Abuse Stays Fresh Until It’s Treated – PTSD, Football, Rape

Nobody could have been left unmoved by the revelations of retired football players this month.  First a lone footballer speaks out about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child from a coach, then the floodgates opened up as we realise the extent of the abuse for the first time.

BBC Victoria Derbyshire – Footballers Speak Out

The numbers don’t surprise me, that culture was toxic in many ways, it still is.  What surprises me is that so many adults including those in the know actually think those men should just get over it, put it in the past, bury it, ignore it, take one for the team (again). It was clear that hadn’t, they couldn’t, they didn’t know how. The memories were as vivid, painful and frightening today as they were 30 years earlier. Several of the victims said that not a day had gone past when it hadn’t affected them. Many suffered from anxiety, many would drink too much, undoubtedly there was shame, anger, guilt, difficulty in moving on to the next phase of their lives.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterised by intrusive stressful thoughts, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, anger, loss of sleep, irritation, shame, depression, suicidal. This mental health condition is notorious for it longevity. Even depression, left untreated, has a tendency to go away on its own for many suffers. Not so much for PTSD.

It’s worth remembering that it’s not a disorder to be upset, to ruminate over the incident, to lose sleep, to be on alert when we go through something over-whelmingly negative, such as loss, injury, abuse, tragedy. The disorder is to not to return to normal emotional comfort within a month or two. I’m not sure why but about 70% of the population that goes through trauma spontaneoiusly get better. The remaining 30% struggle to recover and can stay in that emotionally wounded state for decades. Typically they resort to coping strategies, repression, anger, drink, drugs, sex, becoming an abuser, isolation, just surviving.

Thankfully, over the last few decades psychological research has identified methods to quickly and painlessly deal with memories that are too painful to process normally. Now, treatments for PTSD are typically just a handful of sessions from a qualified therapist – sometimes just one! (It’s important to make the point that counselling does not qualify as a ‘treatment’. Counselling is care and support which is quite different and may be appropriate immediately after the trauma but it is not a treatment for PTSD and can, in fact, make things worse.)

There are many reasons why people don’t seek treatment:

  • fear of the pain of reliving it
  • failure of previous treatments or distrust of therapists
  • loss of faith in NHS/state provision of care
  • concern over lengthy or costly treatment
  • shame/guit (ironically)

Thankfully modern therapy such as Cognitive Hypnotherapy is able to work without you needing to discuss any details of the trauma and a good therapist will ensure the session is an entirely positive experience. Private treatments can be arranged at short notice with a therapist of your choice and therapy should give you improvements from the first session and rarely last more than four or five sessions. Ask a friend for a recommendation or look for a Cognitive Hypnotherapist near you for a fast and effective treatment so that you can take control back of your life.

End the suffering.

Simon.

Anxiety

Firstly, a simple reminder that anxiety is not a disorder.  Anxiety is a normal feeling, rather uncomfortable, but one that we need to be able to experience in order to stay healthy.  Without anxiety, blowing the rent money on restocking your fish tank becomes really easy.  We need to be able to anticipate feeling really bad or injured when assessing certain future scenarios so we can take steps to avoid them.  Anxiety is, after all, entirely future focused.  (If we are anxious about having cheated, it’s really an anxiety about what happens in the future as a natural result.)

So why do we often refer to feelings of anxiety as being bad for us?  Why do we go out of our way to stop those feeling, to repress them, avoid them, drink or drug them out of existence?

In most cases, this comes about when our brains mistakenly learn to treat more and more non-threatening situations as threatening, or to over-emphasise the danger.  This is further exaggerated in people of low self-esteem since their assessment is ‘I don’t have the ability to deal with this situation or these feelings’.  Under these circumstances anxiety becomes a chronic (persistent over time) condition and is worsened by simple day-to-day challenges.  This is when anxiety becomes a disorder, or Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to give it its proper name.

Common experiences that can lead to GAD are earlier traumatic experiences where the person was unable to deal with the situation and became highly emotional and unresourceful.  For instance, being embarrassed in front of a classroom at age 8 can lead to severe anxiety in the office whenever called-upon to present material.  This creates avoidance behaviour, such as calling in sick or not taking promotions which might require speaking to groups.

In this instance the exaggerated response is irrational.  The adult knows the material, knows how to stand and talk at the same time and knows that with a little good humour mistakes are easily tolerated.  The exaggerated emotional response, however, is not governed by logic, the response is triggered automatically when a certain environmental pattern or stimulus is present or anticipated.  Rationally, the adult knows he has the information and skills required and that he knows that no physical injury will result from his failure to recall last quarters sales figures.  Unfortunately, the Limbic system, which manages emotional responses to threats, literally doesn’t listen to reason, it’s not part of the same brain structure and nor does it use the same methods of internal communication.  It’s like two computers with no connection between them, each coming up with a different assessment.  Logical new brain: fine, whatever.  Emotional old brain: you’ll be humiliated again like before, stay home.  The result is always the same, a win for the emotional brain, since this is the part evolved to protect us from urgent threats (spears, tigers, fire).  The logical brain doesn’t even get the information once the fight, flight and flee mechanism is triggered.  It’s left to assess things only after the immediate threat has past.  Evolutionarily, it’s better to over-react to a threat than to not react, certainly when spears, tigers and fire were more of a problem…. it’s less well suited to the Facebook generation who only have to worry about being de-friended.

Catastrophisation is a feature of GAD.  Small problems become huge in the mind of the GAD sufferer.  There also tends to be over-generalisation, so from a small car accident, the GAD sufferer might believe all transport is dangerous and become home-bound.  Or the one-time threat from a large aggressive dog becomes an anxiety towards all animals all of the time.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one system of treatment that helps sufferers to understand how they mis-assess their surroundings and try to gradually train their emotional mechanism to be more ‘reasonable’.  This process works for most but can be a slow process.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy uses a number of different methods to treat anxiety sufferers, primarily looking to remove the damage done by the initial traumatic memory so that it no longer serves as a base to launch negative emotional assessments.  We also work to reset the brain’s natural filters to ensure that attention is used productively; focusing more on positive environmental activity and less on counter-factual scenarios that can cause irrational fear.

Recent research indicates that Cognitive Hypnotherapy achieves as good or better results than CBT and does it in fewer treatment sessions.

If anxiety is ruining your life and you’re ready to tackle it, book a session with me so we can put it behind you.

 

Addiction: Johann Hari’s Seminal Ted Talk

Johann Hari asks the question, what if everything you think you know about addiction is wrong. Hari takes a similar position to the Human Givens style of treatment. We don’t need to focus on the addiction, if we restore the things that everybody needs to thrive, especially socially, the need for drugs will go away. Drugs use is seen as a failed attempt to address a person’s genuine needs but failing in their method.

Based on his book ‘Chasing the Scream’.

Latest Research

There are many complimentary therapies available for most mental health issues. There are even many different types of hypnosis. The difficulty is often choosing a suitable, effective and value for money treatment. Until recently Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was one of the only treatment types to have been subject to clinical study and been found effective. In June 2015, Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy (a style of hypnosis developed and taught by the Quest Institute) joined the ranks of evidence based therapies after a pilot paper was published in the Mental Health Review Journal (Vol 20 No. 3 2015 pp 199-210).

Quest trained hypnotherapists routinely use the standard IAPT measures in assessing Depression (PHQ-9) and Anxiety (GAD-7); this is the same assessment that your doctor is likely to use. During the Pilot study, clients were measured at the beginning of the treatment and then once treatment was completed. The study concluded that 86 clients (73 percent) improved reliably (i.e. clinically, they were deemed to no longer be in need of treatment). This compares favourably with CBT (the only treatment currently approved by NICE for these issues) which scores around 70%.

A further issue brought to light by the study which bears repeating is that the average number of sessions needed to create the improvement was between three and four, a substantially shorter duration that the typical CBT programme.

This was a pilot study, however, a further study is being compiled currently which consists of a great around 500 cases and this will be published shortly.

Simon Bates
Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Freedom Hypnosis.

Drugs are not the answer….

The government continues to stymie research which could reduce symptoms for people with depression because of their prejudices against certain types of drug.

Psilocybin research may help relieve depression

Psychiatrists, doctors and researches continue to put their faith in some magic bullet drug even though they understand how complex and unique each human brain is and how its structure and function is built by experience that no drug can understand.

Both sides ignore the obvious.  From all my experiance, 99% of moderate depression and anxiety is not caused by chemical imbalances, mostly it’s caused by unresolved trauma (that may lead to ‘chemical imbalances’…).  Resolving trauma and related emotional problems is the only rational way to treat such disorders and give people their lives back.  Since this type of treatment can be completed in less than a month in most cases, why are we still wasting time feeding seriously ill people through such trials?  And whilst on the subject, how does it remain ethical for the other 50% – the placebo group – to get no treatment at all?  We already know the spontaneous remission rates don’t we?  It might suit the researchers but it’s not in the patients’ interest.

Imagine going to your doctor because you’ve been depressed for ages and have a poor quality of life.  You get two choices:

(1)  Enter a six month drug trial, which probably takes many months to begin and it’s probably taken a number of interviews and delays to get to this point.  There’s a 50% chance you will be given a placebo.  The drug is know to have serious side effects which are unpredictable.  It’s unknown what the long term consequences to the person’s mental health will be.  or,

(2)  Book an appointment with a psychologist for proven, effective treatments of depression, say with a Cognitive Hypnotherapist (1 months) or CBT (2-3 months).  No drug side-effects, you can start immediately.

I find it difficult to understand how fully informed people go for choice (1) so I have to question just how vigorously the doctors and researches explain these options to these vulnerable people.  People in fiduciary roles have a higher standard of care than the person on the street, so I struggle to understand how these trials get filled.  It’s clear what’s in it for the doctors and researchers; it’s clearly in their interests to keep you attached to the ‘chemical imbalance’ explanation of depression and anxiety.

At best anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication cover-up unwanted emotions.  In principle it’s no different to getting drunk or stoned to avoid unwanted pain; this is typically where people end-up after years of needing a treatment and not getting one.  Apparently these prescription drugs ‘help some patients cope’.  Frankly, I don’t think this this qualifies as a ‘treatment’ but I know there are far more qualified, better respected and better paid people out there still in bed with the medical/chemical model of depression.  And look where that’s got us.

Fear of HIV Disclosure Following Clinic Data Breach

This week the prestigious Dean Street sexual health clinic mistakenly released the names and email addresses of nearly 800 of its HIV clients.

Guardian – London Clinic Mistakenly Releases HIV Email List

Whilst there are a number of fearless individuals who are very open about their HIV status, the fact is that most HIV+ people only discuss their status with very close friends and their partners.

As a therapist, I’m not a fan of secret-keeping, especially when the emotions associated with this disclosure are a constant fear, guilt, shame, remorse or regret.  These are the emotions of depression.  I work within the HIV+ community as a volunteer hypnotist and I’m acutely aware of how much trauma and shame there still is and how this impacts upon mental health.  (Suicide rates for young gay men are insane: Suicide Rates In Young Gay Men.)

Disclosure of HIV status is an incredibly complicated issue.  Information, once out, cannot be controlled.  Do you tell  close friends, work colleagues, brothers and sisters, parents?  Many people that would be prepared to be more open about their status are often held back by the thought of disappointing or scaring their parents (a generation more used to seeing HIV+ people die of AIDS in the 1990’s).  Their parents would be unreasonably worried irrespective of the very positive current medical outcomes due to drugs such as Atripla and Eviplera.  So parents are usually the last to know.

I know that today there will be a lot of very angry, scared, shocked and exposed HIV+ patients.  I know Dean Street well, it’s an excellent clinic and their staff will be utterly devastated by this accident.  Any of us could have been the member of staff that pressed ‘Send’ without checking if you used the BCC box or the CC box.  It’s something that most people wouldn’t get over easily.  People don’t work in this field unless they really care about people.  This person will also need support today.  Whilst the consequences of the data breach will continue to violently crash through the personal and professional lives of many, it’s worth remembering that life goes on, we’re all human, and things will get better.

Whether a person is assaulted, injured, HIV diagnosed or just makes a serious mistake, it’s normal to be upset by matters such as these. We are suppose to be impacted by them.  We’re supposed to lose sleep, be agitated, relive events over and over – and then things should begin to get better.  That’s the normal path of any trauma.  When those thoughts and emotions don’t go away on their own, then it’s time to talk to a professional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recent Testimonials

I’m always grateful to my clients for their spontaneous feedback:

“I think you listen very well, your understanding of the concerns and how you addressed them.  […] I’ve been seeing the psychologists over a year, I feel I’ve benefited more over the last 3 weeks seeing you.  [And Negative feedback?]    You make me laugh to much 😂”

DG – Trauma and Panic Attacks

“Without sounding mushy, today I felt as though I was walking on a rainbow all day and felt so free and all without having to rehash the gory details to you during the session…. I think I will put on hold my proposed ‘talking therapies’ [NHS prescribed].   I truly believe I can learn more from you than from the generic NHS pillar to post routine. …. The decision is made.  My priority is to complete the sessions with you.”

EK – PTSD/Abusive Relationships

“Thank you so much for the guided meditation/hypnotherapy. I’ve been listening to it every day and loving it. It’s filled with such simple but beautiful intention and possibility. It’s colouring my life and really seems to be working to reboot my tired old brain…  Thank you so much Simon, it’s a beautiful thing and I really appreciate your kind help.”

MW – PTSD/Depression & Anxiety

 

“… just to let you know I have been listening to the cd and it is working, I got through my first year with a high 2.1 with your help so thanks for that.”

LW – Performance Anxiety/Stress

Naturally, results vary from client to client, so please call me to discuss your situation.

HIV Diagnosis and The Process of Adjustment

This incredible story of Luke Alexander, who’s been HIV positive for just a year, shows us all how brave and well adjusted a person can be when responding to such devastating news.

BBC Newsbeat: Luke has been HIV+ for a yearThere are so many layers and levels to deal with.  There’s the initial ‘oh shit’ to deal with, there’s the ‘am I going to die’ and there’s the ‘who do I tell?’.  There’s guilt, remorse, regret, anger towards the self and the other person involved, it goes on.  These are not simple points to deal with and require an emotional maturity that you don’t often see in an 19 year old.

In some ways Luke is lucky to be young, there’s a big difference between Luke’s generation, my generation, and my parents’ generation – each of which has its own stereotypes about HIV and AIDS.  Luke lives at a time when HIV is a manageable disease akin to diabetes which can be managed by regular medication.  Nonetheless, it can be truly isolating for some.  Luke’s decision to be public and fearless about his condition means that the people he meets will ‘self-sort’ into those that can see past the disease and those that can’t.  There are enough HIV dating sites and social and support groups to ensure that he’ll be able to find loving, caring HIV+ people to surround himself with, even if he can’t find it in the general population.  His attitude is truly heroic.  His attitude is rare.  Even in gay circles, it’s rare for people to be so open about their HIV status.  There’s still a stigma attached.   There’s still fear about ‘people at work’ finding out, losing friends, or parents that might be devastated. And if you’re heterosexual or black the stigma can be much worse and much more isolating.

I don’t know how Luke managed in the period immediately following his diagnosis but, for most people, there is a lot of adjustments to make.  There is a process to go through.  It can be similar to what goes on when a person grieves: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance.  There are similar processes for people who go through other traumas, such as assault.  There is no time limit for the brain to make these adjustments but in my experience most can do it within a year.  It depends on the person, it depends upon their belief system and resilience and there are other factors we don’t understand yet.  And, there are some people who can’t.

Some people get lost.  Actually, some people get stuck.  I don’t know if there is a technical name for a person that can’t get over a bad diagnosis but for regular trauma cases, the analogue is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for grief, it’s ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’!  Just to set the context, in the case of PTSD, it is not a disorder to have nightmares, insomnia, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, etc.  It only becomes a ‘disorder’ when we don’t return to normal after a reasonable time.  We are supposed to be impacted, shocked, stressed, vigilant, etc. we are supposed to learn lessons, and then we are supposed to move on, that’s how it works.  And, some people can’t because they don’t know how.

This is when it becomes an issue for therapy.  Thankfully chronic trauma, in its many forms, is a treatable condition.  The symptoms are many, isolation, anger, guilt, addiction, etc.  If this applies to you or somebody you care about then it may be time to talk.

Author: Simon Bates, Freedom Hypnosis
Cognitive Hypnotherapist working with London’s YMCA Positve Health Programme.

 

Suicide and Young Gay Men

There’s a disproportionate number of young gay men committing suicide. Very disproportionate. If the figures from Stonewall’s 2011 study of gay and bisexual men is to be believed 27% of gay and 38% of bisexual men said they had considered taking their own life in the previous year – this compares to just 4% of heterosexual men. And this was a big survey – 6,861 respondents from Britain. It gets worse.

Of the respondents, 3% of gay men and 5% of bisexual men had actually taken steps to take their own life in the previous year. Apparently the comparable rate is 0.4% of all men. It gets worse.

What if we look at just the young men? 10% of gay and bisexual men aged between 16 and 19 actually took steps to take their own life in the last year. 1 in 10. If you go to a gay bar with lots of young gay men, look over into one corner – proportionally – all the gay men in that corner took action to kill themselves last year. If that doesn’t shock you, there’s something wrong.

We could spend hours debating the real reason for this: coming out early, coming out late, permissive society, disapproving society, too many rules, not enough rules, too much drugs/alcohol, not enough, too much internet use, not enough, freedom to be gay, not enough freedom to be gay, too many gay role models, not enough,  too selfish, too selfless, being able to marry, not being able to marry, too much coddling, too little, too much religion, not enough. I hope that clears things up.  Certainly, I’ve heard arguments for all the above.

We could ask those young men what’s wrong but most people aren’t good at giving you reasons when they’re an emotional mess.  Frankly, it could be your phone running out of charge that can push a vulnerable person over the edge.

Here’s what I think.  Think about the changes that most of these men are going through in their teenage/early adult years (most of which only apply to young gay men):

  • they are coming out (to mixed reviews!)
  • they are going through the difficult years that follow from puberty
  • they will likely have their most emotionally charged relationships and break-ups in this period
  • they are becoming independent and usually separated from their usual unconditional emotional support
  • they are more likely to have moved from home (young gay men move to the cities, actually they run…)
  • they are experiencing drugs and alcohol for the first time.
  • HIV infection, or constant fear of infection

It’s a lot to deal with for people without enough life experience.  These young men haven’t learnt yet about how to be emotionally resilient. The people they are attached to emotionally and provide emotional support (friends, parents, teachers, lovers) can, and do, suddenly remove that emotional support and even reject them.

Drugs and alcohol are huge problems for young gay men.  They lead to risky behaviour that leads to guilt and regret.  But worse, they lead to huge ups and downs, often days later.  So a normal day might feel like an unbearable weight, for no apparent ‘reason’.

Generally, we all learn to be emotionally resilient over the years – at least to some extent.  The question is whether we manage to do this in time and without too much damage along the way.  Thankfully this emotional resilience can be learnt through CBT and/or Cognitive Hypnotherapy. These are also good ways of dealing with excessive drug or alcohol use, as can issues of identity and self-worth.

And sometimes, people just need somebody to talk to.