Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a more common than many realise. In fact, there are a number of people suffering from this condition who suffer in silence, believing that they need to “deal” with their experiences or be tougher in order to cope with traumatic events.

Hypnosis is excellent for dealing with PTSD – in hypnosis we can uncover events in graduated way so that the client is able to process in tiny chunks. We are able to alleviate the symptoms that come with PTSD such as an anxiety, fear. We can also use hypnosis to help the client visualize the end of this condition and picture themselves feeling confident and capable again.

PTSD is often, but not always, linked to a specific traumatic event. These events can be quite diverse but are often unexpected such as a car accident or being the victim of a crime. It’s important to realise that the response to the trigger event is always very diverse and we all use different coping mechanisms, our own emotional history plays a part.

However, PTSD can also show up after a period of experiencing multiple, smaller traumas. Domestic violence victims are often diagnosed with PTSD, developed over many years of abuse. A person can develop PTSD in a relationship where their partner is cruel, verbally abuse or toxic. Many people exiting such relationships find themselves struggling to cope as years of trauma hits home.

If we do suffer a traumatic event it is important to have trauma counselling afterwards. Even a few sessions can help the victim enormously to process the event and avoid developing PTSD later. This is the most common reason we develop PTSD – untreated trauma.

Often, a person will decide that the event isn’t worthy of counselling. They will say “I’ve got through worse than this” or in the case of certain crimes, like rape, they may feel embarrassed or shamed and prefer not to discuss the event. Many people in our community are suffering PTSD following CoVID.

There are too many symptoms to list here but common symptoms are: flashbacks, avoiding certain places/people, feelings of dread, emotional detachment, insomnia, nightmares, hypervigilance, hostility, mistrust, guilt, loneliness, intense distress, sweating, nausea, trembling and many more.

A feature of PTSD that doesn’t get enough attention is that all trauma is compounded – to me, that is the most unfair part of the whole experience. So a person who experiences a traumatic event will often, but not always, link this to other trauma in their lives. This can happen consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes the victim of crime will have flashbacks to other events in their lives, things they thought they had handled. It’s important to know this is part of normal processing after trauma. Or, a seemingly “minor” trauma (compared to what the person has already suffered in life) will tip an individual over the edge. We have to be aware of how trauma compounds in order to understand PTSD when we see it.

The best way to avoid PTSD is to be aware of how insidiously it will creep into your life if you leave traumatic events untreated or erroneously try to be “brave” about them. Always try to have some sessions with a trauma counsellor, even if it is via phone, eg a phone counselling service such as Lifeline. There are many free trauma counselling services that are excellent. Next month we will continue our focus on the anxiety disorders and look at Social Anxiety Disorder.

 

A shorter version of this article appeared in the February 2023 issue of The Mountain Echo newspaper, Underberg, KZN.