Brainspotting Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is Brainspotting?

Brainspotting is an advanced therapy for overcoming negative emotions, healing traumatic experiences and rebalancing the nervous system. The process involves identifying, processing and releasing stored trauma and emotional stress with the help of a certified Brainspotting therapist. It is one of the few techniques that effectively addresses the root cause of psychological stress and trauma. This is a primary reason why Brainspotting is so effective at treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, addictions and many other stress-related and mental health challenges. If you feel like you have plateaued in your healing or are not finding relief in other approaches, Brainspotting offers new possibilities for breakthrough.

What is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder is triggered by witnessing or experiencing an event perceived to be extremely stressful, shocking or life-threatening. It was originally thought to pertain to soldiers following the trauma of war, at that time it was often referred to as ‘Shell shock’. Now we understand that it can be triggered by any experience that is perceived to be traumatic such as a car accident, assault, loss, abuse, discrimination, bullying, illness and more. Most people feel on guard, on edge and unable to stop their anxiety. The symptoms of PTSD can wreak havoc on sleep, self-esteem, relationships, finances, work and overall wellbeing.

Understanding Trauma

Trauma lives in the experience (not the event). When trauma occurs, it overwhelms the system and we are not able to process everything that happened. The primitive brain takes over and if we are unable to fight or flee to escape the situation, we shut down in order to survive. Once here, our nervous system makes it difficult to get out. We lose track of the details making it challenging to recall what happened at a later time. The traumatic experiences get stored at a sensory, visceral, and often nonverbal level in our implicit memory. It puts a lot of stress on the mind body system, is exhausting and inevitably is not sustainable. Consequently, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, depression, irritability, phobias, panic attacks, isolation and other uncomfortable issues tend to arise. These symptoms are not easily associated with the original trauma and thus it can be confusing as to where they are coming from. Given trauma is rooted in an overactive nervous system, the most effective approaches address the mind body connection.

PTSD Diagnosis

PTSD can be acute lasting 3 months or less or it can be chronic lasting 6 months or longer. A diagnosis of PTSD includes symptoms related to re-experiencing the event, avoidance behaviors, reactivity, arousal of the nervous system, impact on mood and thought processes.

Common Symptoms of PTSD

Emotion /Mood

Anxiety, feeling unsafe, anger, doom, guilt, blame, shame, humiliation, terror, numb, frozen, in shock or feeling disoriented, depression, dread, uneasy, edgy, irritability, hypervigilance, generalized anxiety, excessive worry, and loss of interest in otherwise enjoyable activities

Cognitive

Difficulty concentrating, remembering or focusing, mental fogginess, catastrophic thinking, difficulty making decisions, fear of death or thoughts about death, intrusive thoughts, negative self-talk and pessimism

Re-experiencing symptoms

Flashbacks – reliving the traumatic events, nightmares, ruminating and obsessing about the traumatic events

Avoidance

Avoiding thinking about the event as much as possible, avoid social situations, objects, people or places that are reminders of the trauma

Arousal and reactivity symptoms

Disproportionate reactions, startle response, insomnia, trembling, shaking, high energy, mania, muscle tension, insomnia, palpitations, shortness of breath, shallow breathing, nausea, headaches, palms sweaty, heart racing, stomach ache and dizziness

Weight

Appetite changes – losing weight, gaining weight or craving foods

Behavioral

Avoiding social interactions and risky and self-destructive behaviors such as excessive drug or alcohol use, driving fast, gambling

Physical

Tense, gastrointestinal issues, stomach cramps, pins and needles, chills, hot flashes, numb, buzzing, sensory sensitivity such as lights, noises, scents, bright colors, crowds and loss of energy or wired with energy

Equally Challenging, Less Known Symptoms of PTSD

Emotion / Mood

Distrust, defensiveness, panic, developing phobias and fears such as driving, heights, small spaces and feeling detached from one’s body or self

Cognitive

Self-doubt, checked out, aloof or shutdown

Behavioral

Chronic appeasing, over-accommodating, staying at home to limit social interactions or out of fear of going outside, over attachment to a safe person, place or thing that feels safe, impulsivity, nail biting, self-harm, can’t speak and picking at one’s body or skin

Physical

Whole body pain, migraines, inflammation, increased perspiration, constipation or diarrhea, frequent urination, teeth and jaw grinding, fainting and changes in body temperature

What Causes PTSD

Experience a traumatic event that is perceived to be highly stressful and threatening.

What Does it Look Like?​

Types of PTSD​

Acute Stress Disorder

A pattern of anxiety following a highly stressful or threatening experience that results in symptoms associated with PTSD and lasts 3 months or less. If left untreated, acute stress disorder may turn into PTSD.

Uncomplicated PTSD

A pattern of anxiety following a highly stressful or threatening experience that results in symptoms associated with PTSD and lasts 6 months or longer.

Complex PTSD

A pattern of anxiety following multiple highly stressful or threatening experiences that results in symptoms associated with PTSD and lasts 6 months or longer.

What Can You Do?

Treating PTSD

PTSD is highly treatable. Traditional approaches for PTSD generally include medication, cognitive therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). Although these are often viewed as the primary forms of treatment, there are many additional effective treatments available. PTSD awareness has increased significantly especially with the rise in suicide with military personnel. This has caused an increase in research and new strategies to effectively treat PTSD. Given our understanding of trauma and how it is experience and stored in the mind and body, it is essential that treatments address the mind body connection.

Mind body Approaches

Mind body approaches, often called brain informed or body-based therapies, such as meditation, Brainspotting, EMDR, transcranial magnetic stimulation, somatic therapy, parts therapy and biofeedback are just a few highly effective strategies for decreasing symptoms of PTSD.

Why is Brainspotting so powerful for healing trauma and PTSD?

Brainspotting is an advanced brain-body therapy that focuses on identifying, processing and releasing imbalances, trauma and residue emotional stress. It is based on the premise that ‘where you look affects how you feel’ and finds that eye positions correlate with unconscious, emotional experiences. It reaches parts of the brain that are not generally accessed through traditional talk therapy approaches.

Essentially, trauma lives in the body. This can be highly uncomfortable and devastating as hypervigilance, panic, edginess, feeling unsafe, nightmares, numbing and shame are common experiences. Healing therefore involves dealing with the somatic emotional experience more than the cognitive rational experience. Healing also involves relationships given all trauma happens inside of a relationship and thus causes a break in our trusting attachment to others.

Healthy Lifestyle

In addition to mind body therapies, there is a fair amount of research on the benefits of regular exercise, yoga, adequate sleep, spending time in nature, social support and healthy nutrition habits.  

Integrative Approaches

Integrative approaches that many find as great alternatives or additions to medications may include acupuncture, herbs, CBD, pet therapy, essential oils, music therapy, homeopathy, amino acid and nutritional supplementation and a host of other natural methods to healing trauma and rebalancing mind and body.