Category: Fear



What is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)?

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition that can occur following the experience or witnessing of  life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, around 30% of people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, feel detached from real life and unable to communicate with friends and family.  These symptoms can be severe enough to significantly impair the sufferer’s daily life.

Who suffers from PTSD?

Anyone who has witnessed a severe trauma could be susceptible to PTSD and it is estimated that up to one in 10 individuals may be affected by the condition at some stage during their lives.

However, some individuals who work within certain professions, and some individuals who exhibit certain risk factors may be more prone to develop the condition than others.

According to some studies the condition is present in approximately one in two female rape victims, one in three teenagers who have survived a car accident, two in three prisoners of war and one in five fire-fighters.

Those who have previously suffered from a mental health condition or who have a family history of mental health concerns are also considered to be at a ‘high risk’ of developing PTSD after being exposed to a harrowing event. It is estimated that up to four in five PTSD sufferers are affected by other mental health problems

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

In some individuals the symptoms will develop very shortly after the event, but for others the onset may be delayed by a number of months, or even years after the trauma first occurred. People with PTSD usually experience three main kinds of symptoms:

1. Reliving the Trauma

The sufferer may feel as though they are reliving the trauma in some way. There are a number of ways in which people may relive a trauma. They may have upsetting memories of the traumatic event which can come back at any time, day or night, completely out of the blue. At other times the memories may be triggered by a traumatic reminder. Examples of this may be when a soldier who has returned from combat hears a car backfire, a motor vehicle accident victim drives by a car accident or a rape victim sees a news report of a recent sexual assault. These memories can cause both emotional and physical reactions. Sometimes these memories can feel so real it is as if the event is actually happening again. This is called a “flashback.” Reliving the event may cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror similar to the feelings they had when the event took place. Many sufferers of PTSD suffer extreme nightmares or night-terrors.

2. Avoidance and Numbing Symptoms

Individuals with PTSD may try to avoid situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They may avoid going near places where the trauma occurred or seeing TV programmes or news reports about similar events. They may avoid other sights, sounds, smells, or people that are reminders of the traumatic event. Some people find that they try to distract themselves as a way to avoid thinking about the trauma.

Numbing symptoms are another way to avoid the traumatic event. People with PTSD may find it difficult to be in touch with their feelings or express emotions towards other people. For example, they may feel emotionally “numb” and may isolate from others. They may be less interested in activities they once enjoyed. Some people forget, or are unable to talk about, important parts of the event.

3. Arousal Symptoms

People with PTSD may feel constantly alert and anxious after the traumatic event. This is known as increased emotional arousal, and it can cause difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger or irritability, and difficulty concentrating. They may find that they are constantly ‘on guard’ and on the lookout for signs of danger. They may also find that they get startled very easily. Often, close friends or family members may notice a change in the individual’s personality.

PTSD is complicated by the fact that you may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD occurs after a person has suffered years of trauma, rather than a one-off event. For example, a child who has spent years being abused by a parent or carer may end up suffering with complex PTSD.

How Does Hypnotherapy Help?

Hypnotherapy is an extremely kind, gentle and respectful method of treating PTSD as the client is relaxed and can observe themselves from a distant or dissociated perspective via a TV screen in their mind. There is absolutely no need for them to give details of the trauma or abuse if they don’t want to and they will NOT be asked to relive the traumatic event.

I use ‘The Rewind Technique’ to help PTSD sufferers as I believe it is the kindest, quickest  and most effective treatment. You can read more about The Rewind Technique HERE.

How Many Sessions will I Need?

This depends on the complexity and severity of your case as everyone is different. Some people can be treated in just one session, for others, it may take four to five, spread over weekly or fortnightly visits. We will work together to decide how many sessions you need and take things at a pace that suits you. However, you should start feeling better after just one visit.

If you think I may be able to help you with your PTSD symptoms, please contact me today and arrange an appointment.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

What is Hypnotherapy?

What is Hypnotherapy?

There is a lot of mystery and confusion surrounding hypnosis which puts a lot of people off. This is a shame as hypnotherapy is such an effective tool for dealing with so many issues. What do you think of when you hear the word “hypnosis”? Do you see a mysterious man waving a pocket watch in front of your face, repeating the phrase, “You are feeling very sleepy!” Maybe your mind turns straight to the stage hypnotists who appear to control the minds of their subjects and get them clucking like chickens every time they hear a bell ring?

So, What is Hypnosis?

There is no question as to whether or not hypnosis works, the problem is that science still can’t decide how it actually works, which makes it very difficult to explain!

The British Society of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis states:

“In therapy, hypnosis usually involves the person experiencing a sense of deep relaxation with their attention narrowed down, and focused on appropriate suggestions made by the therapist.”

These suggestions are often enough for a person to begin making amazing changes deep within themselves.

The following four extracts are taken from a book by  Dr Hilary Jones’, called “Doctor, What’s the Alternative? He explains hypnotherapy really well, in simple terms that are easy to understand.

Definition of hypnotherapy

“Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis is not a state of deep sleep.  It does involve the induction of a trance-like condition, but when in it, the patient is actually in an enhanced state of awareness, concentrating entirely on the hypnotist’s voice.  In this state, the conscious mind is suppressed and the subconscious mind is revealed.

The therapist is able to suggest ideas, concepts and lifestyle adaptations to the patient, the seeds of which become firmly planted.

The practice of promoting healing or positive development in any way is known as hypnotherapy.  As such, hypnotherapy is a kind of psychotherapy.  Hypnotherapy aims to re-programme patterns of behaviour within the mind, enabling irrational fears, phobias, negative thoughts and suppressed emotions to be overcome. As the body is released from conscious control during the relaxed trance-like state of hypnosis, breathing becomes slower and deeper, the pulse rate drops and the metabolic rate falls. Similar changes along nervous pathways and hormonal channels enable the sensation of pain to become less acute, and the awareness of unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea or indigestion, to be alleviated.”

How does it work?

“Hypnosis is thought to work by altering our state of consciousness in such a way that the analytical left-hand side of the brain is turned off, while the non-analytical right-hand side is made more alert.  The conscious control of the mind is inhibited, and the subconscious mind awoken.  Since the subconscious mind is a deeper-seated, more instinctive force than the conscious mind, this is the part which has to change for the patient’s behaviour and physical state to alter.

For example, a patient who consciously wants to overcome their fear of spiders may try everything they consciously can to do it, but will still fail as long as their subconscious mind retains this terror and prevents the patient from succeeding.  Progress can only be made by reprogramming the subconscious so that deep-seated instincts and beliefs are abolished or altered.”

What form might the treatment take?

“Firstly, any misconceptions a potential patient may have about hypnosis should be dispelled.  The technique does not involve the patient being put into a deep sleep, and the patient cannot be made to do anything they would not ordinarily do. They remain fully aware of their surroundings and situation, and are not vulnerable to every given command of the therapist.  The important thing is that the patient wants to change some behavioural habit or addiction and is highly motivated to do so.  They have to want the treatment to work and must establish a good clinical rapport with the therapist in order for it to do so.

The readiness and ability of patients to be hypnotised varies considerably and hypnotherapy generally requires several sessions in order to achieve meaningful results.  However the patient can learn the technique of self-hypnosis which can be practiced at home, to reinforce the usefulness of formal sessions with the therapist.  This can help counter distress and anxiety-related conditions.”

What problems can be treated by hypnotherapy?

“Hypnotherapy can be applied to many psychological, emotional and physical disorders.  It is used to relieve pain in surgery and dentistry and has proved to be of benefit in obstetrics.  It can shorten the delivery stage of labour and reduce the need for painkillers.  It can ease the suffering of the disabled and those facing terminal illness, and it has been shown to help people to overcome addictions such as smoking and alcoholism, and to help with bulimia.  Children are generally easy to hypnotise and can be helped with nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) and chronic asthma, whilst teenagers can conquer stammering or blushing problems which can otherwise make their lives miserable.

Phobias of all kinds lend themselves well to hypnotherapy, and anyone suffering from panic attacks or obsessional compulsive behaviour, and stress-related problems like insomnia, may benefit.  Conditions exacerbated by tension, such as irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis and eczema, and excessive sweating, respond well, and even tinnitus and clicky jaws (tempero-mandibular joint dysfunction) can be treated by these techniques.”

If you would like to know more about hypnotherapy, please contact me for your free half-hour consultation.

Overcoming Social Anxiety

Overcoming Social Anxiety

It is December. The festive season is upon us again and that means hours of socialising. Office parties, the work’s Christmas ‘do’, family get-togethers with people we barely see throughout the rest of the year. While, for many people, this means hours of fun and laughter, for some of us, it isn’t that easy.  I know…I speak from a lifetime of experience.

I have suffered with social anxiety since I was a young child. I don’t know whether it is something left over from a past life or just a character flaw, but I have always felt uncomfortable when meeting new people and hate being faced with a large group, whether that is people I have known for years or a bunch of strangers. While most children looked forward to the idea of social occasions, such as birthdays or school outings, I absolutely dreaded them and did whatever I could to avoid them. I was happier spending time with one or two close friends or, better still, playing alone in the safety of my bedroom or engrossed in a good book. This lead to years of being bullied, especially when we moved house and I had to join a new school. My crippling shyness was apparently mistaken as a sign of snobbery and, as we all know, children can be very cruel. The bullying made the social anxiety worse and so it went on throughout a very insecure and miserable childhood, leading to many stress related health problems and, I now believe, childhood depression.

family party, social anxiety, childhood depression
At a family party with my uncle Rod

As I hit my late teens and twenties I learned to cover up the shyness and insecurities and did what many of us do, I wore a mask and just pretended to be the confident, social person that I believed I was supposed to be to fit in with the rest of society. This worked well for a while, and people bought the social, confident persona. Then, I became ill with Endometriosis and Fibromyalgia. I had to give up my teaching job and spent many hours at home alone. My social life became non-existent and I forgot the art of acting confidently. Suddenly, I was five years old again and all those old feelings came flooding back, only this time they were recognised by those around me as depression and anxiety. I underwent Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) several times and on each occasion, it helped for a while, but my underlying issues were never resolved, so it was never a long-term cure for me.

Then I discovered hypnotherapy. I began to research the importance of the unconscious mind and how our main habits, thoughts and feelings reside in the part of our mind that we are not even aware of. These parts cannot be reached by talking therapies alone, or at least mine couldn’t. I started listening to hypnotherapy downloads, which helped a little, but were limited by the fact that they are a ‘one size fits all’ treatment and, of course, we are all very different. So, when I qualified as a hypnotherapist I began to write my own ‘scripts’, which I recorded and listened to regularly. I can’t lie and say that I am now a confident social butterfly, but I am so much better than I was. After more than ten years of shutting myself away, I am once again able to go out alone and talk to people I have never met before. Better than that, I actually enjoy meeting new people and I am honest about who I am. I have realised that, by talking about social phobias and my own lack of confidence, I have inspired honesty in others. All those people that I thought were so confident and seemed to know something that I didn’t…well, it turns out that many of them are actually very much like me. We all have our insecurities. We all wear our masks and various personas, depending on the company and the circumstances we find ourselves in. We all have our own ways of getting by.

Other symptoms of Social Anxiety are…

  • Physical symptoms such as blushing, sweating, trembling or stomach upsets when faced with a social situation
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating on conversations
  • Worries about what to say
  • Stuttering
  • Muddling or forgetting words
  • Fear of making a fool of yourself or becoming the centre of attention

anxiety, depression, PTSD, social anxiety, social phobia

Do you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself? If you avoid or dread social situations such as parties, job interviews, first dates, shopping, eating out, speaking on the phone or speaking up in group situations, then you may be suffering with Social Anxiety Disorder. If these symptoms are interfering with your day to day life, then it is important to contact your GP. He or she can refer you for CBT, which helps by giving you strategies to deal with your anxiety. There may also be underlying issues or illnesses that are causing your social anxiety so it is important that these are ruled out.

My Own Top 5 Tips…

In the meantime, try out these top tips that have worked for me in the past.

  • Before you go out, make a list of all the things you are worried about and then decide how you would deal with the worst-case scenario. When you face your worries head on, you realise that things are never as bad as you first think they are.
  • If you are stuck for something to say, pay a compliment. You make the other person feel good and that makes you feel good, too, putting you both more at ease and often kick starting a conversation.
  • Remember that the other person is probably just as nervous as you, they just hide it well!
  • Take a deep breath, relax and clear your mind. Practise mindfulness or sign up to my website and try listening to my relaxation session. The more you practise, the easier relaxation becomes and the more quickly you can calm yourself down when anxiety strikes.
  • Be kind to yourself. Nobody expects you to be perfect. In fact, perfect people are just annoying! Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself.

 Hypnotherapy Can Help

Hypnotherapy bypasses the conscious, self-critical mind and goes directly to the source of your insecurities. You and I can work together, using a combination of suggestion therapy, NLP techniques and age regression to get to the heart of your social anxiety. Everyone is different and there is no one particular strategy that will work for every person that comes to see me. You may, like me, have suffered with anxiety your whole life. Or, maybe you used to be confident and you are able to pinpoint the exact time when you lost that self-confidence or self-esteem through a life experience that you need some help in recovering from. Whatever your situation, please contact me for a free half-hour consultation where we can discuss exactly how hypnotherapy can help you become the person you want to be. There is absolutely no obligation to go ahead with therapy if you decide it isn’t for you, so you have nothing to lose. If you cannot see me in person, we can chat online or via a phone call and I can make you a personalised CD or MP3 to download and listen to, as well as give you tips and strategies on overcoming social phobia. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Honiton Hypnotherapy, Hypnotherapist, Laura Culley
Laura Culley Hypnotherapy