Conditions and treatments
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder which can happen when a person is exposed to a very frightening or threatening event. This can even happen if the person just witnesses the event but is not directly involved. People suffering from PTSD can find it very difficult to lead a normal life. Typical symptoms involve; flashbacks, hyper vigilance, avoidance and nightmares. PTSD sufferers often have low self-esteem and a lot of difficult emotions. Typical events which can cause PTSD include; transportation accidents, assaults, rape, combat and childhood abuse. Substance misuse is common as sufferers seek to self-medicate to try and obtain some relief from their symptoms. Often the person with PTSD feels that they will never recover. The good news is that therapies can be very effective in the treatment of PTSD.
Most PTSD therapies are broadly categorised as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). The idea is to help the person feel safe and gradually expose them to memories of the traumatic event so that it loses the power to be threatening to them. This process is known as exposure therapy. If the person has been avoiding things which remind them of the event, exposure therapy can help to confront them. It will typically involve ten to twenty sessions lasting 60-90 minutes each. At the beginning of treatment the therapist may teach relaxation and breathing techniques to reduce anxiety when the person thinks about the traumatic event. In the second stage of therapy the therapist and client construct a hierarchy of avoided situations and learn to tackle them one at a time. In the third phase of treatment the client recounts the traumatic event in some detail to the therapist. A recording is made of this which the client listens to when they go home. This process generally results in the reduction of symptoms and easing of anxiety.
What happens in a session:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) involves recollecting memories of the trauma while watching the therapist move their finger or a light from side to side at regular intervals. For reasons which are not fully understood many people report that their traumatic memories lose the ability to disturb them after this treatment. Typically EMDR takes about 12 sessions at weekly intervals lasting 60 minutes.