Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Trauma Resolution Therapy
Could it be traumatic stress?
I can’t have PTSD…can I?
There is no stigma or shame in finding out or admitting that you have PTSD. Simply put, a traumatising experience is one that felt overwhelming and threatening at the time it happened, whether the threat was to your body or mental state. Threat stimulates the survival response, the fight – flight – freeze mode.
So it’s not just what happened that makes an experience traumatic, but also how you responded at the time, perhaps subconsciously.
Anything that is experienced as overwhelming is likely to lead to some sort of collapse of the system – a bit like too much information can crash a computer.
The fight – flight – freeze survival response is only useful if there is actually something to push away, run from or stop moving until it passes. But in modern life this is usually not the case and with something like, say, a car accident, an abusive caregiver or bullying at school or work, we often don’t feel able to express the emotions and sensations around the event at the time. These unexpressed events, whether single large episodes or repeated smaller ones, can be retained in the body, held in the very tissues that were over stimulated at the time of the event itself, and this can result in deep-seated sensory memory of the trauma.
What causes traumatic-stress?
An event can lead to traumatic memory if:
- It happened unexpectedly
- You were unprepared for it
- You felt powerless to prevent it
- It happened repeatedly
- Someone was intentionally cruel
- It happened in childhood
Commonly overlooked causes of emotional trauma can include:
- Falls or sports injuries
- Surgery and dental work
- Sudden death of a loved one
- The breakup of a significant relationship
- A humiliating or disappointing experience
- A life-threatening illness or disability
- A car accident
Trauma Resolution – How do I heal my trauma?
There are a number of special treatments that have shown a remarkable effect on their ability to produce trauma resolution. Some of these techniques are comparatively new, and some are very ancient, tried and tested.
The ancient art of Acupuncture in particular has been turned towards helping people with PTSD in recent years, and has been demonstrated as having incredibly helpful benefits in arenas such as traumatised war veterans and victims.
The science of trauma resolution has evolved to reflect the new understanding of how the body and brain really work. Regulating response to stimulation and resolving retained traumatic memory can be achieved using:
- Acupuncture – this can work directly on the connective tissue (fascia) of the body, which we now know is where body memory of traumatic experience is ‘stored’
- Breathing awareness – breath is always affected by trauma, so this is an essential step in resolution of traumatic experience
- Mindfulness practice – trauma disables our ability to be ‘in the moment’, Mindfulness reinstates it
- Rebalancing biochemistry – identifying any nutritional deficiencies, hormonal or brain chemicals that may be making you more prone to stress
- Somatic Experiencing – essentially a form of guided Mindfulness, this powerful technique utilises the very latest knowledge about trauma resolution
PTSD is actually very common
PTSD is much more common than is generally realised. We estimate that as many as 75% of the people we see have some element of PTSD as part of their overall picture, but our practice is not typical perhaps. These are often the kind of symptoms that are difficult to explain in ordinary medical terms, or seem resistant to treatment, or for which there seems not to be a suitable treatment. Sometimes a symptom will resolve with treatment, only to be mysteriously replaced with another symptom somewhere else in the body.
It can also be helpful to realise that what is traumatic and harmful to one person may be exciting to someone else. You might find scuba diving exhilarating whilst I would panic at the mere thought.
What do you need to do now?
The Treatment of PTSD with Chinese Medicine – an Integrative Approach
People’s Medical Publishing House
Waking the Tiger; Healing Trauma. Peter Levine
North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 1997, and Healing Trauma. Sounds True, Boulder, 2005.
Research and articles:
Somatic Experiencing Treatment with Tsunami Survivors in Thailand: Broadening the Scope of Early Intervention. Leitch M L, Traumatolgy 2007;13:11, and Somatic Therapy Treatment Effects with Tsunami Survivors. Parker C, Doctor R M, Selvam R. Traumatology 2008;14:3.
The Strength-Focused and Meaning-Oriented Approach to Resilience and Transformation (SMART)
A Body-Mind-Spirit Approach to Trauma Management
Authors: Cecilia L. W. Chanab; Timothy H. Y. Chanb; Siv Man Ngb
Struggling to meditate: Contextualising integrated treatment of traumatised Tibetan refugee monks
Authors: Adriana Lee Benedicta; Linda Mancinib; Michael A. Grodincde