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Since the Vietnam War, there has been a growing awareness that modern warfare produces terrible psychological wounds. Last year, a RAND corporation study found that 20% of soldiers back from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That’s 300,000 soldiers.
PTSD symptoms typically include nightmares, intrusive images, hypervigilance, flashbacks, irritability, panic attacks, sleep disturbances, emotional numbing, and avoidance. The high suicide rate among returning vets is very likely attributable to PTSD and depression, which often occur together. Untreated PTSD also leads to substance abuse as well as family, marital, and employment problems. The RAND report estimated that PTSD in returning vets costs $6.2 billion in the two years following deployment, including costs for direct medical care, lost productivity, and suicide.
You don’t have to be involved in combat to have PTSD, however. I’ve treated people for this condition who survived major train and car accidents, airplane crashes, rape, and house fires. In addition, many survivors of the 9/11 and Oklahoma City terrorist attacks, along with their family members, suffer from PTSD.
Some people are able to cope with devastating events. After a trauma such as a car accident, it’s normal to be jittery and hesitant to drive, have sleep problems and flashbacks of the event, and feel like you’re not yourself. These reactions usually subside within a few weeks. Maintaining a healthy diet, staying away from alcohol and other drugs, exercising, being with friends and family, and getting enough rest help us deal with traumatic events. (Remember, too, that crises are often personal wake-up calls that can lead to a fruitful re-examination of life choices and direction.)
Sometimes, though, the response to trauma doesn’t dissipate, evolving instead into PTSD. In my own practice, I use energy psychology (EP) methods to help patients overcome PTSD. You can read more here about EP, which works by activating your body’s natural healing systems. One EP approach is akin to psychological acupressure, with patients tapping or rubbing acupuncture points to help regain composure and calm by using their own healing capacity to bring about energetic balance, much like acupuncture does.
Treating PTSD with EP has many advantages over other approaches:
• It’s very gentle. It does not retraumatize the client.
• It simultaneously addresses the physical, emotional, and cognitive aspects of PTSD.
• It leads to rapid improvement–often in the first session.
• It’s easily learned as a self-treatment method that can be used anywhere.
EP is now in use around the world. Practitioners have successfully used it to treat survivors of Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian tsunami, Kosovo, and earthquakes in Guatemala and Turkey. If you’ve experienced a traumatic event and are seeking a gentle and effective way to get your life back on track, consider finding an EP-trained therapist.
At WholeHealth Chicago, we offer a range of integrative therapies for PTSD:
• Treatment by Larry Stoler, usually including EP.
• A thorough integrative medical exam by David Edelberg, MD. This is important because people with PTSD often develop physical problems linked to the condition. Dr. Edelberg can guide you back to wellness, suggesting dietary and lifestyle changes and making recommendations to strengthen your stress-buffering serotonin system (St. John’s Wort, 5HTP, antidepressants).
• A meeting with our apothecary specialist, Seanna Tully, who can suggest remedies such as calming and nourishing herbs, flower essences, and essential oils. She can also direct you to helpful books and CDs by trauma expert Belleruth Naparstek, including Invisible Heroes, Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal, and the guided imagery CD Healing Trauma.
• One flower essence blend that we recommend for everyone’s home healthcare kit is the Bach Rescue Remedy, used to stabilize the mental, physical, and spiritual forces immediately following physical or emotional traumas. Another flower essence remedy blend, Post-Trauma Stabilizer, builds on the effects of Rescue Remedy and is specifically indicated for those exposed to more severe and prolonged levels of shock and trauma, such as experiences in war or natural disasters.
• Have a Healing Touch session with Katie Oberlin. Healing Touch, an energy treatment, is a great way to overcome the effects of trauma and get recentered.
You can view an example of how EP treatment helped several veterans with severe, intractable PTSD by clicking here. Please note the video can be disturbing to some viewers dealing with intense PTSD.
David Edelberg, MD