Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can occur after a serious scare. Any time we fear we may lose our life there is the potential for the brain to act to keep us from such a situation again. It is essentially this ‘one trial learning’ that overwhelms the normal responses and creates difficulties.

The brain tries to help us by locking in details of the time and place of risk and creating a strong reaction to them to alert us to similar dangers. The problem of course is that PTSD is a level of response that is over the top and not helpful.

In a useful ‘single trial learning’ we do something once and it is of use to us, such as when we burn our hand as a child and learn in that instant that fire can harm us.

In a case of PTSD the brain generalises the circumstances and exaggerates the response. For example; if a car crash so frightens the brain that it locks in the event and creates fear around it, then all cars could create a fear reaction. Flashbacks could occur at apparently random times and nightmares could happen. In some cases panic and fear could occur any time you leave the house. You might even feel disconnected from family and friends and travelling away from home could create fear and so on.

In each case the brain is trying to help you avoid harm, but in PTSD the brain is creating a massive over-reaction that needs to be addressed.

Thankfully there are several methods available with proven capabilities to correct the ill effects of PTSD. The method I use is Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and is one of only four proven methods to overcome PTSD. It’s used by the Irish Defence Forces, the US Army, most Nato countries and is recommended for helping people with all kinds of trauma from battlefield traumas to grief.

EMDR uses a natural healing ability of the brain that can reduce and even eliminate PTSD symptoms. It’s a procedural method that doesn’t require you to talk through the issue. By having you focus on the cause of the trauma while guiding you through the process, swift improvement can occur without the distress of having to talk it all through. There’s very little ‘homework’ element and the work is done in clinic, in sessions of about an hour. EMDR can be used even when already on drug therapies such as anti-depressants etc.

For more information on EMDR, including the International Treatment Guidelines, see:

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