PTSD & Hypnosis: How Victims Become Survivors
The Delayed Impact Of Trauma
In the aftermath of suffering a physical or psychological trauma, it is common for individuals to mentally and emotionally dissociate from the event or situation; this occurs as a natural defense mechanism of the human psyche. However, this dissociative state often becomes the catalyst for developing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, which is a serious condition that can afflict a person in a variety of ways. Hypnotherapy is an effective means of helping people resolve the delayed impact of these stressful events from their past.
PTSD can occur after traumatic events such as:
Sexual Or Physical Assault
- The Sudden Loss Of A Loved One
- Military Combat
- Witnessing Violence Or Experiencing A Catastrophe
- Physically Or Psychologically Abusive Relationships
Post traumatic stress typically starts within a few months of a trauma, but can sometimes arise years later, especially when stemming from childhood incidents, and can be fueled by stressful situations or anxiety. Symptoms of PTSD include intrusive recall such as flashbacks or upsetting dreams of the traumatic event, avoidance of talking about the event, avoiding activities that were once enjoyable, hopelessness, overwhelming guilt or shame, memory and concentration problems, difficulty maintaining intimate relationships, insomnia, irritability and misplaced anger, self-destructive habits, being easily startled or frightened, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.
“I managed to think my way through it, for the most part. I put it all up on a shelf in my mind. But then things would happen to make me remember, you know, like backyard fireworks on the 4th of July, and it would all come rushing back.” ˜MJ.S., Air Force Veteran
Triggers To Traumatic Memories
Triggers to the intrusive recall of traumatic memories are often sensory in nature. Sights, sounds, smells, tactile sensations related to the distressing event or time in life, as well as encountering certain people or situations, may cause a flood of recollections with negative thoughts and fearful feelings. There are often elements of stress and anxiety present on these occasions, which are variables that render the intrusive recall of traumatic memories, or flashbacks, unpredictable. And expectations of situations perceived to be potentially problematic or threatening sometimes create ‘anticipatory anxiety,’ which can also act as a trigger. Intrusive recall of traumatic memories is typically accompanied by physiological changes in the body such as rapid heart-beat, shallow breathing, sweating, and panic reactions, and can result in anguished emotional responses, delusional thoughts, and irrational behavior.
Intrusive recall events can be very disconcerting, especially for someone who does not realize they suffer from post traumatic stress, or for those unfamiliar with their own triggers. Unfortunately, PTSD is not always accurately diagnosed by the medical and psychological communities. Anyone who was abused physically, emotionally, sexually, or psychologically during their formative years, which includes bullying in its various forms, or who grew up in a household where there was domestic violence and/or verbal battering, may experience intrusive recall of traumatic memories or manifest other symptoms of PTSD.
Hypnotherapy And PTSD
Hypnotherapy is an effective, widely recognized, and scientifically supported treatment alternative for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Randomized, controlled clinical trials have shown that hypnosis significantly decreases PTSD symptoms and is more efficient than comparison treatments (see study from Effective Treatments For PTSD, Second Edition, By Edna Foa, Ph.D. here). There is also evidence that PTSD sufferers are highly suggestible to hypnosis (see abstract from Journal of Clinical Psychiatry here).
Hypnosis directly accesses the subconscious mind, where all of our experiences, good and bad, exist as picture stories that are recalled by both thought and sensory stimulation. Hypnotherapy utilizes the interactive techniques of therapeutic imagery, along with desensitization methods such as EMDR, to gently reframe unhealthy responses—both psychological and physiological—to memories of traumatic events, diffusing their emotional charge and negative impact. Here are some of the ways hypnotherapy is effective in treating PTSD:
- Empowerment through immediate coping strategies;
- Identifying and neutralizing common PTSD triggers;
- Alleviating intrusive recall events;
- Mitigation of symptoms such as moodiness, irritability, and insomnia; and
- Increased ability to focus and concentrate.
While the efficacy of any therapeutic modality depends in part on the severity of the trauma and the commitment of a given participant, hypnotherapy has successfully transformed many PTSD victims into survivors.
©2014 By Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht, & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery