Is Hypnotherapy Safe for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Hypnotherapy can certainly help PTSD. But hypnosis can hinder people with PTSD. Just like depression, which is a kind of symptomatic trance in itself, it is vital to see a well trained and experienced counsellor and hypnotherapist for trauma based syndromes. PTSD is a difficult and debilitating psychological condition. Historically, PTSD is a relatively new inclusion to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (a popular reference book describing a variety of psychological syndromes), first appearing in the third edition in 1980.

The witnessing or experiencing of intensely traumatic material is thankfully not part of daily life for most individuals. However, the majority of adults do experience some sort of traumatic incident in the course of their lifetime. Of these, only a small percentage will go on to develop PTSD. Let’s have a look at some of the features and risk factors for PTSD.

Risk factors

It’s unclear why some people manage to cope well with a traumatic experience and don’t experience further problems, whereas others develop traumatic stress. Some possible reasons include an individual’s coping strategy, their personality style, and previous stressful or traumatic events. PTSD also appears more commonly in females than males. There are some interesting reasons for this gender difference that will be outlined shortly.

What are “traumatic” events?

In essence when we talk about trauma we are referring to events out of the range of normal human experience during which an individual’s life or physical integrity is threatened, or they witness this happening to another person. Common reactions to such appalling circumstances are feelings of shock, powerlessness and horror. Below are some examples of traumatic incidents that are more likely to lead to PTSD:

Interpersonal violence (such as being mugged or unexpectedly attacked)

Combat violence

Sexual assault

Torture

Sudden and unexpected death of a close family member

Given that women are more often the targets of physical and sexual violence, it makes sense that females experience PTSD more than males.

What are the symptoms associated with PTSD?

PTSD can manifest in a number of ways. Here are some common features:

Flashbacks to the event

Nightmares relating to content of the event

Avoidance of people, places or conversations linked to the event

Irritability and anger

Hyper vigilance (manifesting in disturbed sleep and/or an exaggerated startle response)

Emotional numbing

Sense of helplessness or a foreshortened future.

What can people with PTSD do to help themselves?

  1. Self-soothing activities that bring relaxation and an implicit respect to the body and mind to counteract the habitual trauma response. Anything from having a bath, getting a massage or walking.
  2. Self-hypnosis to relax and learn how to trust the sub-conscious and enlist the back of the mind in the healing process.
  3. Hypnotherapy with a trained professional to discover new healthy ways to cope with stress and trauma.
  4. Counselling to develop a secure attachment with a therapist and gradually become exposed to the traumatic stress without reacting in habitual ways.

A warning though. If you have PTSD be cautious who you see for hypnosis, as a relatively untrained hypnotherapist could inadvertently make matters worse. Hypnotherapy in Melbourne is not yet regulated and there are some great therapists and people who have only done a weekend hypnosis course! But seeing someone who is a clinical member of a reputable association which has stringent guidelines, such as the Australian Hypnotherapists Association (AHA) would be a good start. Ask them if they have experience with PTSD. Also it is good if they have adequate counselling and psychotherapy training of more than just a couple of years.

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