What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and how does EMDR therapy help?
PTSD used to be mainly associated with soldiers and people who had been in war zones; a hundred years ago it was known as “shell shock”.
However society began to see that this disorder affected a range of people, who had one thing in common – they had all been through some type of traumatic event, such as sexual abuse, exposure to violence, being a victim of crime, natural disasters such as fire and tsunamis, and the like.
People experiencing PTSD may suffer from various symptoms, such as:
- Flashbacks of the traumatic event through intrusive memories or nightmares. As well as generating strong emotions, there may be physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic attacks.
- Feeling emotionally numb and avoiding situations that are reminders of the trauma. This can cause the sufferer to lose interest in day-to-day activities and become detached from friends and family. Some people experience ‘dissociation’ – a feeling of watching events unfold, from a distance.
- Feeling anxious and ‘jumpy’ for no reason. Heightened vigilance can mean the affected person is constantly on the lookout for danger, possibly leading to irritability and a lack of concentration.
At times, the person experiencing PTSD may use alcohol and drugs in an attempt to gain temporary relief, or to ‘self medicate’. This can result in the problem becoming more complex and also a Dual Diagnosis for the individual.
PTSD is in essence a type of anxiety disorder that can happen after a deeply threatening or scary event. Even if you weren’t directly involved, and were simply a witness, the shock of what happened can be so great that you have a hard time living a normal life.
Treatment Options for PTSD
When treating PTSD, medication may be used to stabilise the sufferer’s symptoms, before looking into suitable therapeutic techniques.
Treatment options may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), talking therapies and also Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR).
What is EMDR?
EMDR has proved extremely successful in helping sufferers of PTSD, by helping to unlock the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and to help the brain reprocess the experience.
As the title “eye movement desensitisation reprocessing” suggests, the therapist directs the client through a series of rapid eye movements, as they gently guide them in recalling the traumatic incident/s.
EMDR makes it possible to gain the self-knowledge and perspective that allows the client to choose their actions, rather than feel powerless over their re-actions; sessions continue until the traumatic memories and emotions are relieved.
According to research, up to 90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions of EMDR.
How Effective is EMDR?
One famous example of the efficacy of EMDR is detailed in the book “My Sister Millie”, about a teenager who was abducted by a serial killer. The book was written by Millie’s sister, and reading about the family as they try to cope with the loss of their loved one is quite emotional.
Towards the end of the book, having tried every therapy, medication, etc, and concluding they could not go on living without Millie – they tried one last therapy, EMDR. The results were exceptional. Millie’s mother and sister describe the treatment as ‘difficult’ however then cannot praise it enough, stating clearly it saved their lives and enabled them to see a future.
Author: Liz Taylor, BA (Hons).
Liz Taylor is a social worker with over ten years’ experience in helping people with personality disorders and other mental health issues. Liz’s counselling strategies are drawn from the Relapse Prevention Model, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). She is passionate about enabling her clients to function and feel a sense of control in their lives, and to achieve the goals and outcomes that they wish.
To make an appointment with mental health social worker and counselling professional, Liz Taylor, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- ‘My Sister Millie’ by Gemma Dowler, Published by Michael Joseph UK.