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How to Tell if PTSD is your Problem?
Do you suffer from upsetting and unsettling physical or emotional symptoms that started after a traumatic event, like a death, a road accident, a burglary, an attack or some other event which caused you distress?
Perhaps you are a returning veteran and experienced something in your tour of duty you keep trying to put to the back of your mind? Do you wonder if, and how, you might be able to make it all go away so you can just move on with your life?
Could post traumatic stress disorder be your problem? PTSD is actually much more common than you think. But, more to the point, if you do have PTSD, what can you do about it?
There is good news. In the UK, a technique currently being reviewed by the National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) called ‘Rewind’, is now being increasingly used by counsellors and therapeutic coaches to resolve PTSD symptoms, often in just one session with a qualified practitioner.
Rewind is a visualisation technique that works by allowing the traumatic memory to be processed by the brain, which then settles back down in recognition that the trauma is over, you have survived and you are now safe.
As a professional psychotherapist and author of the book PTSD Resolution, I am very familiar with the symptoms, but you may not be. So here is a check list, used by doctors to work out if PTSD could be the problem, which I simplified so you can begin to unravel what might be going on for yourself:
Defining the problem: your PTSD symptom checklist
Exposure to a traumatic event
You have been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
- You experienced, witnessed, or were confronted with an event or events that involved any (or all) of the following: actual or threatened death; serious injury; or a physical threat to the person or to others.
- Your response at the time involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
You re-experience the traumatic event in one (or more) of the following ways:
- You have intrusive memories about the event, including: images, thoughts, and/or feelings.
- You have upsetting dreams about the event.
- You have a feeling of reliving the event (including hallucinations and flashbacks, experienced while awake or perhaps after using drink or drugs).
- You feel emotionally upset, when reminded about the event in any way, either by something you think about or by something which actually happens (often referred to as a pattern match)
- You get a physical reaction when reminded about the event.
Avoidance and numbing symptoms
You try to avoid anything which reminds you about the traumatic event and/or feel numbed or distant in a way you did not before the event, in at least three of the following ways:
- You try to avoid thoughts, feelings, and/or conversations connected with the trauma.
- You try to avoid activities, places, and/or people that make you think about the trauma.
- You are unable to remember an important aspect of the trauma.
- You have less interest in doing things you used to do before the trauma.
- You feeling detached or distant from others.
- You are unable to feel the full range of emotions that you did before the trauma.
- You have a sense of a future blighted by the trauma; that you are not the same and your life will not be as you had expected it to be.
Symptoms of increased physiological arousal
You have persistent symptoms of anxiety (not present before the trauma), in at least two of the following:
- You have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
- You are irritable or have outbursts of anger.
- You find it difficult to concentrate.
- You feel on ‘red alert’, like you are watching or waiting for something bad to happen.
- You are on edge or easily startled.
Let me tell you a story
One day, many years ago, a man walked into my office, smartly dressed, upright, with a manner and walk that suggested a military connection. As he began to tell his story, he cried as he described increasingly severe panic attacks with nightmares and flashbacks of events from his tour of active service.
His life was now dominated by a range of distressing symptoms. He felt his marriage was beginning to unravel due to his heavy drinking and inability to move forward with his life. His goals for our work together on that first session were to get a good night’s sleep without having to drink to block out the symptoms and to regain some hope that things would improve so that he could get his life back on track.
We worked together for an hour and a half and he returned the following week with the good news that his sleep was restored and the nightmares had gone. He was amazed the intervention had worked so fast. Back then, when I had first started using the technique, I was also surprised it had resolved the symptoms so quickly.
These days I am surprised if it does not.
I had used the therapeutic intervention called ‘Rewind’. Its use for resolution of post traumatic stress was first outlined by Dr David Muss in his book ‘The Trauma Trap’.
The PTSD domino effect
The pattern of panic and PTSD for veterans and non veterans alike is very similar:
It starts with a traumatic event or a build up of events, which begins a combination of nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia or panic attacks or any of the symptoms listed above. This can then lead to a ‘domino effect’ of a life which begins to unravel relationships suffer, work suffers and drink or drugs are used as ways of trying to control or numb the fear and anxiety.
Pete, who ended up homeless, and then in prison, recounts how it started;
‘When I came back, I went from war zone to home within the space of a week. One minute I had a gun in my hand, the next; I was holding my new born son. I didn’t feel safe around him. I knew what those hands were capable of. Then the flash backs started. I couldn’t sleep so I paced the floor at night, drinking to knock myself out so I could switch off for a few hours and get a break from myself.
The drink made me violent. My wife had enough and I ended up on the streets. No job, no money and with a drink and drug problem that pushed me into crime. Now I’m here and, in a way I feel safer. It’s a bit like being back in the army again but I dread getting out. I still have the nightmares and flashbacks. They say there’s no cure. I have to learn to live with it.’
To Pete, and all who have been suffering for so long, I am pleased to let you know there is a cure; a cure which is brief, easy to use and which works. Research is building which supports its effectiveness but, as we all wait for the results of the research, people are suffering and lives are needlessly being blighted or even lost.
I wrote the book PTSD Resolution to show as clearly as I could, how the Rewind technique works in practice, and often in just one therapeutic session, to resolve all the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
So, if you think PTSD is your problem, track down a counsellor or therapeutic coach who understands how to use Rewind to resolve your problems, or have a look at Dr Muss’ own website or app where he tells you how to use Rewind to resolve your own symptoms.