Q: I experienced a traumatic experience a few years ago and I have yet to get over it. I have nightmares and anxiety attacks. A lot of things make me remember it, and some of the time, it feels like it is happening all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I live a very normal life and no one knows this bothers me, but I would like to get over it.
A: What you are describing is called Post Traumatic Stress. This condition can arise from any stressful, upsetting or frightening incident, such as: a break-in; a car accident; a death; being a victim of crime such as robbery, mugging, abuse or rape; sudden marital upheaval; or being fired from your job with no forewarning. It can have occurred recently or years ago. Some adults still have difficulty being alone or in the dark, because of incidents such as childhood hospitalizations. There are a number of techniques that can be used in counselling to help you overcome these thoughts that are intruding into your life. Some of these would include what are known as, grounding, journalling, relaxation and desensitization techniques, all of which can be very effective.
There is, however, a new and very exciting method that is being used with amazing results. This is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and it is receiving a great deal of positive attention from the medical, psychiatric and social work community. It requires extensive training which only a select group of professionals qualify to receive. I am pleased to say that I have completed the training and have been using the technique successfully.
This method is too complex to explain here but for the client receiving the treatment, it is very simple. It uses a series of eye movements, much like the ones that occur naturally when we are dreaming, to help reprocess the traumatic event. You are awake at all times and can stop any time if you choose. If you can imagine the upsetting situation as being frozen in your mind like a photograph that never changes, EMDR helps your brain to turn it into a movie that moves on and finishes, so that you can get past the upset. Many people find that only 1 to 3 sessions can make an remarkable difference in how they feel, even though some of them have been carrying the memories for years. This method, especially when used together with the some of the other techniques, provides a wonderful new way to help people with these kind of traumatic memories. This method may be the answer for you. Call me and we can discuss it.