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Post Traumatic Stress

Hypnosis has emerged as a credible, evidence-based treatment option for sufferers of PTSD.

WHAT IS PTSD?

PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, consists of a series of symptoms that arise from a traumatic event which occurs in one’s life. Those who have this may experience nightmares, severe anxiety, and vivid flashbacks. Often avoiding situations that may remind them of the stressful event. They likely feel like they do not have any control over what is happening to them which could make anyone fearful.

Moreover, they may feel like they’re always on the edge, which makes them hyper-alert. This makes important life functions, like going to sleep and focusing on things very difficult. That, with the added burden of having little things irritate and/or frighten them, can make their days unbearable.

The symptoms of PTSD usually consist of:

  1. Intrusive flashbacks (reliving a violent scene in your mind)
  2. Nightmares or recurrent bad dreams

  3. Anxiety disorders resulting in chronic physical pain, body tensions, teeth grinding

  4. Over reacting to situations with seemingly little control

  5. Sudden outbursts of rage or temper tantrums

  6. Unexplained fears or phobias, such as a fear of butterflies

  7. Sleep disorders

  8. Inability to relax the mind and the body

  9. Persistent stress, tension, fears

  10. Inability to concentrate, loss of memory

How does PTSD Happen?

PTSD may be set off by direct, as well as indirect exposure. This means that you can experience it, even if you don’t witness the event firsthand. For instance, hearing the details about the suffering or death of a loved one may bring about symptoms.

While it’s not yet clear how PTSD happens, experts have some theories.

First, the symptoms may be part of our survival instinct. We become alert in the face of danger so someone with PTSD, who has experienced it, feels like something bad is going to happen.

Second, high adrenaline levels contribute to the heightened alert. Researchers have discovered that people with PTSD continue to have increased levels of those stress hormones, especially cortisol and norepinephrine, even when they’re not in danger.

Third, PTSD can cause significant changes in the brain both in function and structure. Resonance imaging showed that those who are suffering from PTSD have a smaller hippocampus, increased amygdala activity, and prefrontal cingulate function.

The hippocampus has a huge role in memory and emotional response. This is most likely the reason why people who have PTSD have trouble recalling certain details about the traumatic event while some are so graphic.

TYPES OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

In general, there are 2 common types of PTSD. Uncomplicated PSTD is associated with a single event while complex PTSD is related to a traumatic event happening for a long time or a series of distressing events.

Some examples of people who may struggle with PTSD are those who have:

  • suffered from domestic abuse

  • experienced neglect early in life

  • someone who experienced severe COVID-19 impacts

  • having lived in a war-stricken area

  • becoming a prisoner of war

Another common thread is that certain people or situations may suddenly remind the person of the traumatic event. We call these triggers. 

WHAT IS A PTSD TRIGGER?

An example of a PTSD trigger is anyone who has served in combat who may be walking down the street and hears a car backfire and reacts in a similar manner to when they were in a high-stress combat situation, re-experiencing the past as if it were happening right now.  The trigger from the car backfire may cause this combat veteran to begin to sweat, feel his heart pounding, his breathing may increase rapidly and he or she may even find himself running for cover. The triggered PTSD veteran may begin to have flashbacks where intrusive memories flood their mind and they may, for some period of time, feel like they are actually right back on the battlefield. Hypnosis, in a large part, deals with unlocking the subconscious mind.  We must emphasize here that the main tools of the conscious mind are rational thinking, analyzing and judging. In contrast, the gifts of the subconscious mind are all located within our senses. The subconscious mind is a huge sensory vehicle consisting of the ability to experience our world through our senses: sounds, smells, tastes, visuals or pictures, and/or feelings. One way to locate what is stored in our subconscious in order to help an individual suffering from PTSD is to understand what the PTSD triggers actually are.

HYPNOSIS AND PTSD

Trigger events can be very disconcerting for any victim of PTSD who does not either know they have PTSD, or are unfamiliar with their own particular triggers. PTSD often goes undiagnosed by the medical profession and even in the psychological community. Common examples of undiagnosed people with PTSD can be adults who, as children, grew up with parents who were alcoholic, where there was violence, yelling, fighting and bullying in the household. A person who was physically, emotionally or sexually abused during the formative years most likely has grown up with symptoms of PTSD without it ever having been recognized or treated as well.

Hypnosis for PTSD is an evidence-based tool and can effectively help with the symptoms as well as the underlying causes. The people who have the most severe PTSD symptoms and who will likely benefit greatly from hypnosis are people who have had previous trauma or stressful experiences during childhood. Here are some of the unique ways that hypnosis is effectively used in the treatment of PTSD:

  1. Immediate installation of powerful stress reduction exercises that can be recorded so the PTSD client can replay recordings of these exercises daily or as often as needed after leaving the treatment facility
  2. Titration of symptoms so that the PTSD client can slowly reduce his or her reactions to the common triggers

  3. Identifying each trigger so that the client experiences more control of situations in their life

  4. Hypnosis to go even deeper into individual memories to see if other, previous stressful events are adding fuel to the PTSD wildfire

Does Hypnosis for PTSD Work?

YES, and we’ve come up with several studies about its effectiveness. A 2016 meta-analysis of past studies showed that hypnosis / hypnotherapy does alleviate PTSD symptoms. More recently, a 2019 study on sexually abused women remarked that the symptoms were reduced after hypnosis /hypnotherapy.

Aside from PTSD,  researchers have also noted that hypnosis can also work in people with complex PTSD. Research has also been done on children. In 2011, children aged 6-12 with PTSD who experienced the 2002 Bali terrorist attack received hypnosis. After two years, the treatment group reported a 77% improvement rate. Stacy, of Mind-Body Hypnosis specializes in Trauma Recovery and PTSD. She has extensive experience working with PTSD and Trauma through Hypnosis.

CONCLUSION

Hypnosis can be a powerful treatment for PTSD because it treats the issue at it's core: the triggers. Calm the triggers, calm the person. Because hypnosis is primarily a method for accessing and treating the subconscious, it's perfect for PTSD and countless other issues that originate in some type of trigger or locked away memory.

Please note, some issues may require a medical or psychological referral.

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