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How Does PTSD Occur and Why?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, takes place when an event that the sufferer experiences is so upsetting that it disturbs the brain’s information processing system.

A key function of this system is to transform extremely difficult experiences into mental adaptation. In other words, something which has disturbed the person who has gone through the event is processed in a way that means that some of the worst aspects of the memory, and its negative connotations, are eliminated.

Where the event is so disturbing, however, that this natural system cannot cope with this processing, the memory is retained. A current experience can then trigger this unprocessed, traumatic memory so that all the negative feelings will surface, and colour the way the present is perceived.

Many factors can have an impact on the way someone is affected by an intensely disturbing experience, including:

  • Genetics
  • How intense the experience was
  • How long the person was exposed to it
  • Earlier life experiences. Those with more positive past memories may find they have greater resilience. Similarly, negative ones can heighten later problems and make people more susceptible to their adverse effects.

While traditionally a diagnosis of PTSD has depended on having lived through a major trauma, such as a battlefield experience, rape or an accident, recent research has shown that in many cases less traumatic events can trigger the symptoms of this condition.

These can include hurtful experiences from childhood, which can have a serious impact on a person’s self-esteem.

Such events can, unfortunately, lay the foundations for a broad range of symptoms, among which may be a heightened vulnerability to the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

How EMDR Can Help

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychological treatment which a clinical psychologist called Dr Francine Shapiro developed. And its benefits have been backed up by extensive scientific research.

The goal of this therapy is to process distressing memories, and lessen their lingering effects while developing better coping strategies.

Essentially, clients remember their traumas while following the hand movement of the therapist. This appears to have a direct impact on the way the brain works, and helps restore more normal ways of dealing with problems or processing information. While the memory is still there, it is no longer upsetting.

It mimics what happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and so it is a very natural process.

EMDR is recommended by organisations like the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

EMDR Training from EMDR Works

If you’re considering undertaking EMDR training, at EMDR Works we offer very interactive, trainee-focused and small group EMDR courses. You will then have the theory and the skills that you can put to immediate use.

We have accreditation from EMDR Europe as well as the UK and Ireland associations, giving you confidence as to the quality of our training.

There are four parts to our innovative training, ranging from basic theory and practice to accreditation. There’s more online.

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