What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and how does EMDR therapy help?
PTSD was first noticed in soldiers and other people who had been in war zones. In the first World War for example, it was known as “shell shock”, and some of the men who returned were never quite the same again.
However gradually it became evident that this disorder affected people from all walks of life. The one thing that they had 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.
These people experienced a range of symptoms, which included:
- Flashbacks: these could be in the form of nightmares, or intrusive and distressing memories. As well as generating strong emotions, these led to physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations, shaking and panic attacks.
- Avoidance and Emotional Numbness: survivors of trauma actively avoid situations that remind them of their experiences, or report feeling numb and detached from daily life, friends and life. Some people experience ‘dissociation’ – a feeling of watching events unfold, from a distance.
- Hypervigilance. The affected person feels constantly alert, nervous and jumpy, always on the watch for danger, and as a result can become irritable and struggle with concentration.
At times, the person experiencing PTSD may start drinking too much, or turn to drugs to ‘self medicate’ in an attempt to gain temporary relief and to escape the memories and trauma. However this only results in the problem becoming more complex.
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.
If you feel that you may be suffering in the wake of some form of trauma, it is important to know that therapy has been proven to be highly effective in helping to minimise the symptoms.
Author: M1 Psychology
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- ‘My Sister Millie’ by Gemma Dowler, Published by Michael Joseph UK.