Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD & Complex PTSD
Post traumatic stress disorder results when a person suffers a traumatic experience or experiences and therefore is left with a range of cognitive, behavioural and coping problems.
PTSD may for example be caused by an assault or traumatic event. Complex PTSD is often caused by a period of abuse, whether sexual, physical, emotional or psychological (including gas lighting).
What causes PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Generally it is accepted that there are two main types of PTSD, those caused by individual traumatic events, such as a terror attack, rape, assault or bereavement, and those caused by a series of events over time, such as being in a conflict zone, being abused or being forced to survive a period of extreme circumstances. The second type is called Complex PTSD.
What are the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
There are generally two main kinds of symptoms resultant from PTSD.
1. General overall presentation: This might include high stress or anxiety levels including anxiety disorders, anger management issues, depression, insomnia, irritability, paranoia, heightened threat level estimation, hyper vigilance, social phobia, seclusion, disassociation, personality splintering and problems forming healthy relationships. This is no means a comprehensive list.
2. Reactive symptoms which are triggered by elements of the trauma or the environment in which the trauma occurred. These might include sounds, smells, tastes, colours, people who look a certain way and phobias. People’s actions can also be triggers, for example an abuse survivor may misinterpret another person being kind as the beginnings of manipulation, or a gentle touch as a precursor to sexual assault. Again this is no means a comprehensive list.
People with complex PTSD can have pervasive feelings with no obvious cause (e.g. sense of dread or fear or anxiety), and often have more than one other diagnosis since sufferers are often initially diagnosed with a symptomatic condition like depression or anxiety. Sufferers also often have disassociation conditions such as NEAD, fainting or different / splintered personalities.
People with PTSD and Complex PTSD often have physical symptoms and conditions which are caused by long term stimulation of neurological connection between mind and body through the central nervous system including polyvagal, hormone and brain chemistry changes including cortisol levels, and carrying tension and being in repeated “fight and flight” states.
Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
As well as experiencing the above symptoms, and those like them, the sufferer may become withdrawn, de-socialised, avoid people and cease to fully function. The effects tend to feedback and worsened – as the effects of social isolation worsen the way the person feels, so their behaviour might become less function, just as one example. Relationships tend to be particularly difficult with rejection and trust issues likely and the people around the sufferer also becoming severely effected by the condition.
Typically effects include:
- Affect regulation issues: the inability to handle attachment and self soothing situations where ideally one might normally move past fear, and make oneself feel better. This turns up as fear, anxiety or depression.
- Self esteem: Without the right attachment and soothing experiences one may not develop a positive self esteem.
- Relationship issues: With trauma and disruption, attachment and self esteem issues impact on one’s ability to maintain healthy relationships.
Because PTSD has so many related conditions, such as anxiety, depression, phobias, stress, relationship difficulties and so on, one treatment approach alone is not always effective. PTSD is often addressed with forms of EMDR, analytical hypnotherapy. parts work, attachment based psychotherapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, mindfulness and psychoanalysis. It is recognised that typical PTSD reacts better to single form treatments than complex PTSD, which benefits from a more integrated and holistic approach because of it’s complexity. typical PTSD often responds well to hypnotherapy and EMDR based treatments.
Each of the elements in itself has recommended approaches. For example NICE recommend cognitive behavioural approaches for anxiety and depression, and CBASP has excellent results with long term depression (see CBASP pages for references). Anxiety UK recommend counselling, hypnotherapy and CBT for anxiety and phobia issues. Hypnotherapy, mindfulness and relaxation methods are effective in many stress related conditions.
Treating the interpretation of the events themselves is usually carried out in one of many debriefing type methods. One of the most established is the “trauma run” method where the person relives the experience in the safety of a hypnotic or NLP based trance / altered state. Preparation and careful techniques ensure that the trauma does not exceed the person’s ability to handle recalling the memory. The trauma is then “run flat” by recalling it repeatedly until it is fully understood, reinterpreted and the emotional “charge” is greatly reduced. The memory is not “altered”, the perception and understanding however is modified to allow processing and “dealing” better with what happened. Versions of this include hypnosis based, EMDR and mindfulness based processes.
Other methods include using parts work based visualisation methods such as “inner child” (which sounds strange but which actually uses a symbolic character to represent your subconscious), or even shamanistic journey which is another symbolism based way of processing. These may sounds terribly “alternative”, but both methods are merely using rich symbolism and imagery to carry our a psychologically therapeutic process of processing and understanding.
Some practitioners also use fully conscious counselling debriefing, situational analysis, biofeedback based methods where the person is taught to control physical and mental responses and mindfulness.
Polyvagal theory has been able to explain much of the neurology behind the different PTSD anxiety responses and has provided new methods of employing psychotherapy and conversational hypnosis based techniques. Stuart has completed specialised training: The neuro-physiology of trauma, attachment, self regulation and emotions: Clinical applications of the Polyvagal theory. (CPD) (Cert)
Because of the varied nature, causes and presentations of PTSD it is important for the practitioner to be multi-skilled and not just have one way of doing it, since individual clients are varied.
Integrated Mind-Body Psychotherapy Model for Complex PTSD
Complex PTSD is often highly embodied, in other words there are many somatic or physical symptoms cause by the repeated and complex patters of trauma, often from years ago. Complex PTSD is also often complex and inter-weaved with the individual’s psychological development, learning experiences and personal development. Stuart has completed certified CPD training in this model of therapy approach. The Integrated Mind-Body Psychotherapy model combines are series of different therapy competencies in order to address this complex presentation:
- Psychodynamic / Psychoanalysis: In particular relational and interpersonal
- Parts Work: In particular Ego states and disassociation
- EMDR Models: Adaptive information processing, Bilateral Stimulation (visual, physical or sometimes auditory), Dual Attention (aware of “then” and “now”), crossing left-right zones of brain and linking, and other methods.
- Somatic therapy: Embodiment interventions, including body scanning, body mapping, somatic anchoring, mindfulness, analytic hypnosis, movement therapies, body language including posture analysis, NLP mirroring, leading and pacing, mindful self touch.
- CBT: relationship with thoughts and behaviours, including self management during recovery, including understanding negative loops.
- DBT: Distress Tolerance and Emotional Regulation (from Mindfulness & psycho-education)
- CAM (complementary and alternative medicine): Hypnotherapy, NLP resource anchoring, grounding, Mindfulness, Yoga, Chi Gung, Nutrition, Self Care, Massage, Acupressure etc
Complex PTSD is a serious condition which does not clear up quickly, and which normally requires careful, gentle and holistic recovery at a pace dictated by the client’s needs.
Positive Outcomes: Post Trauma Growth
People have different initial or surface goals for recovery, such as NOT having a certain symptom. Some other goals however are:
- Enhanced Personal Relationships
- Increased willingness to ask for and accept assistance
- Increased willingness to be vulnerable
- Increased recognition of social supports that were previously overlooked
- Increased appreciation of life
- Increased ability to “take it easy”
- Newly found interests or passions
- Spiritual awareness
Who provides PTSD treatment?
Stuart is a trained clinical hypnotherapist and analyst (psychodynamic and cognitive behavioural) who is trained in a range of PTSD therapy methods including “trauma run” hypnotherapy processes. He is also trained in mindfulness, visualisation, NLP, psychotherapy, hypnosis based parts work, attachment theory, and situational analysis methods of analysis and debriefing. Stuart is professionally registered as a hypnotherapist, psychotherapist, life coach, analyst, counsellor and complementary therapist. He is on the FHT and CNHC Professional Standards Authority Accredited Registers.
Stuart has also completed CPD (continuous professional development) training post qualification in Relational EMDR and Integrated Mind-Body Psychotherapy Model interventions.
Stuart is also a former member of the Territorial Army and has signed the official secrets act. He accepts ex military and serving military personnel as clients and has worked with personnel from a number of services including special forces.
Post traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, Complex PTSD, Stress, Trauma, abuse, violence, abuse victim, abuse trauma, war trauma, battle trauma, military trauma, accident trauma, bereavement trauma, relationship trauma, trauma of assault, trauma of near death, psychotherapy, CBT, hypnotherapy, psychoanalysis, counselling, trauma debriefing, CBASP, situational analysis, anger management, stress management, counsellor, psychotherapist, polyvagal theory, psychologist, psychoanalyst, hypnotherapist, Edinburgh, Falkirk.
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