Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is known to be a very difficult syndrome to treat in that traumatic memories that are normally sequestered in a separate, sometimes amnesic part of the brain can appear in nightmares, or in sudden flashbacks during the waking state. These are accompanied by a very intense body-wide sympathetic neurological response during which the patient experiences a very strong and frightening state of panic. If these continue unabated, the syndrome can progress and become a much more difficult problem to treat.
Therapists are taught to avoid inciting these states of recall until and unless the patient can quickly be brought out of them if they threaten to get out of control. To do that, the patient is taught how to switch mentally into a “safe place,” or to concentrate intensely on specific items in the here and now, using whatever other stress reduction procedures he and the therapist have worked out in advance, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and the like. When a patient in therapy begins to experience a flashback that is becoming too intense, he is taught immediately to go to this safe place, and thus turn off the traumatic experience.
There is a published CES study in which it was found that phobic patients can not experience a fear response when CES is being applied, and usually for a time after cessation of the treatment.1 Thereby lies a potentially important use of CES in the treatment of PTSD.
The usual, non CES treatment involves slowly but surely bringing out parts of the traumatic memory as the patient can tolerate them, until the whole memory is back into awareness and can be integrated back into the personality. That process can go forward no faster than the patient can handle the memories called forth during the therapeutic process, sometimes requiring years of therapy. The use of CES during the therapeutic process might well block the patient’s fear and its attendant stress reaction in a manner that would allow the patient and therapist to bring forward elements of the memory at a much faster rate, and therefore shorten the time of therapy significantly, and with much less trauma to the patient.
In addition, having a personal CES unit in his home, and also even available at other times, could be seen by the patient as very emotionally supportive, and thus intensely therapeutic. Just knowing that it was available should reduce the patient’s stress significantly, since he would know that he always had a means at hand to stop or block the trauma when it was in the process of emerging from his subconscious in too great an intensity to handle by other means.
1Smith, Ray B., and Frank N. Shiromoto. (1992) The use of cranial electrotherapy stimulation to block fear perception in phobic patients. Current Therapeutic Research, 51(2):249-253.