Hypnosis and Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PSTD)

Clinical psychology reports of ever increasing problems manifested by the humans in the form of anger and irritability which are part of a number of unhealthy manifestations exhibited by individuals affected by Post Trauma Disorder (PSTD from henceforth). Irrespective of the fact whether it is the result of a single incident trauma-say assault-or sustained torturing-as domestic violence- the consequences are the same in that the affected individuals slip into PTSD. Since many do not come out openly to narrate their experiences because of social stigma and of the fear of reprisal, conservative estimate suggests 20 to 30% of the population in the USA suffers from PTSD. Statistics apart, the syndrome affects the quality of living of people with some even being driven to suicides. In short, the underlying symptoms/causes associated with PSTD must be effectively reduced in order to treat PSTD and it is in this respect hypnosis is considered to be an effective tool.

The essential method by which hypnosis achieves this is through relaxing the affected individuals. But it is perfectly logical for any body to ask as to why hypnosis should be the preferred choice and why not other methods? We would address this issue in this article.

Typically three symptoms, viz, re-experiencing, avoiding reminders of the events and hyper arousal are found to be associated with PSTD.

Experiencing is reflected in distressing images, unpalatable memories, night mares and or flashbacks of the event that had occurred in the first place caused the distress to the affected individuals. The physical manifestations of this could be seen in palpitations, shortness of breath and panic attacks.

Avoidance of reminders relate to the event, the people who had perpetrated the act, places or things with which the trauma is associated and the physical symptoms of this could manifest in becoming emotionally constricted, disturbed and or not responding to the environment.

Hyperarousal is associated with physiological symptoms which the individuals suffer in private as manifested in insomnia, impaired concentration and impulsive actions. Anger is the serious physical manifestation seen in such affected persons.

Put together all of them cause negative social, occupational and or interpersonal conflicts in the affected subjects. In addition, anger can lead to many serious ailments as hypertension, myocardial infarction etc. Anger is also seen as a defensive weapon with which the affected individuals are perceived to shelter themselves against the onslaught of emotional disturbances they undergo.

Now as to why hypnotherapy when other therapeutic and non-therapeutic (cognitive therapy) method of treatments (meditation) are available? Several researchers (e.g. Dahlenberg, Novoco, and Landy & Drummond etc) conducted studies to establish the effectiveness of pure therapy to treat anger but were not able to establish a therapeutic relationship in either managing or eliminating anger through therapeutic management alone. The reason attributed to this is in the prevention of emotional processing of fear in exposure treatment the logical inference of which is that the emotional processing of fear must be attempted first. Relaxation techniques and hypnosis which applies such techniques in a holistic manner acquires critical importance here. Many clinical experiments show that when people are relaxed they think more clearly, are equipped better to solver their own problems. Muscle relaxation techniques in particular have been found to be of immense importance because the deep muscle relaxation works favorably on the autonomous nervous system which in turn helps in producing a state of mind with a reduced anxiety. This response resulting out of hypnosis augurs well in handling anger and ensuring a better anger management. Further more imagery techniques used in hypnosis has been found to be very effective in reducing autonomous arousal which again could reduce or prevent the experiencing of anger by the subjects.

While a number of other positive effects of hypnosis could be discussed here in order to be maintain brevity we can conclude that different training methods available and used by trained hypnotists go a long way in inducing progressive relaxation in the subjects which in turn improves sensory awareness, resulting in cognitive relaxation which when combined together can help the patients to get relief from PSTD without to the extent possible resorting to medications which aim at relieving the symptoms and not the underlying causes. To state otherwise, they do not bring in long term relief and hypnosis can do what modern conventional medicines cannot accomplish.