Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While many people use the word trauma to describe any serious negative event, the psychological definition is more specific. Trauma applies only to life-threatening incidents. This is the meaning when Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is accurately diagnosed. Those who are familiar with the term generally associate it with the military and law enforcement. However, a heart attack, near fatal car accident, or being the victim of a violent crime can also create the condition. Similarly, those who survive natural disasters such as a flood, hurricane, tornado or earthquake may develop PTSD. Police officers and fire fighters may also develop symptoms of PTSD after traumatic experiences.
To be clear, the person doesn't actually have to be injured to have PTSD. Fear is what sets it off. Thus, a person hiding in a room where there is a shooting will probably experience trauma even if they were not injured. The condition will occur if the person was in fear for their life. I've treated people who were in a war zone in their home country who developed PTSD even if the bombs never hit their home. In contrast, a patient who was deployed a few years ago learned to live with occasional shelling near their base. All the soldiers were used to it and went about their business even when shells were exploding not far away.
PTSD symptoms may start soon after a traumatic event, or they may not appear until years later, usually after a triggering experience. Such was the case for noted British hypnotherapist Karl Smith (pictured above). Even after many deployments in war zones, he had few symptoms. Until years later, as a police officer, he was run over by a drink driver. Then PTSD took over his life. After being discharged from the hospital, he was healed with hypnosis. Realizing the benefits and needs, he decided to become a hypnotherapist to treat military veterans and law enforcement officers suffering with PTSD.
Common symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, hopelessness, feeling emotionally numb, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, irritability, concentration issues, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Individuals with PTSD often abuse alcohol or drugs in an attempt to ease their mental anguish. With the combination of depression, hyperarousal, and always believing that something negative is going to occur, suicide may seem like the only option for many sufferers. At least 18 American veterans with PTSD kill themselves every.
Although most people aren't aware, the U.S. Government used hypnosis to treat what they called "shell shock" since before World War I. The Army estimated that 20% of all American battle casualties in World War II were of a psychiatric nature--what we now call PTSD. The use of hypnosis with returning veterans by army psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Simon is shown in the 1946 documentary "Let There Be Light."
The documentary was commissioned by the U.S. War Dept. and filmed by John Huston when he was in the Army. It was shot at the Mason General Hospital in Deer Park Long Island, but the film was hidden for 35 years because the government was afraid this accurate description of the mental state of many combat veterans would discourage recruitment. This suppression happened even though the film is positive in many ways. It shows the soldiers recovering and participating in sports and trade classes that would help them reenter postwar society.
In fact, over the decades, the military has used hypnosis for a variety of purposes. This includes using hypnosis to help new fighter pilots cope with air sickness and the effects of g-forces. Our armed services evaluate everything, and it's safe to conclude that during the 100 years they used hypnosis, it passed many effectiveness evaluations.
Unfortunately, this effective therapeutic technique was abandoned by the VA during the 1980s when modern antidepressants came to the fore. Since then, the Veterans Administration has used group therapy, and a variety of pharmaceuticals to treat this condition. Combat veterans I treated reported minimal effectiveness for the VA approach, and a review of the prevalence of alcohol and drug dependence (and suicide) among veterans speaks to the failure of these methods.
In contrast, hypnotherapy is still very effective in treating PTSD and its associated difficulties. A research study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry evaluated the use of hypnosis for cases of PTSD and found success for a method very similar to the one I utilize. Many research studies found the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for PTSD is superior compared to treatment by all other therapeutic methods and/or pharmaceuticals.