Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - Reliving a harrowing event over and over again
The fear that wells up in you is responding to a threat from a deep seated memory of trauma. It sends out signals of the remembered trauma activating the part of the brain which helps us survive trauma. It does this by triggering biological reactions that help us mount that ‘fight or flight’ response in order to get through the event. These biological changes are experienced over and over again, stressing the body and causing extreme anxiety in all areas of your life.
How trauma affects the brain
At a time of extreme fear during a traumatic event in your life, biological changes occur naturally. Your sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline you experience as your racing heartbeat and accelerated pulse which readies you to make that fight or flight decision, while your para sympathetic nervous system responses are lowered and energy is diverted in order to cope physically with the fight or flight situation.
After the traumatic event the brain needs to recalibrate, taking the information from the situation ready to make a plan for the next time the situation arises, but what happens for people who suffer with PTSD is that that recalibration can hinder you. The amygdala regulates your emotions and the hippocampus records the facts of the events, but during the trauma time distortion gets wildly out of control, and during recalibration everything in your memory can seem completely altered. Studies have shown that in post traumatic stress disorder the hippocampus can actually shrink, therefore doing its job even less and the amygdala expands making it more overly emotive. The recording of emotions and memories stored during the event are fundamentally distorted.
Fear is the biggest contributor to PTSD and the continuance of the problem in your life
This fear leads you to one of three things - Suppression - keeping the fear down and contained unseen and becoming good at quickly pushing it down again if it pops up - Denial - pretending you don’t notice the fear - and Appeasement - giving in to the fear and letting it flow over you, destroying your day-to-day life and often putting you out of commission for hours if not days. Leaving you feeling feeling powerless and hopeless .
Moving towards healing
Start engaging with the fear and the fear of the memory.
“Standing still in the face of fear starts to shift you out of a sensation of being powerless and into a sensation of being powerful. This is a process that takes time but is the essential shift of healing.
Fear contains powerful messages, facts and information useful to healing. The more you connect with, identify and act on these messages the more direct, focused and efficient recovery becomes.
Healing is about more than creating a sensation of safety and control; it’s about directly addressing what we’ve been so afraid of and finding ways to become bigger, more powerful and more strong than the origin of the fear itself.” Michele Rosenthal
So what can help to begin to heal the resulting repetition of the trauma in the daily life of a sufferer?
There are a number of ways to remap your behaviour and thinking. Relaxation helps restore the trauma caused to the brain and by beginning to understand what is happening in the brain, the more you will be able to help your healing process.
Exercise - particularly aerobic exercise - aids stem cell development and regeneration of neurones. Your brain is actually wired to rewire and to heal.
Promote higher reasoning centres in the brain by asking yourself questions like, what you were thinking when you did that behaviour, this encourages receptive and expressive regions in the brain to formulate answers and thoughts, which raises your brain processes to higher levels, rather than just being at reactive levels, therefore back into a more modulated self.
Seek on-going social support and connections, be with other people who have experienced PTSD. Also practice self hypnosis and meditation. All these can change perceptions of yourself, of other people and of the world and situations as you know them. In doing this you can change your processing system from reactive to modulated, through thoughtful executive functions of the frontal region of the brain, and with this you can begin to repair the damage.
The role of Hypnosis in the healing of extreme trauma anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Hypnosis through through a state of focused consciousness provides controlled access to memories that may otherwise be kept out of consciousness in the sub-conscious mind. It involves accessing the dissociated traumatic memories while positively restructuring those memories.
Hypnosis Therapy can be used to help people face and bear a traumatic experience by embedding it in a new context, acknowledging helplessness during the event, and yet linking that experience with memories such as efforts at self-protection during the event and the ability to control the environment at other times.
Hypnosis provides access to memories that are then placed into a broader perspective with a new view of the event and a greater self belief in having survived the event.
On going support can then include self-hypnosis which allows a person to continue this work thereby reduce spontaneous uninvited intrusive memories. Gradually building coping patterns of thinking and behaviour.
With thanks to
Dr David Ziegler, Dr David Spiegel
and Michele Rosenthal - www.healmyptsd.com