Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health condition that many people have a tough time managing. People may develop PTSD due to having traumatic events occur in their lives. While it is commonly associated with war and soldiers, PTSD can occur after anyone experiences any sort of traumatic event. There are many reasons why a person can develop PTSD over time, but no matter what, it’s important to seek treatment.
Most people will turn to traditional treatments such as medications and certain types of therapy to treat PTSD. These treatments work well for many people, but some might still have lingering issues with PTSD, such as recalling dark past events or experiencing severe PTSD hyperarousal issues. This has led some therapists and doctors to offer hypnosis as a treatment option for severe PTSD patients. Can hypnosis for PTSD really work, though?
Understanding Hypnosis as A PTSD Treatment Option
The first thing you need to learn about is how hypnosis is designed to work as a PTSD treatment option. What your therapist is going to do is help you to relax so that you can enter a hypnotic state. This involves the patient becoming comfortable and relaxed. Hypnosis is induced by the therapist giving directions to the patient, and the method of induction is selected based on the patient’s preferences.
Being hypnotized is different from just being asleep because you’re awake and can tell what is going on around you. The actual treatment method differs according to the therapist and what is best for each individual, but can include the patient revisiting memories from the safety of the therapist’s office and the hypnotic state.
This can be positive for PTSD patients because it gives them a chance to work through their emotions. Patients who can examine these negative events in their life in a safe setting like this have the potential to reduce feelings of anxiety. They might even be able to change the way that they react to remembering the events moving forward. It could help you to remain calmer in the future when you start to reflect on these moments of your life if you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD.
Does This Truly Work?
Hypnotherapy for PTSD has been used on patients for quite some time now. It has a track record of helping people feel better about things, and it even helps some patients who aren’t responding well to traditional treatment methods. Studies have been done on hypnotherapy for PTSD, and they show that the therapy style is effective. If you’re having a tough time with traditional treatments for PTSD, then looking into hypnotherapy with your doctor and your therapist might be a good course of action.
You’ll Likely Receive Standard Treatments First
Before you try out hypnotherapy for PTSD, your doctor will likely want to try standard treatments first. This means that you will address many of the symptoms that you experience because of your PTSD diagnosis with standard treatments like medication and psychotherapy. Many PTSD patients feel significant anxiety, which means that anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed to help patients cope. It’s also pretty standard for PTSD patients to take antidepressants. Some also need medications such as mood stabilizers or other psychiatric medications; depending on the present symptoms the doctor will make recommendations for your treatment.
You’ve already heard that cognitive-behavioral therapy is a standard treatment for PTSD. There are also other types of therapy that some therapists will utilize. For instance, your therapist might try cognitive-processing therapy before wanting to consider hypnosis. The basic idea of cognitive-processing therapy involves talking about the traumatic events that have led to your PTSD diagnosis. You think about what happened and how it has impacted your life. Many therapists will have patients keep a journal and write down their thoughts, but talk therapy is also a part of the process.
There are many different therapies and treatments that your therapist can consider. There is even a treatment known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) that is used to help reduce the distress that is related to the traumatic events from your past. Hypnotherapy is far from the only thing that can help you cope with PTSD, but it could be the most effective thing for you if other methods haven’t worked out.
Other Coping Mechanisms
There are many other coping mechanisms that you’ll develop to help deal with PTSD over time. Your therapist is very likely going to work on teaching you relaxation techniques to help you settle down when you’re feeling overly anxious. PTSD patients might sometimes feel very stressed, and certain things can cause them to remember the past. Knowing relaxation techniques can help PTSD patients to regain their composure and feel better over time. Many of the popular relaxation techniques taught by therapists will involve deep breathing exercises and some forms of meditation.
Besides learning about relaxation techniques, you can also try to make lifestyle changes to make coping with PTSD feel more natural. Many people use exercise routines as a good way to manage their mental health conditions. This works well for PTSD patients because it helps them to feel in control while also alleviating stress. Exercise is perfect for reducing stress levels, and it can also increase feelings of happiness. Exercise is well-known as a natural antidepressant that can help you to boost your mood. If you exercise regularly, it can be a powerful tool for coping with anxiety and depression.
Being in better physical shape can boost confidence levels and improve your overall mental health. You should also try to focus on doing activities that make you feel relaxed. Many PTSD patients have calming hobbies that help them feel at ease, and you can try to find hobbies that make sense for you. You might be interested in gardening, or you might like building model kits.
With coping tips like the ones above, it should be easier to manage PTSD, but treatment for PTSD is often best approached with a professional by your side. If you’re feeling more anxiety than usual, then you might wish to take an anxiety test to see how difficult things are. You should speak to your doctor or mental health professional about your anxiety levels and whether hypnosis for PTSD might be a good option. If traditional treatments and standard coping mechanisms aren’t quite enough in your situation, or they aren’t for you, hypnosis and other alternatives may be the next practical step.