement in a traumatic event. These events are considered to be both beyond our control, and outside of our normal human experiences. The event itself could be anything from witnessing a road traffic accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack, through to being the victim of a mugging, or witnessing harrowing scenes whilst serving in the armed forces.
Whether you are present during a traumatic event, a witness, or a direct victim, the intense distress and helplessness you felt in the midst of that situation can have a deep and long lasting psychological effect and can trigger a series of symptoms which can seriously impact your life.
In some individuals the symptoms will develop very shortly after the event, but for others the onset may be delayed by a number of months, or even years after the trauma first occurred.
Some sufferers are not comfortable with the use of the term ‘disorder’ as used in the term ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’, as they consider their reactions to be natural and understandable responses to events that are abnormal, and would thus prefer the use of the term ‘syndrome’.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD will usually occur after an individual has been involved in, or has witnessed a traumatic event such as a serious road traffic accident, a natural disaster, being held hostage, a violent death, military combat, a sexual assault, or another situation in which an individual feels extreme fear, and or helplessness.
After events such as these, PTSD will usually develop fairly quickly, though for some (below15%), the development of symptoms will be delayed by a period of weeks, months, or sometimes years.
Symptoms will vary from person to person, but often involve the sufferer ‘reliving’ the event to some extent through a combination of flashbacks and nightmares. Re-experiencing the trauma can lead to sleep problems, concentration difficulties, feelings of isolation and depression and a variety of additional symptoms.
The severity and persistence of these symptoms will vary greatly from person to person. For some sufferers, symptoms will be interspersed with periods of remission and for others they will be constant and acute enough to considerably impact quality of life.
Some of the key symptoms of PTSD are outlined below:
Re-experiencing parts of the trauma
It is quite common for individuals with PTSD to relive parts of the event through vivid flashbacks and nightmares. It may be that something in everyday life such as a sound or image has triggered this response, or this may occur for no identifiable reason. Flashbacks, intrusive images, thoughts and nightmares can be extremely distressing for sufferers as they can make them feel as though the event is happening all over again, even if only for a brief moment.
Often, sufferers find that after a traumatic event they remain constantly alert and vigilant to potentially threatening events, and are extremely anxious and easily startled.
This ‘hyper vigilance’ can also come coupled with irritability, angry outbursts, aggressive behaviour, sleep problems and concentration difficulties.
Reliving a traumatic experience is extremely upsetting, so understandably some sufferers attempt to avoid anything and anyone which may trigger a response. Sufferers sometimes believe that feeling nothing at all is better than the negative and upsetting feelings they keep experiencing so will try to numb themselves emotionally.
Avoiding situations, people, conversation, activities and thoughts that directly relate to the trauma or are a reminder of the trauma is a common reaction.
Sufferers often try to keep themselves busy so that they don’t have time to think about the trauma and thus it becomes easier to repress those very difficult memories. Many sufferers will develop an extremely pessimistic outlook to life, losing interest in activates they once used to enjoy, disregarding the idea of making plans for the future, finding it difficult to keep or form close relationships and generally detaching themselves on both a physical and emotional level from others.
Other common symptoms and indicators of the condition include inexplicable physical symptoms such as severe headaches, dizzy spells, upset stomach, sweating, the shakes and chest pains, as well as mental health problems such as depression, phobias and anxiety. PTSD is a mental health condition in itself and the symptoms and side effects experienced can result in a breakdown of personal relationships and work relationships which can lead to further distress and upset.
Who suffers from PTSD?
Anyone who has witnessed a severe trauma could be susceptible to PTSD and it is estimated that up to one in 10 individuals may be affected by the condition at some stage during their lives.
However, some individuals who work within certain professions, and some individuals who exhibit certain risk factors may be more prone to develop the condition than others.
According to some studies the condition is present in approximately one in two female rape victims, one in three teenagers who have survived a car accident, and one in five fire-fighters.
Help for PTSD
PTSD is a condition which manifests itself both a physically and psychologically, and therefore treatment is required for both aspects. Effective treatments for the condition are still being researched as different types of trauma can have different impacts, and treatment for single incident trauma will usually differ to treatment for long-term trauma.
Hypnotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder
As well as undergoing the treatment recommended by their health care provider, some PTSD sufferers also find that hypnotherapy treatment is beneficial.
The aim of hypnotherapy is to unlock stored emotion so that the trauma can be revisited and explored from a different perspective.
There are various forms of hypnotherapy as a practitioner I may use and in order to determine which is the most suitable for you, I will usually begin by performing an assessment of your personal circumstances.
I may use cognitive hypnotherapy or analytical hypnotherapy, both of which function on a deeper level than suggestion hypnotherapy and are able to work with the unconscious mind so that negative beliefs which were built up during the trauma can be explored and alleviated.
In addition I may also choose to use several new therapies Kinetic Shift and BWRT when helping clients with PTSD..
A s an Integrative Therapist I will treat you and your problems with sensitivity and understanding and will discuss and explain any decisions regarding you treatment plan with you thoroughly before treatment begins or any changes are implemented.
If you would like to find out more about how hypnotherapy could help you to over come post-traumatic stress disorder, then contact me Karen Ferris.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)