Abused as a Child: Permanently Damaged?

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

5. Psychoanalysis

One of the most interesting types of treatment for PTSD and phobias of all kinds is #3, Exposure Therapy.


In exposure therapy a patient is gradually introduced to the original types of circumstances in which the original trauma occurred. One variation of this is what is called Systematic Desensitization. In Systematic Desensitization a patient is put into a state of total relaxation and then gradually asked to imagine scenarios that they tend to find stressful. The patient is asked to close their eyes, become totally relaxed and is then asked to imagine those situations. When they are able to imagine the formerly stress inducing situation without experiencing any symptoms, the therapist then moves on to the second most stress inducing situation for that person. As therapist and patient move along for weeks or months, they gradually move into imagining those memories that are most traumatic and stressful. Now, desensitized to lesser situations, the patient is asked to remember the most traumatizing memories. If stress is experienced the process is stopped and restarted at a later time. Ultimately, the time comes when the patient can remember and imagine the original traumas without discomfort.

Recently, a similar type of treatment was used on an experimental basis with Iraqi veterans suffering form PTSD. In the experiment, the veterans were exposed to "Vi ritual Reality" with technology that allowed them to see and hear the original types of sounds and images that they experienced on the battle field. The results of the experiment were very positive. These results are only preliminary because the numbers of subjects was limited but further research will be conducted and there is real hope for the future.

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The point I want to convey to everyone who has suffered from abuse, PTSD and Phobias is that there is very effective help available and every reason to feel optimistic about the future. In other words, in my opinion, there is no reason to feel "permanently scarred" by events over which you had no control

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