The horrors of a terror attack are immediate and frightening but for the heroes who rush in and do their duty to help the injured and make things safe, the after effects can be long lasting and debilitating.
The attack by a suicide bomber, targeting young people leaving a pop concert in Manchester, will leave scars for a long time – not only for those who lost loved ones but also those who were there and survived.
For most of us, dealing with the horror of such an event is difficult; for those who survived, were injured or lost loved ones, it is even harder. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often suffered by people involved in such events.
Already stories are emerging of emergency workers who say the harrowing scenes will stay with them for a long time. One, Adam Williams, told the BBC of the ‘harrowing’ experience of working through the night trying to save people and said ‘what he saw, what he did’ were constantly going through his mind. He added: “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get rid of that.”
And that is a worry many will face but PTSD can be overcome.
According to the NHS, PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events and someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, maybe even experiencing feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.
PTSD can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later. It is estimated that the disorder affects about 1 in every three people who have had a traumatic experience, although it is not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others do not, adds the NHS.
“While it is normal to experience upsetting and confusing thoughts after a traumatic event, most people improve naturally over a few weeks,” says the NHS. “You should visit your GP if you or your child is still having problems about four weeks after the traumatic experience, or if the symptoms are particularly troublesome. If necessary, your GP can refer you to mental health specialists for further assessment and treatment.”
This could include being prescribed medication – but there can be side-effects – or some form of talking therapy such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Talking therapies involves treatment that can help the PTSD sufferer feel more in control of their emotions and result in fewer symptoms, although there might still be some bad memories.
Signs of PTSD include intrusive flashbacks of the moment; nightmares or recurring bad dreams; insomnia; sudden bouts of rage or temper tantrums; the inability to relax and continuing stress, tension or fears. Often these are caused by a ‘trigger event’ which causes the PTSD sufferer to relive those horrific events.
Clinical hypnotherapy has a proven record in treating anxiety, stress, PTSD and other similar issues as the hypnotherapist will work with the subconscious mind and identify and treat those ‘triggers’, allowing the person understand them and cope with them in the future.
A fully qualified National Council for Hypnotherapy therapist – of which there are almost 2,000 across the UK – can help a PTSD sufferer understand their current thought patterns so that they can identify those that are harmful and unhelpful.
The aim of hypnotherapy is to unlock stored emotion so that the trauma can be revisited and explored from a different perspective and there are various forms of hypnotherapy a practitioner may use and in order to determine which is the most suitable, says the NCH.
“In some cases, a therapist could use cognitive hypnotherapy or analytical hypnotherapy, both of which function on a deeper level than suggestion hypnotherapy and are able to work with the unconscious mind so that negative beliefs which were built up during the trauma can be explored and alleviated.”
During hypnotherapy sessions, sufferers can learn to come to terms with their trauma and gain a sense of control over their fear. By focusing on realistic thoughts, they can avoid falling back into negative thinking patterns whenever they encounter a trigger.
For help in coping with PTSD, use the NCH directory, which lists therapists near you. There are some members of the NCH who offer a free preliminary session to members of the armed forces and emergency workers.