Homeopathic treatment for shock and trauma.

Trauma is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

Trauma is usually defined as experiencing events that are threatening – sometimes life-threatening and you feel out of one’s control and helpless. Witnessing or experiencing violence, war, natural disaster, accidents, physical or sexual assault, and even ‘routine’ surgery and dentistry.

If an event was traumatic and has left a legacy of PTSD you may be continually thinking about what happened, or suffer flashbacks. You might steer clear of certain places, people, or topics of conversation. What about nightmares? Do you find yourself on edge, expecting danger, or responding anxiously – even to stressors like loud noises?

Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when you get stuck in a frozen immobilised response to the traumatic experience. Unless you can process the fear or terror with supportive bystanders in a safe environment, symptoms can go on to destabilised emotional responses, feeling spaced out, forgetful, apathetic, moody, tearful, shut off in relationships and find it difficult to deal with stress. The body can become stuck on a state of arousal, agitation or anxiety where you feel vigilant, panicky, insomniac, hypersensitive to noise and hypochondriacal, phobic and agoraphobic. Chronic unresolved ptsd has been shown to progress to depression, chronic fatigue and ‘psycho-somatic’ problems such as headache, muscular pain and gasto-intestinal problems.

 High levels of stress, even over relatively short periods, result in prolonged healing times, reduced ability to cope with vaccinations, and heightened vulnerability to viral infection. Long-term, constant stress hormone exposure(cortisol) impairs cognition, decreases thyroid function, and accumulation of abdominal fat.

PTSD is not a disease however, and while some medication (like SSRI’s can take the edge off symptoms) others (like benzodiazepams) can interfere with your ability to heal, according to Peter Levine. Shock is an entirely natural physiological response of the body to intense stress, and those who are not stuck immobilised in a posture of fear do not usually suffer chronic symptoms after their experiences.

The good news is that the brain and body are plastic – you can move out of a shock state by paying attention to the minute sensations of your body – those related to your symptoms, or the original trauma) as your nervous system and releases the energy locked in the body.

Homeopathy is one form of energy medicine that has an excellent track record with treating the effects of shock. My colleague Peter Chappell’s book on Emotional Healing with Homeopathy describes the range of homeopathic remedies used to support people in processing the effects of trauma.

To watch a video of Cassandra Marks in conversation with Peter about treating Shock with Homeopathy click here.

Dealing with Shock.

Agoraphobia, or other phobias, hypochondria, obsessive behaviour, unexplained outbursts of anger, insomnia or stammering are all key signs of buried shock. An over-sensitive startle reflex or an inability to speak in groups without the help of a sedative or beta-blocker to calm your racing heart can also be a pointer.

Doctor’s surgeries are crowded with people complaining of digestive, nervous, cardiovascular or endocrine disturbances, some of which are the undiagnosed result of shock in the body. More than 2% of the population suffer recognised post-traumatic stress disorder – figures which represent the tip of the iceberg since only those with correctly diagnosed problems are included. Many shocked patients are prescribed tranquillisers, betablockers to calm their racing heart, or anti-depressants, depending on their symptoms. However, these are not the answer because the shock stays buried in the body – and can be restimulated at the slightest stress.

It’s not just a near escape from death or serious injury – almost any event has the potential to be traumatic. A situation where you’re helpless to affect the outcome of events is most likely to cause symptoms; the problem is also very common among children. Yet, not everyone develops anxiety or health problems after a shock, since some degree of physiological reaction is a normal response to an abnormal event.

What is shock?

The shock we’re referring to is not the clinical state of collapse (with faintness or unconsciousness, a weak pulse, cold skin and shallow breathing), caused by a bad accident, burn or loss of blood. The shock we’re discussing stems from the physical effects of a sudden or overwhelming stress on the body. Under threat our fight or flight response activate – and adrenaline is released, which wires us up and hones our reflexes. There is a simple, immediate assessment of the level of danger – should we run away (flight), face up to it (fight) or play dead (freeze). Danger signals put the body on alert; our senses become more acute, our heart beats just a little faster – and it’s difficult to switch off in order to sleep. Normally these reactions subside once the body rebalances itself, but if shock is too great or goes on too long, vigilance turns into nervousness, insomnia and anxiety.

The challenge in shock is to release the body from being stuck in fight, flight, freeze or collapse responses to stress that you have experienced as overwhelming. Trauma results from your bodys failure of the body, psyche, nervous system to process adversee event by going into own sensations and working through these.

Massive amounts of energy are mobilised during the fight flight freeze responses, but once safe you need to discharge this energy through involuntary movements like shaking, trembling and panting.

Shock trauma responds well to homeopathy as well as to sensory experiencing release. the ideal is to slowly release the effects of shock which are still buried in your body, allowing your body to release fear, terror, anger and grief through trembling, shaking and panting. While this is going on, don’t try to control your muscles. Allow the shaking to go on for as long as it needs to, while you focus on your bodily sensations. Allow your fear and emotional charge to release with every out-breath. The experience of release can be scary, because it re-activates some of the physical sensations that you have associated with the original trauma.

These are natural symptoms produced by the body during states of high arousal  when you need to fight, flee, or freeze in the face of immediate danger. However, your body needs to discharge all the stress hormones in order to go back to balance. When you you don’t have the time to process them when you are trying to pull yourself together, cope with looking after someone else, or respond to personal who are trying to organise you. You need to be able to access the sensations in your body, become aware that the danger has passed so that it becomes part of your history a rather than staying with you to contaminate your present.

Getting stuck in a state of shock.

Over a long period of stress our body remains in a state of arousal, unable to relax. The body redirects energy, oxygen and vital nutrients to the central nervous system and other stressed areas of the body, shutting down less immediately essential functions like digesting food and sleeping – so that we’re hyped up and ready to deal with possible danger. It’s difficult to concentrate on longer term objectives, and we become sensitised to slight upsets. Small upsets in everyday life can then restimulate a state of shock or panic, causing reactions ranging from mild jitteriness to extreme fear. Because the endocrine and sympathetic nervous systems remain over-stimulated a variety of symptoms can develop – often starting some months after the trigger. Typical of delayed shock are panic attacks, depression, ‘hysterical’ emotions, numbness in parts of the body, amnesia, fainting, dizziness and poor concentration.

Some sufferers are called hypochondriacal, or their symptoms dismissed as ‘psychosomatic’ by the GP. Because a common reaction is ‘dissociation’, cutting off from an unpleasant experience by blocking it out (- the ‘freeze’ option), delayed shock can manifest in physical or psychological symptoms that you don’t always connect to the trigger event. An overactive nervous system might be responsible for raised blood pressure, palpitations or circulatory disturbances. By diverting energy away from digestion insufficient digestive enzymes are produced, causing indigestion, constipation or the ubiquitous ‘irritable bowel syndrome’.

Buried shock can be difficult to diagnose, but if your health has deteriorated within a year of a trauma, or period of prolonged stress, you may be suffering its delayed effects. Shock can come on after a specific trauma or after a long period of ‘life’ stress, whether domestic, financial, or even due to a nasty illness. Other common triggers include car accidents, falls, surgery, and emotional crises. What these experiences have in common is the way they shatter our sense of safety, making us aware of how precarious life is. The mere thought that we could die at any moment is especially likely to instil panic and fear, unless we have come to terms with our immortality.

Signs of shock.

Constantly reliving aspects of the trauma

Obsessively ruminating on what happened, or

Avoiding activities that remind you of the shock? – even blanking out thoughts associated with the event.

Difficulty sleeping – often because thoughts or images keep intruding.

Feeling of being wired up; tense and unusually irritable or angry.

Many traumatised people experience a slow decline in their ability to deal with both old and new stresses – until they find a way of mastering those troublesome past experiences. To psychotherapists stress responses are due to dissociation in the psyche rather than biological changes in the nervous system. They argue that when we go through any trauma, whether it’s abuse in childhood, or inability to leave a damaging relationship, we split off part of ourselves in order to bury the bad feelings. This explains why we become ’emotionally constricted’; withdrawn, moody, full of unexplained rage, anxious or subject to panic attacks. Reframing events is important in order to make sense of them. The idea is that by understanding traumas they become less frightening and don’t have to be split off into secret corners of our psyche.

First Aid – Coping with shock.

One of the most important ways to prevent the harmful effects of delayed shock is to deal with it properly at the time. It’s important not to just get ‘on with it’ as if nothing has happened – having a stiff upper lip may hinder your body’s efforts to restabilise quickly.

People needing the homeopathic remedy Arnica typically have a stoical response to injuries. These are the people who get up after being knocked off their bicycles, saying “I’m all right. There’s really nothing wrong.” and get on their bike to ride home. Some hours later the panic and shakiness start coming out.

A few homeopathic remedies are well-known for their effectiveness in treating shock. Select the appropriate remedy and take it in the 30 potency. Peter Chappell, author of Emotional Healing with Homeopathy, suggests that in severe shock states you take one tablet every time you re-experience the fear and panic – even as frequently as one every 15 minutes. If you can’t obtain a remedy straight away, as soon as possible after a shock take one tablet three times daily until the acute feelings of shock subside – for up to 3 days. If symptoms haven’t subsided within a week you should seek the help of an experienced homeopath.

Aconite: recommended after a fright – where you feel overwhelmed by waves of anxiety and panic with the awareness that you might have died.

Stramonium recommended after situations of pure terror – after a violent attack or rape.

Ignatia: recommended after bereavements – it’s for grief or loss rather than a fright.

Staphysagria: recommended after surgery – where you feel violated rather than shocked.

Arnica: recommended after physical injuries. Helps to heal bruising and soft tissue damage as well as the shock.

Rescue remedy, (a Bach flower remedy) can be carried around with you. Put 2-3 drops on your tongue whenever you start replaying traumatic incidents in your mind.

After a shock you need to recreate a feeling of safety by having familiar faces around, and a comforting environment. If you feel anxious, talk about your feelings to your friends or family.

NB. Delayed shock is not usually amenable to self-help strategies. After a severe shock, or if you have developed symptoms you suspect are a result of delayed shock, you will need constitutional treatment; find a therapist experienced in shock work.

For those who find themselves on the scene of an accident, or with someone in a state of shock, therapists recommend that you reassure the person as much as possible – it’s important to try and make them feel safe.

Hold their hand.

Make reassuring comments such as “It’s all right, I’m here to look after you.” etc.

Allow the person to express their emotional reactions, whether through crying or shaking with fear.

Homeopathic case study;

Mrs FM, aged 29, consulted me for a panic disorder that had started five years previously, after a car accident. She was afraid she would die in the ambulance on the way to hospital, but after a week of feeling bruised, stiff and heavy headed she went back to work. Several months later Mrs M developed a sensitivity to loud noises along with a generalised anxiety, unable to shake off the feeling that something awful would happen at any moment. Often her heart raced, her body shook and a sensation of butterflies disturbed her stomach. The panic these feelings induced was so acute she couldn’t go out alone. After a range of medical tests failed to produce any explanation she saw a psychiatrist for two years, without responding to either counselling or relaxation techniques – nor to the medication her doctor prescribed for the symptoms he’d diagnosed as ‘irritable bowel syndrome’. Whereas she’d once been very positive, sociable and independent, she was depressed and weepy, unable to leave the house without a close member of her family. “I can’t make any decisions – even about what to eat. Everything feels like a monumental decision. I feel aimless, I don’t have any motivation to do things anymore. I used to enjoy going out and seeing friends. Now I can’t because I’m frightened what might happen if the panic comes over me.”

Homeopath’s comment; I started the treatment with Pulsatilla, a constitutional remedy indicated for her state of emotional dependency and fearfulness. After a very short intensification of the panic symptoms the first night after taking the remedy, she began to feel much more relaxed and happy. She found herself smiling and even laughing.

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