We’ve all experienced the feeling of fear – whether it’s from a dream, a surprise or a real-life worry. These feelings, however, pass and we return to our non-anxious, hypervigilant state. People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), however, the individual has experienced a life-threatening or highly traumatic event that they keep re-experiencing. This can come in the form of anxiety disorders, nightmares, night terrors, flashbacks, or constant thoughts and feelings about the event. It can keep the person in a constant state of worry or “edginess,” which interrupts our mood, sleep, concentration, and overall stress levels.
Sometimes the feelings are so overwhelming, that they cause people to “numb” out all feelings – good or bad. This can lead to side effects like depression or suicidal feelings. Alcohol, drugs, anger outbursts and suicidal ideation often become ways to cope with PTSD. Sometimes this causes a mental health misdiagnosis because the addiction or substance abuse is identified, but the trauma piece is missed.
That is why it is so important to target the ‘root’ of the issue, then deal with the negative coping mechanisms afterwards. Often once the root cause or trauma is dealt with, the coping mechanisms are easier to manage because the individual no longer needs to numb the negative emotions.
The best treatment for PTSD?
At Shift, our therapy is a branch of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – which was developed specifically for PTSD. It is the most effective PTSD treatment because it is trauma-focused and targets deep-rooted beliefs that are fear based. Through the bilateral stimulation, both sides of the brain are stimulated by auditory cues as you think about the trauma. This removes the emotion and negative thoughts associated with that memory, and in turn, you won’t be as triggered by that memory anymore.
Shift Case Study
Teagan* came into Shift looking for an effective treatment for people with PTSD. She had many traumatic experiences growing up in her childhood home surrounding abuse, and the effects were starting to affect her daily life. In the past, Teagan had attended regular talk therapy and group therapy but found those methods did not work for her long-term.
She reached out to Shift for EMDR therapy, hoping to find ways to eliminate those traumatic experiences. Teagan found that coping mechanisms she learned in previous therapy was certainly helpful, but the traumas were still there and so were the haunting effects.
Teagan attended therapy at Shift once a week for 16 weeks. In the first five weeks, she was able to reprocess her first traumatic childhood memory. Teagan previously was triggered by common household sounds, to the point where she kept re-experiencing certain traumatic events in her own home which was different from that she grew up in. But following the bilateral stimulation, she was no longer affected by them.
She continued therapy for 11 weeks and was able to reprocess four more traumatic memories. Teagan says that being at home isn’t an issue for her anymore and that she doesn’t feel as ‘on edge’ in the rest of her life either.
Common Limiting Beliefs associated with PTSD, that Teagan also worked on at Shift, were:
“I am vulnerable”
“I am in danger”
“I cannot trust myself or others”
“I am at risk”
“I am weak”
“I am powerless”
“I am helpless”
“It’s my fault”
These beliefs are the result of the extremely traumatic events experienced by the individual. The individual may apply these beliefs across all areas of life, rather than it just being situational. At Shift, we will help clients understand how and why these beliefs come up in other areas of their life. We make it clear that these beliefs do not define the individual, and with regular intensive therapy, can be completely eliminated.
*All names and all identifying information have been altered. Case studies are posted with client permission.
Best treatment for PTSD?
At Shift, we use a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and our philosophy to educate the client about where their thoughts, feelings and emotional responses come from. Then, we go a step further with this effective treatment, into the bi-lateral stimulation reprocessing (based on EMDR therapy) portion, which clears out the beliefs that re-activate the traumatic experiences and clients are left with symptoms removed, rather than just managed.