If you suffer from a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or have a family member that does, you might have heard recommendations for hypnosis therapy or similar techniques. While there’s still a lot of tests and studies that need to be carried out, it can sometimes be a great way to get long-lasting help by treating the core of the problem rather than the ‘symptoms’ it creates. But what is hypnotherapy, and how does it work in terms of PTSD?
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) isn’t quite the same thing as regular anxiety: while it mostly stems from sexual abuse or other traumatic events, that doesn’t mean that every person who suffers a traumatic event will develop it. In a nutshell, PTSD is a form of anxiety that doesn’t go away: not only can it have obvious effects on a person’s personality and actions, but it can also be ‘triggered’ through familiar sounds, sights or other stimuli that have left an impression on the person. A common example is war veterans that can’t visit firework displays: the loud bangs can trigger their PTSD by sounding like weapons being fired or distant explosions, which makes their body panic and can cause their mind to start producing flashbacks or recalling actions from the battlefield.
PTSD is different for every person, so it’s impossible to list every single way that it can manifest in their mind, but it’s easy to tell when you have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder compared to regular anxiety: it can last for months or years and interfere with daily life, from small things like rapid eye movements and sleeping problems to uncontrollable nightmares, a tendency for violence or a recurring ‘trance’ caused by flashbacks to a traumatic event. In some cases, it can cause dissociation and make a person’s negative experience of the world change the way they interact with other people.
What are the 17 symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD can be broken down into seventeen symptoms. Not all of them will apply to everybody, and not every sufferer of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will have all of their symptoms constantly. In fact, it’s quite common for some of them to only occur at certain times, especially after something triggers memories of the experience that gave them PTSD in the first place. Although there’s more than can be listed, these seventeen main symptoms can include:
- Major distress at memories of an event that caused trauma in the past.
- Frequent upsetting and vivid memories of a traumatic experience – these can be invasive and interrupt your trains of thought at any moment.
- Major flashbacks and repeats of past events.
- Depression and an inability to care about day-to-day life.
- Emotional numbness.
- Negative expectations of your future.
- Involuntary physical responses like an increased heart rate or sweating.
- Awful nightmares.
- Lapses in memory when it comes to events surrounding the trauma.
- A lack of connection to ‘normal’ people.
- Self-induced isolation.
- Phobias related to the trauma.
- Attempting to avoid anything remotely related to the trauma.
- Randomly having to ‘freeze up’ or losing emotional control if exposed to certain trauma-related inputs.
- Hyperarousal; inability to sleep or relax, caused by a triggered fight or flight response.
- Inability to reach REM sleep.
- Addiction to substances that make you ‘feel better’, like alcohol or drugs.
There are other symptoms that can occur, but they vary from person to person, and no two cases of PTSD will be identical. If you’re suffering from it, or have a family member that is, then a large part of therapy is taking the time to identify the causes of certain symptoms and how they can be reduced or rationalised.
The idea behind hypnotherapy is quite simple: it’s a form of PTSD hypnosis that focused on your subconscious mind, trying to open you up to positive therapy techniques and other coping mechanisms that can give you a better sense of control over your thoughts and actions. In shorts, it’s hypnosis that’s meant to help you deal with memories and feelings that your conscious mind can’t stand by using your subconscious mind instead. Results and methods can vary from person to person, but most cases of hypnotherapy for trauma are focused on sensory inputs and the parts of our mind that we don’t normally think about.
How Hypnotherapy Is Used
Trauma hypnotherapy isn’t a single action that’s an instant cure: there are various different methods that can be used, each of them effective in the treatment stages of a traumatic experience. Just like anxiety therapy and depression therapy, trauma recovery therapy won’t always work for everybody, so this kind of PTSD treatment needs to adapt to different patients.
Stress reduction exercises are a common way to treat panic attacks and, and stress management is one of the most baseline ways you can handle Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. A hypnotherapist may be able to ‘implant’ certain stress reduction techniques or mental phrases into a patient through recordings or frequent visits, giving them suggestions that stay with them during the day to help them avoid PTSD symptoms. This might not sound like one of the best techniques to help the problem at its root, but it depends on how the therapist carries out the hypnotherapy: PTSD comes in many forms, so some patients may just need positive reinforcement whereas others might need verbal reminders that they can listen to when the feelings associated with their trauma resurface.
Symptom titration is another method, which relies on building a sense of safety by slowly reducing the way they respond to reminders of the event they suffered. This might be done by slowly wearing down the symptoms: for example, a survivor of a traumatic event involving sexual assault might be relying on substance abuse to mentally cope, or have phobias of certain sexual sights and activities. Over multiple sessions, their brain could be ‘re-trained’ to react in less severe ways (like strong emotions, but no physical actions) without getting rid of their free will, making their response easier for them to handle layer by layer.
For victims of trauma who don’t understand their situation, trigger identification can also be a major option, helping them track their triggers and build up a technique to ignore them, ‘get over’ their fears or find a way to rationalise how they’re feeling about the trigger event. All of this can help them process symptoms with less risk and a better understanding of how they’re reacting, in a similar way to how some people can be trained to push through their irrational phobias.
Finally, hypnotherapy can help you figure out what’s actually causing the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Not all trauma survivors will have a single set of triggers, and PTSD therapy isn’t as simple as identifying a single trauma response. Trauma imprints certain feelings that can get in the way of a brain’s normal cognitive function, but those feelings can come from other places as well. Multiple stressful events prior to trauma can all roll into a single form of PTSD.
Is hypnotherapy good for PTSD?
While many people look for hypnotherapy help to deal with their PTSD, it isn’t going to work for everybody, just like any form of treatment for PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is such a difficult subject to tackle that there’ll always be people that the hypnosis therapy doesn’t work on, either because of the symptoms they have or just because they aren’t receptive to that kind of therapy. However, if it works, then it can be an extremely good way of helping a person deal with an experience that they can’t handle on their own, and can be a much more active method than just talking to them. There are many personal stories of trauma survivors that have been able to move forward thanks to hypnotherapy help, so it can definitely help people under the right circumstances.
It’s important to remember that all traumatic events can be different, and not all of them can be solved with a single type of therapy alone. If hypnosis therapy isn’t enough to solve the problem, it can still be useful as a secondary aid: having supportive or relaxing messages you can replay daily to implant into your own head can adjust your behavior just enough to make handling trauma symptoms easier while you use another method to deal with the cause of the problem.
Hypnotherapy relies on in-person communication, but it can still be done remotely if needed through video calls or audio files. Sound plays a large part, and there’s a big difference between using a private message service to PM “Hi” to somebody compared to saying it in-person. Because of this, it can also be a good way for people with social anxiety (either caused by the PTSD or just naturally developed as part of their personality) to get in contact with somebody new.
Does hypnotherapy work for trauma?
In general, hypnotherapy can’t completely erase a traumatic event from your mind, but it can be a good way to ensure that you’re finding ways to handle a past experience while making the symptoms and responses less intense. Different therapists and therapy groups will have their own versions of hypnotherapy help, such as Heart Centered Hypnotherapy’s focus on holistic methods rather than a very targeted type of support, but they all have more or less the same result. It’s important to consider treatment of PTSD on an individual basis, since no two people will have the exact same experience or show the same symptoms, even if they went through the same traumatic event and suffered the same kinds of personality changes or anxiety triggers.
What is the best therapy for PTSD?
Since every person is different, there isn’t a single best form of PTSD treatment and pain management that can be classed as the best option, but that also means that each person has their preferred way to deal with symptoms of a traumatic experience. If this happens to be hypnotherapy, then there’s nothing wrong with using it to try and treat or manage your PTSD, especially if you’ve tried other kinds of therapy and not had the results you were expecting.
Should I use hypnotherapy?
Like all kinds of therapy, hypnosis therapy can work well for PTSD, but it’s also not guaranteed. The process could take months or years, and some people will respond better to it than others. Either way, you want a hypnotherapist with the training and certification to carry out the process properly. Finding a hypnotherapist in your area isn’t that difficult, and there are various sources of information that are still relevant in 2020: the Wellness Institute Blog is a good example, since the Wellness Institute connect with dozens of groups that offer various therapy types. You can also look for details on hypnotherapy helped different individuals and what a specific group may be able to offer you.
Like all kinds of PTSD therapy, hypnosis can be adapted to play to your strengths and help you deal with unexpected behaviours, repeating mood patterns, anger that manifests as hatred or uncontrollable emotion, unexplained terror or even a recurrence of nightmares related to the traumas you have. It can even help with sleep paralysis or having to ‘battle a monster’ that eats away at your mental stability, something that a lot of other therapy procedures might overlook. At the end of the day, if your mind has a decent level of ‘hypnotisability’ and your mind is receptive to a hypnosis therapy program, it might be worth a few sessions to see how the procedure plays out.
At worst, you might discover that you can’t have a suggestion planted in your head by a hypnotist, which can help you rule out that kind of procedure and focus on regular counselling instead. However, if it works even a little bit, you might have a chance of being able to improve your awareness of your triggers and lower your irritability to help yourself beat your traumas.
Come visit our Newcastle Clinic for a session today.