Many people suffer with PTSD, but we normally think of those things as something that happens to members of the armed forces, or people who have suffered violence towards them. Keira Knightley, the award winning, globally recognised actress of stage and screen isn’t an obvious sufferer, but in an interview for the ‘Awards Chatter’ Podcast, she revealed her early experiences with the paparazzi.
“Being followed around by twenty guys who were deeply misogynistic…I’d never experienced that level of hatred. Suddenly there was a level of violence in the air that is not a thing that anyone would react to well.”
She submerged herself in her work, delivering a string of successful films, working back to back, but shared that like anyone, eventually these things catch up with you. At the age of 22, the already seasoned actress had a break down and was diagnosed with PTSD, going deep into therapy to help make sense of and heal from what had been a relentless five years in the limelight.
When she was nominated for a Bafta she hadn’t been out of the house for three months. She used hypnotherapy so she could stand on the red carpet at the Baftas without having a panic attack. She acknowledged hypnotherapy worked. It was right after that she took a year off; travelling to Paris and learning French, travelling through Bali and Malaysia, time with friends and family all helped her rebuild herself and go back into acting.
As hypnotherapists we often meet people who have suffered the same symptoms as Keira Knightley, PTSD is more common than we think, with around 8% of Americans suffering PTSD some time in their lives. Panic attack sufferers account for a little over 5% of the American population – numbers in the UK are usually fairly similar.
The symptoms of PTSD can vary from feeling numb, isolated or disassociated, work and relationship struggles, depression and withdrawal or avoidance, anger, anxiety attacks, substance abuse, self destructive or high risk behaviour, nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, mood swings and erratic emotions.
PTSD occurs when someone is involved in or witnesses traumatic events of a life threatening nature, but can also occur if you hear of someone significant to you being involved or witnessing a traumatic or life threatening event or if you are continually exposed to graphic elements of of life threatening trauma, such as first responders.
PTSD can start at any age and, in addition to the more commonly recognised triggers for PTSD, can be from childhood violence, bullying or neglect, life trauma such as serious accident, fire, or attack, tragic life events such as a diagnosis of a terminal illness, miscarriage or traumatic birth can also trigger PTSD.
What we recognise is that not everyone exposed to such triggers will go on to suffer from PTSD. Current thinking is that the level of stress and distress in someone’s life prior to the incident(s) is one of the markers that predetermines development of PTSD symptoms. If someone was already under pressure, with any mental wellness challenges, they will be more likely to go on to develop PTSD.
For those that do develop PTSD, early support and disclosure, the earlier the better, also seems to have a preventative effect when dealing with trauma. Simply put, telling loved ones what happened, positive support from significant people, a positive attitude towards recovery, such as seeing yourself as a survivor rather than victim and the use of positive emotions such as laughter.
Research continues to help the with the care, recovery and prevention of PTSD, but one thing we know already is that solution-focused hypnotherapy has been used to help people recover from trauma and PTSD successfully, by supporting them to release and resolve the stuck trauma and then create a positive, stress resilient, future.