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Tolerating Emotion

Question:

Thank you for giving your time to review this question. Eight months ago I attempted suicide because I felt I could not deal with intensely threatening feelings of attachment (not sexual attraction) toward my male therapist (very competent, no complaints). I didn’t want to talk about it with him and terminated therapy. These emotions felt intolerable as I am normally a very independent woman. I did not expect to feel this way and have never been suicidal before. I am aware of the dynamics of attachment difficulties and transference. My childhood was traumatic and I was diagnosed wtih PTSD by my therapist. I often have episodes of intense emotion – sadness and grief – that come over me suddenly & sudden flashes of anger I can’t explain which makes me feel quite depressed. When this happens my perspective becomes narrowed, I feel very detached from my life and people I love and feel suicidal. This can be quite frightening. My question is: is it possible to have "emotional flashbacks" and was my attachment to this therapist a manifestation of that (because it felt so threatening)? Part of me would like to go back and talk to him about this as it is unresolved and still upsetting but the rest of me is afraid of not being able to control these feelings. I have spent time since then developing a support network, which has helped somewhat. Thanks again for your time.

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Answer:

Yes, it is possible to have emotional flashbacks and it is possible that your relationship with your therapist could have been an aspect of this. Therapy can intensify PTSD feelings if the traumatic events are being discussed. Whether or not your transference feelings towards your therapist could have sparked your symptoms I do not know but it is possible.

Mostly, it is the types of events that remind an individual of the past trauma that brings about flashbacks. This is why reliving the past trauma in therapy can be so intense and disorienting.

You certainly appear to have the symptoms typical of PTSD, including quickness to anger, depression and feelings of dissociation or feeling like you are outside of yourself.

I would suggest that you enter a kind of treatment that does not involve reviewing your past but centers on reducing anxiety and stress. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) along with meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques would be most helpful to you. Actually, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)combines these techniques.

Medication is often a good idea to help with PTSD. It is very important to get plenty of calm, restful sleep. In addition, anti depressant medication helps with feelings of depression and anxiety.

Best of Luck

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