Trauma and PTSD are problems ideally suited to treatment with Hypnotherapy and Strategic Psychotherapy.
At Targeted Hypnotherapy, we’ll work with you to understand the specifics of your trauma and how your PTSD operates. We'll develop a treatment program that is both comfortable and effective, giving you the results you want. We expect very high success rates with these conditions.
Together, we will analyze your situation before tailoring your treatment plan. We'll determine the apparent and often hidden triggers that spark the problem and the things you associate with it. Under hypnosis we'll address these triggers, associations and the emotional and physical effects they have. This is a condition which closely mirrors and often includes the symptoms and experience of anxiety. Where this is the case, our approach will be to treat these as part of the overall plan.
This tailored approach should provide you the highest confidence.
Contact us if you’d like to kick that conversation off with an obligation free telephone consultation.
It’s important to understand PTSD in the context of Trauma. Here are a few basics.
There is “physical trauma”, such as when the sufferer breaks a leg in an accident. Such events can of themselves give rise to PTSD. In the main however, the more likely culprit for PTSD is “emotional trauma”.
So what is emotional trauma? Life presents us with scary or potentially scary situations. Feeling fear when facing a scary or potentially dangerous situation is entirely normal. In fact, this fear is essential to our survival. It triggers reactions in the body which aim to save our life if threatened. This fight or flight reaction is natural and works to protect us.
After experiencing a trauma, most experience some sort of reaction. Many typically recover a short while after the event with no long lasting or residual impact. For some people, however, these symptoms do not ease. They may feel frightened and stressed, and have flashbacks long after the event, and during regular situations that have no association with the original event.
There are five categories of Trauma. They are listed below:
Clients experience a traumatic event (an accident, assault, disaster, or act of terror) or a prolonged series of traumatic events (such as ongoing psychological, physical, and/or sexual abuse as a child or adult), and the trauma changes their perceptual experience of the world around them.
The limbic system is designed to respond to a threat or attack in one of the following ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Trauma imprints upon the brain and body in such a way that clients continue to live as though the trauma is happening in the present.
How does hypnotherapy help?
Hypnotherapy cannot erase traumatic events, but it can directly address the event(s) and their effects. Hypnotherapy allows clients to access information and ‘data’ that is stored in their physical bodies, their subconscious mind, and their energetic fields. The actual traumatic event can be examined; the wide array of emotion surrounding it can be claimed, processed, and expressed; any negative conclusions or beliefs (that have often directly contributed to life-long behavioral patterns) can be released and transformed.
As mentioned above, trauma impacts the brain and body in myriad ways. Nightmares, flashbacks, distressing memories, and reactivity to cues or reminders of the event(s) are the most common ways in which trauma interrupts daily life. The majority of clients experiencing intrusive symptoms often feel a total lack of control over their minds and bodies, as though the trauma has hijacked their own sense of agency and free will.
How does hypnotherapy help?
In a hypnotherapy session, the client is given multiple tools, resources, and opportunities to take back a sense of control. One method, called ego strengthening, employs a variety of techniques to help clients make direct contact to the parts of themselves that are strong, wise, and brave. By doing this and providing a physical anchor to ‘lock in’ the resource via mind-body connection, clients gradually remember and reclaim their own agency. They are reminded of their own strengths and virtues, which is incredibly healing.
Another useful component of hypnotherapy is teaching the client ways in which they can modulate their own physiological reactivity. This is often done while the client is in trance, but a hypnotherapist can also teach the client how to titrate their shock symptoms in a regular session. For more on the treatment of shock, click here.
As can be expected, a victim of trauma will do what it takes to avoid a recurrence of the feelings associated with their trauma. Many avoidance symptoms can result from conscious choice (avoiding people or places, for instance), but clients also ‘avoid’ via dissociation, substance abuse, or addictive behaviors. The latter are far less conscious, but no less purposeful. The purpose of avoidance is to attempt to distance oneself from the trauma…but when trauma is rooted in the brain and body, what results is a fragmented sense of self. Avoidance precludes connection; thus, be it months or years later, clients come to us reporting that they feel detached, numb, and/or stuck.
How does hypnotherapy help?
One of the primary goals of hypnotherapy is restoration of the self: for the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual parts of the client to be unified, balanced, and whole. From this place, healthy connection can be born. Hypnotherapy gives a voice to the lost parts of the self, the parts that were hidden away or shrouded in negativity as a means to survive.
Several types of regression can be successfully used to help the client process all manner of traumatic memory. The hypnotherapist is able to use creativity and imagination to help the client work through the past event, but this time, with resources they did not have at the time of the original event(s). When this work is done in trance, it changes the way the memory is stored, and the way it functions in the body and mind. Clients are no longer held hostage by the past.
Trauma changes us…it alters personality, mood, memory, motivation, cognitive function, and perception. By extension, it changes relationships, families, and systems. During a traumatic event, not only are sensory perceptions altered, and any previous sense of safety forever changed…but a victim of trauma displays notable shifts in the conclusions they draw. They form new, negative conclusions about themselves (‘I deserved it; I’m bad; I shouldn’t have been there; My body is not my own; It was my fault.’). They also form negative conclusions about other people, and the world in general (‘The world is a scary place; People are evil; Men are dangerous; Trust is foolish.’).
How does hypnotherapy help?
Hypnotherapy opens a portal to the subconscious. With a skilled hypnotherapist, clients can access the pivotal events surrounding their trauma during careful and modulated regression. In trance, they clearly experience the moment(s) in which their conclusions turned negative. Clients then begin to change those distorted beliefs, and reclaim what was lost. A negative conclusion such as ‘I am bad’ is then replaced with ‘I am good’ or ‘I am lovable,’ for instance.
Lastly, a history of trauma, particularly when it goes untreated, results in marked behavioral and functional changes. Trauma that is stuck in the body will inevitably try to work its way out; this can manifest in chronic shock, somatic or physical illness, or arousal symptoms such as hypervigilance, exaggerated startle, or problems sleeping or concentrating. Reckless or high-risk behavior could be another way that arousal manifests in behavior.
How does hypnotherapy help?
A major component of healing trauma is giving clients the ability to complete the action that they were not able to do when their trauma originally occurred. Trauma is rooted in the body, in the paralysis and the inability to take action that results from the ‘freeze’ response.
It is useful to look at arousal symptoms as ways in which the body is trying to heal, trying to get our attention. Alternatively, arousal symptoms are a reflection of the ‘stuck’ trauma response (fight, flight, freeze). The healing of trauma cannot be complete without allowing the body to move. Part of our role as therapists is to help the client to unfreeze: to usher their emotions and thoughts into conscious awareness, process them, and release them.
In hypnotherapy, we encourage clients to move their bodies, to strike out. What movement, what reflex was their body unable to do in that moment of helplessness? In trance, the client is provided with a corrective experience; they can hit the perpetrator, scream out loud, say NO, run away, defend themselves, push away a weapon, break out of a trap, tell a trusted person what happened. This additional corrective experience can be monumental in helping a traumatized client release the past and move forward in their life.
Understanding PTSD in the context of Trauma
Having defined and explored Trauma, let’s next consider PTSD.
As with Trauma, PTSD is also a condition highly suited to treatment through Strategic Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy.
PTSD is a mental condition where, following a traumatic event, the person effected lives “in the past in the present moment”. Often because of a suppressed emotional response to the traumatic event, the sufferer is unable to mentally process the experience. The brain then continues to relive the event, trying to make sense of it.
Even though the event has passed, the emotional impact remains. It is thus not about the event itself, but how the mind has dealt with it, or in fact, not dealt with it.
A common misconception regarding PTSD is that the associated trauma event is the “cause” of the disorder. As not everyone suffers from it, this is not the case.
The traumatic event that gave rise to the PTSD is typically episodic. Once the traumatic event has passed the PTSD continues to operate.
As a society, we are far less adept at treating emotional trauma than we are physical trauma. Indeed, as servicemen returned from military conflicts in the not-so-distant past, and clearly suffering from PTSD, these problems were either largely ignored, or mislabeled for reasons of both misunderstanding and the avoidance of stigma.
Following WW2, returned servicemen clearly effected by the ravages of war yet apparently physically unharmed were labelled as suffering from shellshock (now understood to be PTSD). It was in fact this apparent epidemic of emotional trauma that prompted the use of hypnosis as a form of treatment.
PTSD is therefore a combination of Anxiety and Past time orientation, where the sufferer relives the events of the past trauma in the here and now.
What are the causes?
Anyone can be affected by PTSD. The anxiety disorder can develop after a frightening, life-threatening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience.
Types of events thought to lead to post-traumatic stress disorder include:
- serious road accidents
- violent assault
- prolonged abuse
- military combat
- natural disasters
- witnessing violent deaths or the unexpected injury or death of a loved one
Who’s at risk?
While it’s unclear why some people may develop the condition and others will not, there are certain factors thought to affect your chances of developing PTSD. According to the NHS, if you’ve had depression or anxiety you may be more susceptible to developing PTSD after a distressing event.
Symptoms of PTSD
In most cases, symptoms of PTSD will develop during the first month after the event. Though, in some cases, there can be a delay of months or years before symptoms appear.
Symptoms will also vary for individuals. Some people will experience long periods of minor, less noticeable symptoms, to then have periods where they are more severe. Others will have constant severe symptoms, affecting their day to day life.
While specific symptoms of PTSD will vary between individuals, there are common symptoms associated with PTSD which generally fall under the following categories.
The most common symptom of PTSD. Re-experiencing is when a person re-lives the triggering event. Re-experiencing typically occurs in the form of vivid flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive and distressing images or sensations, and physical sensations, such as pain, sweating and nausea.
Some people will constantly experience negative thoughts about the event, asking themselves questions over and over again. “Why would this happen to me? Should I have stopped it?"
This repeated questioning may prevent them from coming to terms and coping with the event, often leading to feelings of guilt or shame.
Avoidance and emotional numbing
Another key symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder is actively trying to avoid any reminders of the trauma. This may mean avoiding certain people or places which are reminders of the event or talking to anyone about the experience.
It’s common for people with PTSD to ignore memories, ‘pushing them out of their mind’ by distracting themselves through other things, like work.
Other people may try to cope with how they’re feeling by trying to switch off completely. Not feeling anything sometimes seems like the easier option. This is known as emotional numbing. Emotional numbing can result in the person becoming isolated and withdrawn. They lose enjoyment in the things they once enjoyed.
PTSD can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and difficulty relaxing. This symptom of more of a state of mind; people may be constantly aware of danger and threat, and be easily startled. This is known as hyperarousal (or feeling ‘on edge’).
Hyperarousal can lead to increased irritability, sleeping problems, anger and difficulty concentrating.
PTSD can have a detrimental effect on a person’s life. As well as the above symptoms, people with PTSD are likely to have other symptoms, related to the condition, such as:
Other mental health problems, including anxiety, depression or phobias.
Physical symptoms, including headaches, chest pains, stomach aches and dizziness.
Self-harming or destructive behaviour, including drug or alcohol misuse.
Without the right knowledge and support, dealing with PTSD can be a very lonely time. The condition can in some cases, lead to relationship breakdowns and work-related problems.
How can hypnotherapy help?
Hypnotherapy can be a powerful treatment process for PTSD, and to process troublesome memories of trauma. It can help you cope with the trauma and learn how to regain a sense of control and normality in your life.
The premise behind hypnotherapy is that is aims to access your unconscious and change the negative thoughts that are holding you back. Using the power of suggestion, hypnotherapy works to promote positive change. The suggestions used will depend on your symptoms and what you wish to gain from your sessions. The hypnotherapist will tailor techniques to you, helping you to manage symptoms and recognise potential triggers, as well as changing the way you react towards them.
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