Anxiety: are your “unwanted sexual experiences” from the past related to your current anxiety? EFT can help.

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As a Sexual Assault Counsellor, I have seen hundreds of women who report that they have anxiety. It’s one of the most common symptoms people present with in that service. Some have been formerly diagnosed with anxiety, others not. 

Many of those clients actually have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has been misdiagnosed as simply being “anxiety”. When I do a screen for PTSD, lots of those women score very highly. And you get a much clearer picture of their range of symptoms and the severity. These often include nightmares, flashbacks, hyper vigilance, troubles with sleeping and appetite, and feeling easily agitated. 

It’s like their body and brain is “stuck” on feeling anxious and traumatised, and they have no idea how to get themselves unstuck. Our traditional western model of medicine and psychological treatment is pretty outdated in its ways of treating trauma as well. 

The people I see have usually been to a number of different counsellors, therapists, and doctors. And have often tried medication too. And either nothing has worked, or only provided temporary relief of symptoms. Mainly because these approaches are not treating the cause, which is usually trauma.

Sometimes people come for therapy because their anxiety has been triggered by, or has increased, as a result of a more recent sexual assault. Or another stressful event, like a separation, or death of a loved one. But my clients often say “Oh but I had the anxiety before that happened.” Or “I’ve always been anxious, I am just an anxious person.” Like they feel as though they were born that way.

In taking a history, I find many of these women have been exposed to numerous other traumas in their earlier life. These often include other “unwanted sexual experiences”, which they may not even identify as being relevant at this point. This is also the case with my clients in my private practice. I will ask “So when did you first remember feeling anxious?” And they might say “around 14”.

I ask “can you remember anything that happened back then which may have made you feel anxious?”. Often it will take them some time to recall that this was the first time they were sexually assaulted, by a male friend from school, at a party, when they were so drunk they had passed out. And perhaps everyone at school found out about it. And they were bullied and shamed because of what happened to them. 

They may not remember this event until we get into some EFT. During the tapping, the hippocampus, the “memory centre” in the brain, will release the relevant memory. And I have already prepared them to tell me about any thoughts or body memories that come up. Consciously they had “forgotten” about this incident. But clearly their body has not. 

What happens is that once we get into the EFT session, the very intelligent body and unconscious mind will usually let us know exactly where to go in terms of what memories and experiences are relevant. It never ceases to amaze me how this works. And I have learned to trust whatever comes up, even if it seems unrelated. I help my client to focus on identifying the negative emotion associated with that event in the here and now, and where they feel that in their body. We then we work together to reduce the intensity of that emotion around these events, focusing on all the bodily sensations that come and go with those emotions.

We do this by using tapping as a resource, aiming to keep the person calm and in their bodies at all times. If there is any feeling of overwhelm, we go very slowly. I am trained in advanced Evidenced Based EFT for Trauma relief, and have special gentle techniques, to help the person feel comfortable during this part of the exposure therapy. 

As we gradually release the “charge” of these memories in the body and mind, the trauma is processed, and the person is then able to recall those events or memories with very little emotional intensity. Or with no charge at all. This can provide a lot of welcome relief fairly quickly, and people are often quite amazed.  Even if they are not convinced that this past trauma was contributing to their current anxiety, they usually find that their anxiety is significantly reduced.

Especially after spending a number of sessions doing this work. Some women who have experienced a lot of trauma in their lives, have have felt “stuck” on feeling anxious for years, if not decades. These women will often say “I have never felt this relaxed in my life”. That makes my job pretty awesome. To be able to offer relief to people who have not been able to find that relief from anxiety for the longest time.  And to teach people how to find that sense of relief for themselves at home. Or wherever they are, by using EFT as a self help tool.  

So if you identify with any of this, and want to learn more, it may be worth giving EFT a try. Feel free to contact me to find out more about how EFT could help you.

I love to help people recover from anxiety and trauma.

Jessi SimpsonComment