What is PTSD and how do Ericksonian hypnotherapy and EMDR help to diminish the symptoms?
What is the difference between a normal reaction to a traumatic event and a response that leads to PTSD? When a traumatic event occurs, it is normal for people to have an immediate and intense response to that experience. Some of the most common ways that people react to an abnormal situation is to experience a variety of intense emotions such as fear, shock, helplessness, grief and anxiety. At first the person may feel emotionally numb. He or she may have difficulty interacting with family and friends for several weeks or more afterwards, needing to withdraw from social interactions for a while in order to work through and come to terms with the experience.
Each person responds differently and the differences can be for many reasons such as the kind of past experiences the person had that could intensify the impact of the trauma, the person’s ability to cope with the experience, the desire and capability of doing something about it, and availability of support systems. Most survivors of trauma return to normal functioning after a while. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. This is when it is important for PTSD to be recognized and addressed.
There are three kinds of PTSD reactions to trauma. One is the constant reliving through flashbacks of the experience. This creates the feeling that the event is happening again at that very moment. People can have flashbacks when some interaction, sound or dream for example, triggers the memory of the trauma. Another set of symptoms includes isolation, numbness and avoidance of places and situations that may bring on an intense emotional response. Another PTSD response is when the person feels constantly on guard, hypervigilant, edgy and irritable. All of these reactions to trauma are difficult for the person to handle and can create a lot of stress on family and friends. These responses to intense trauma can also lead to physical problems that include headaches and gastrointestinal reactions.
Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Hyper-vigilance and startle response. A sound or sudden unexpected movement can cause an intense emotional and physical reaction.
- Flashbacks and a feeling that the experience is happening all over again in the here and now.
- Difficulty sleeping with recurring and intrusive dreams or nightmares
- In the attempt to keep away memories, thoughts and feelings about the trauma, sometimes the person cannot remember important parts of the traumatic event.
- This can also lead to the person becoming more detached from loved ones, friends, his work and other activities.
- Under these conditions, it is easy for the person to become irritable, find it hard to concentrate on daily activities and to see a shorter future ahead.
- There are a number of other conditions that occur along with PTSD. Men and women can fall into a state of ongoing depression or feel constant anxiety. Some people turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.
Ericksonian hypnosis and EMDR for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Because of the way intense trauma memory is set down in the nervous system, PTSD can be very difficult to treat. Talk therapy is helpful, but Ericksonian hypnosis and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are much more powerful tools that can diminish the intensity of the trauma memory and help the person regain a sense of control. A combination of Ericksonian hypnosis and EMDR is also one of the most effective ways to create a feeling of safety, reduce the recurring experience of the trauma memory and rebuild better and more effective ways of coping with daily life.
One of the most important considerations when utilizing Ericksonian hypnotherapy and EMDR for PTSD is to create an atmosphere of safety and trust. When this is established, the deeper work of reframing and healing the trauma experience can begin. Then clients will be able to look at the traumatic event from a different perspective. They begin to dispel negative beliefs about themselves that reinforce feelings of helplessness, self-blame (whatever happened was their fault), or beliefs that there is no one to help or protect them.
Through Ericksonian hypnotherapy and EMDR, people can regain a sense of control and security. This enables them to lead a more normal life with fewer triggers and reminders of the trauma.
Brigitte E. Lifschitz, LCSW
Past President and Former Co-Director of Hypnosis Training at the
New York Milton H. Erickson Society for Psychotherapy and Hypnosis (NYSEPH)
EMDR Levels 1&2.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)