Hypnosis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
If you suffer from PTSD then you most likely have difficulty sleeping. You most likely suffer from nightmares and flashbacks, are often angry for no reason, have trouble concentrating, are hypervigilant and living with a tremendous amount of stress in your life.
Fortunately, hypnosis can help you in two fundamental ways.
First, it can simply be used to help you to relax into a profound state where spontaneous healing naturally occurs. Then once here, your subconscious can finally begin to deal with some of your symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia, and intrusive thoughts.
However, hypnosis can also help you in another important way. This is because there has been a great deal of research done on PTSD, and if you suffer from it, then one thing is certain, the fear you experienced during the initial traumatic event caused your brain to short-circuit. What this means is that this experience has never been properly processed and integrated into the higher parts your brain.
Fortunately, hypnosis is particularly good at doing this. As a result it can help you, or more correctly, the various parts of your brain and limbic system (particularly your amygdala) to process these memories in a safe and effective way so they stop exerting such a dark influence on your life.
The first step involves helping you to step-back and distance yourself from these memories through the process of dissociation. This lets you gain a degree of objectivity. The next step involves bringing the wisdom and insight that already exist in the higher parts of your brain (primarily the frontal cortex) into this process by allowing them take the control of these memories away from your amygdala, so that they can finally be processed correctly.
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Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet
This is a psychiatric disorder that can develop after a person experiences one or more traumatic events where they were either physically harmed or threatened with serious physical harm. And while these events may have occurred decades earlier, people who suffer from this condition continue to experience a severe ongoing emotional reaction to them.
- witnessing the violent death of another person;
- being the victim of a violent attack;
- being the victim of sexual violence (such as rape);
- being the victim of childhood sexual abuse;
- being in a situation where one's life is threatened;
- being highly hypnotizable.
- flashbacks to the event;
- avoiding things that are associated with the event;
- problems with anger and rage;
- over-cautiousness and hyper-vigilance;
- trouble falling asleep and staying asleep;
- impaired ability to have normal relationships with other people;
- alcohol and drug abuse;
- phobias related to aspects of the traumatic event or events (such as a fear of loud noises or dark alleys);
How Hypnosis Can Help You
Fortunately, studies done on Vietnam veterans who were suffering from PTSD have shown that people suffering from this condition tend to be highly hypnotizable. This makes hypnosis an ideal tool for helping those who suffer from this condition to regain some control over their emotions and life.
If you suffer from PSTD, hypnosis may be able to help you in a number of ways:
it can help to make your life more manageable and give you a greater sense of control over what happens to you;
- n help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety;
- it can help you sleep better;
- it can help you resolve any feelings of anger and rage;
- it can help you safely release suppressed emotions;
- it can enhance your innate capacity to heal yourself;
- it can help you eat better and begin a healthy exercise program;
- it can help you deal with substance-abuse problems;
- it can teach you how to view the initial traumatic event more objectively and to learn to dissociate from it, so as to release the hold it has on you and your life;
- it can help the higher parts of your brain process and integrate these traumatic memories in a healthier way;
- it can help if there is a link between an earlier emotional trauma and the start of your condition;
- it can help if it involves any subconscious and state-dependent processes.
Some Research That Proves These Claims...
The scientific research is conclusive. If you are capable of entering into a moderately deep state of hypnosis (something 70% of the population can achieve), then hypnosis can help you begin to deal with PTSD. Here is a summation of some of these studies...
Hypnotherapy in the Treatment of Chronic Combat-Related PTSD Patients Suffering from Insomnia: A Randomized Zolpidem-Controlled Clinical Trial.International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, Vol. 56(3) July 2008;270-280. Eitan G, Abramowitz A, Barak Y, Ben-Avi I, Haim Y, Knobler A.
This Israeli study evaluated the benefits of treating PTSD with hypnosis. Thirty-two patients suffering from combat-related PTSD were randomly split into two groups. The control group received 10mg of Zolpidem each night for 14 nights, while the other group received four 1 ½ hour sessions of “symptom-oriented hypnotherapy” over this same period. All participants completed various questionnaires (among them were the Impact of Event Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory). After two weeks there was a significant difference between the two groups when rated by the Post-Traumatic Disorder Scale. This improvement was maintained at a 1 month follow-up. Furthermore it was noted that the group that received hypnosis were sleeping and coping with life much better than the control group.
The Value of Hypnosis in the Treatment of Chronic PTSD With Dissociative Fugues in a War Veteran. Contemporary Hypnosis Vol. 18(1):4-13. Degun-Mather M.
This reports on on a case involving the use of hypnosis to successfully treat a British war veteran who had been suffering from chronic PTSD for 40 years; during which time he had also developed dissociative fugues (there were times he appeared to be fully aware of he actions, but upon recovery he was unable to remember what he was doing) and severe depression. He was eventually admitted to a psychiatric facility and when he was discharged he was treated using a three step program. First, he was treated with Cognitive -Behavioural-Hypnotherapy to stabilize his condition. Second, hypnotic regression techniques were used in order to allow him to safely re-experience the traumatic events that caused the PTSD and to re-evaluate them in a more objective light. Hypnotic dreams were also used to help process this material. During this step he recovered one memory of a traumatic event that proved crucial to his recovery. Third, hypnosis was used to help him to further reintegrate these memories and rehabilitate his life.
The Psychodynamic Treatment of Combat Neuroses (PTSD) With Hypnosis During World War II. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2000 Jul;48(3):324-35; discussion 336-41. Watkins JG.
This study reports on a hypnotherapy program that was instituted during the Second World War to help military personnel who were suffering from what was called 'battle trauma' (now known as PTSD). These men were suffering from a combination of problems including hysteria, phobias, anxiety and various forms of dissociative experiences. Although the term was not in use then, it is now recognized that various 'hypnoanalytic techniques' were used, particularly during the attempt to create abreactions (the reviving of strong emotional memories). It was found that the process of using hypnosis to create abreactions did not retraumatize those involved, or lead to any psychotic episodes.
Hypnotic Treatment of PTSD in Children Who Have Complicated Bereavement. Am J Clin Hypn. 2005 Oct-2006 Jan;48(2-3):183-9. Iglesias A, Iglesias A.
This paper reports on two cases where children were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the traumatic death of close relatives in rural Guatemala. The normal grieving process had been inhibited due to the horrific nature of these deaths and the children's grief had become a pathological psychiatric disorder. Both children were only treated with a single session of hypnosis involving the Hypnotic Trauma Narrative (a protocol the authors developed specifically to help children deal with situations like this). There was a follow-up one week later and again after two months when the authors noted that the children's symptoms had cleared and they were now beginning to grieve in a normal fashion.
Indirect Ego-Strengthening in Treating PTSD in Immigrants from Central America. Contemporary Hypnosis Vol. 18(3):135-144. Gafner G, Benson S.
As a result of civil war in Central America many refugees escaped to America suffering from PTSD as a result of being tortured, raped and abused. This report focuses on the limitations of conventional therapy to help these individuals and it presents two ego-strengthening techniques involving indirect hypnosis that have proved helpful in treating this population.
Hypnotizability as a Potential Risk Factor for Posttraumatic Stress: A Review of Quantitative Studies. Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2008 Jul;56(3):334-56. Yard SS, DuHamel KN, Galynker II.
This report reviewed numerous academic studies to determine the relationship between hypnotizability and PTSD. It found six studies that showed a clear relationship between hypnotizability and PTSD. However, it noted that hypnotizability was only measured after the onset of symptoms. The authors speculates that a high level of hypnotizability might be a major risk factor in determining who is susceptible to PTSD. However, they noted that in order to prove this, one would need to measure an individual's level of hypnotizability before and after they experienced a traumatic event.
Hypnosis for Complex Trauma Survivors: Four Case Studies. Am J Clin Hypn. 2009 Jan;51(3):263-71. Poon MW.
This report describes the use of hypnosis to help four Chinese woman who were suffering from complex trauma. Two were victims of sexual abuse when they were children, the third had been raped and the fourth had been repeatedly battered by her husband. The hypnotic treatment involved three steps: “stabilization, trauma processing, and integration.” Hypnosis was first used to help stabilize the victims. Then age regression techniques were used to help them to remember the traumatic events that led to their condition (and to begin to distance themselves from these memories). Finally, hypnosis was used to help them integrate and consolidate the gains they had made. When their treatment was finished they were all assessed by various self-reported and objective measurements. These all indicated that they experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms as a direct result of this hypnotic treatment.
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