We need to talk about PTSD
This year adds a particularly poignancy to the annual period of Remembrance as we mark the centenary of the Armistice and accept that the First World War has now moved from being a living history one found in books.
But perhaps this will now let us focus on the people who have returned from more recent wars, many with scarred minds as well as limbs.
As a hypnotherapy practitioner, I do think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as scarring. It’s damage that may have part-healed but leaves a permanent reminder within your brain’s connectivity of a traumatic experience.
PTSD in daily life
PTSD was first properly treated during World War One as “shell-shock” but I think this makes people think that PTSD is a response to a terrible shock, like an explosion or seeing a friend killed.
Forensic Scientist Dr Richard Shepherd as raised the issue writing and talking about his career after carrying out 23,000 autopsies, often in the aftermath of some horrific crime or disaster.
Instead of a single traumatic shock, Dr Shepherd describes the build-up of trauma that can be so gradual you don’t notice what’s happening to you, even though your friends and family may notice changes in your behaviour.
He described feeling depressed after making his wife her favourite gin and tonic and realising the ice in the glass was reminding him of the ice used to pack bodies in the aftermath of the Bali terrorist bombings of 2002.
When the body deals with a dangerous situation, functions such as short term memory are put on hold, but your senses become very aware of your surroundings. The repeat of any environmental stimulus from that episode can trigger memories and emotions that seem present, not in the past, leading to symptoms of PTSD.
We often don’t realise that we are “down”, depressed or anxious, or recognise the everyday experiences that trigger those feeling.
A loud noise like a firework is a bit of a film cliche, used as shorthand for war, but even a blue sky or a pleasant smell can be linked to a moment of danger. Triggers include:
- Being touched on a particular part of your body
- Seeing a person, object or even colour
- Visiting places
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms can develop in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event or years later and can be hard to spot. They tend to fall into three categories, according to the NHS.
- Re-experiencing. The most typical symptom of PTSD, this involves flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive distressing images or sensations and physical sensations like pain, sweating, sickness or trembling.
- Avoidance and emotional numbing. You try to avoid reminders of an event by shunning people or places or talking about your experience. Some people try to deal with their feelings with emotional numbing – avoiding feelings – leading to isolation and withdrawal.
- Hyperarousal (feeling ‘on edge’). It may be difficult to relax, you’re stressed and easily startled. This often leads to irritability, angry outbursts, insomnia and difficulty concentrating
Other problems, include mental health problems, self-harming, destructive behaviour such as substance abuse and physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches.
PTSD and children
PTSD can affect children which may show itself as difficulty sleeping, nightmares, bed wetting, anxiety away from parents or re-enacting a traumatic event during play.
Dealing with PTSD
The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life and relationships but sufferers often don’t want to talk about it.
Dr Shepherd said that while he suffered PTSD, many colleagues didn’t, so it was hard for him to admit to “weakness”.
However, the military is leading the way after its experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, training even junior leaders in Trauma Risk Management (TRiM), the key to which is to talk over traumatic events with close colleagues to tackle PTSD in the first place.
If your loved ones have told you that you’re behaving differently or you struggle to control emotions when you least expect, a first, positive, step should be to talk to someone about your feelings.
I then use hypnotherapy as a way to reset a sufferer’s mental template following a trauma. A hypnotherapist can help you to process negative mental associations and introduce a more positive, supportive mindset.
The Yellow Couch can help you overcome PTSD
Hypnotherapy is simply a therapeutic technique, a form of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) that makes use of your mind’s most receptive level of awareness to help you process negative behaviours and overcome them.
The Yellow Couch is a professional, results-focused hypnotherapy service for introducing a more positive way of thinking to the subconscious mind. We help clients with a range of issues including PTSD, anxiety, phobias, professional development, confidence, public speaking and quitting smoking.
Contact The Yellow Couch now and find out how you can start living the life you want.