Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be broken down into five diagnostic categories, according to DSM-V: Exposure, Intrusion, Avoidance, Alteration, and Arousal.

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All of these symptoms combine to cause trauma and ongoing difficulties for sufferers – which is where hypnosis for PTSD can help.

Hypnotherapy is an evidence-based treatment which treats the underlying causes of the illness, as well as addressing each of these symptoms in turn:

1. Exposure

Clients who have experienced a traumatic event, or a prolonged series of traumatic events, perceive the world in different ways going forward. The experience of such trauma imprints on the body’s limbic system – the “fight or flight” response – which means that sufferers continue to suffer ongoing anxiety and feelings of stress.

Hypnotherapy can work as treating PTSD by addressing the underlying triggers of the stress, allowing the client to access his or her memories/emotions and processing them to help remove the negative triggers and transform the body’s response.

2. Intrusion

Flashbacks, nightmares and other negative thoughts are common amongst PTSD sufferers. These thoughts can be very intrusive on day-to-day functioning and can distract sufferers from normal functioning.

Hypnotherapy addresses intrusion by targeting the disruptive thoughts and preventing them from interrupting daily functioning.

Hypnotherapy gives clients the tools to take back a sense of control, in a technique called ego strengthening, whereby a client can reconnect with inner strength and develop a greater sense of agency.

3. Avoidance

Most sufferers will do anything to avoid confronting situations or stimuli which invoke past trauma.

Such avoidance can be conscious – for example, staying away from people, places or smells – but avoidance can also be less straightforward, by indulging in dissociative behaviours such as addiction and substance abuse. The purpose of avoidance is for a sufferer to distance him or herself from the source of the trauma.

Avoidance can be targeted by hypnotherapy because hypnotherapy restores the self and promotes better brain-body connection. By giving a voice to the negative parts of the being, hypnotherapy can help transform these negative energies or feelings and directly confront the trauma, rather than hiding it away under avoidant behaviours.

4. Alteration

There is no doubt that PTSD changes sufferers. Mood, behaviour, memory, metacognition – many PTSD patients report feeling like they have lost touch with their former selves.

Not only does PTSD transform the outward self, it also changes the way we attribute negative experiences moving forward. For example, a PTSD patient might experience highly negative reactions to certain situations – anything that goes wrong is considered to have done so because of a personal failing of the patient.

Hypnotherapy strengthens the connection with the subconscious. A skilled hypnotherapist can access crucial events which impact a client’s trauma during careful and modulated regression.

In such a state, the patient can access the moment at which a memory or experience turned negative – and the hypnotherapist can assist in turning this conclusion into a positive one.

5. Arousal

Untreated trauma can result in noticeable behavioural and functional changes. Trauma can manifest in physical symptoms such as hypervigilance, chronic shock, somatic illness, or difficulties sleeping and concentrating.

These negative consequences are attributable to trauma being “trapped” in the body. During hypnotherapy, a patient can access the situation which caused the trauma in the first place, and therefore heal the source. Therapists can help “unfreeze” this trauma, let it out, and address the symptoms of arousal.

If you experience any of these symptoms associated with PTSD, or struggle with past trauma, talk to your registered hypnotherapist about whether hypnotherapy could help you get some reprieve.