Healing Traumatic Stress app series
This app is part of a series of apps designed to help manage the effects of severe stress and/or Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition which can develop after experiencing threatening or horrific events such as childhood sexual or physical abuse and adult trauma such as terrorism, domestic violence, rape and assault. Survivors of workplace bullying, medical mishaps (including birth trauma), emotional neglect in childhood, are also likely to develop symptoms of PTSD. The symptoms of PTSD include increased physiological arousal (difficulty relaxing), hypervigilance (feeling anxious and “on-edge”), re-experiencing (nightmares and flashbacks) and avoidance (of situations or material that remind you of the traumatic event). Dissociation and numbing are common, where the person feels disconnected from their feelings and/or a lack of joy and spontaneity, an inability to “smell the roses.” Many PTSD sufferers also develop health problems such as chronic pain, insomnia and fatigue. In fact, PTSD has the most physical symptoms of any psychological condition, a phenomenon often referred to as ‘the body keeps the score.’ Most survivors of chronic trauma also struggle with confidence and self-worth and feel like they have to be someone they are not in order to fit in. Four of the most common effects of trauma are anxiety, insomnia, pain and impaired sense of self. These effects interact with each other bi-directionally; eg; anxiety disrupts sleep, poor sleep contributes to somatic problems; somatic problems increase the sense of powerlessness and defectiveness that PTSD sufferers feel and so on. The Healing Traumatic Stress app series addresses the 4 main effects of PTSD. This series consists of; Anxiety Release, Overcoming Pain, Sleep Restore and Calm and Confident. All of the apps address dissociation to some degree, through emotional regulation, self-awareness and increased self-connection.
Based on EMDR, each app incorporates a mix of guided meditations, ego-strengthening affirmations and soothing visual and auditory stimulus including bilateral stimulation (BLS), to help reduce physiological arousal, regulate negative affect, and stimulate access to more resourced states. BLS is a core treatment element of EMDR which has been found to stimulate decreased physiological arousal, relaxation and improved access to positive memories as part of client resourcing (Eloffson 2007, Armano 2019). The latest independent research indicates that BLS is superior at stimulating neuronal pathways involved in fear extinction (Baek et al, 2019). Research regarding EMDR treatment of chronic pain attests to the methods ability to decrease pain (Tesarz, 2020). The author’s Anxiety Release app stimulated the first published account of an app being used to resolve chronic pain (Grant, 2014). Each app is designed to help manage the physical, mental and emotional effects of traumatic stress.
How to use these apps
Each app comes with detailed information about EMDR, BLS and the methods proposed mechanisms of action, including the AIP model and the notion of bottom-up processing. The sessions on the apps may be used as emotional first-aid or as part of a longer-term emotional retraining process. The apps are designed to be used in conjunction with each other, depending on the moment to moment needs and goals of the user. For many PTSD survivors, pain and its effects are their number one priority (actually an aspect of safety), for others it might be managing anxiety or arousal levels. Because of the variable nature of PTSD symptoms, these needs can fluctuate on a daily if not hourly basis, so the four apps give sufferers a range of options. The apps can be used as an adjunct to treatment or as a stand-alone resource. The latter is particularly important given the large percentage of PTSD sufferers that never seek help, but users are encouraged to seek professional help.
Armano Tamaki, Toichi Motomi, (2019) The Role of Alternating Bilateral Stimulation in Establishing Positive Cognition in EMDR Therapy: a Multi-channel Near-infrared Spectroscopy Study. PLoS ONE 11(10): e0162735. doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0162735
Baek et al., (2019) Neural circuits underlying a psychotherapeutic regimen for fear disorders, Nature 566, p. 339-343
Elofsson UO, von Scheele B, Theorell T, Sondergaard HP. (2007) Physiological correlates of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Journal of Anxiety Disorders June 3; [Epub ahead of print].
Grant M (2014) The use of an app to manage carpal tunnel syndrome. OA Behavioral Medicine. 2014. Mar. 20;2(1):3.
Tesarz J, Wicking M, Bernady K, Seidler G. (2020). EMDR’s efficacy in the treatment of pain. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research 13 (4):337-344.