Free help available for island residents diagnosed with PTSD

By Yunji de Nies
Published On: Jul 31 2013 05:55:00 PM HST

A team of psychologists is offering free help to sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder as part of a federally-funded study.

HONOLULU -

For people in Hawaii diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, free help has arrived.

Joy Albaro has carried PTSD with her for many years. Trauma she suffered as a child stayed with her. It defined her, no matter how hard she tried to heal.

She underwent tens of thousands of hours of psychotherapy, past-life regression, hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming.

Nothing worked.

"It's kind of like a hidden demon inside of you. And, you can't figure it out. You don't even know what it is," she said.

Then, Albaro met Dr. Nancy Cha, a clinical psychotherapist, who helped her discover she had PTSD.

"Memories that pop in your mind, you feel like you're reliving things, or even nightmares, that cause somebody to be amped up or keyed up or on guard," Cha said. "Those might cause someone to avoid people, place or situations, or maybe even feel numb."

Many veterans who suffer those symptoms after returning from war, can relate, but PTSD is not unique to the battlefield.

"Something like combat, sexual assault, assault of any kind, a natural disaster, most people are going to have a reaction to something like that. Most people will have anxiety, maybe memories about it. PTSD is when these reactions persist, and start to interfere with your life," said Dr. Leslie Morland, Deputy Director for the National Center for PTSD.

The PTSD diagnosis can help not only patients, but also their loved ones.

"It can be extremely therapeutic for a family member to know that my partner, or my dad or whoever it may be, is irritable, or has a hard time feeling, is in fact because he's struggling with PTSD," Morland said.

Morland and Cha are part of a team offering free help for island women, as part of a federally funded clinical trial.

The treatment is 12 one-on-one sessions, and they say the key is targeted therapy.

"What we really want to get to is the accurate picture of what happened, the acceptance of what happened and then ultimately, being able to experience those natural emotions that allow someone to recover and heal," Cha said.

For Albaro, the diagnosis and healing that followed has been remarkable.

"I didn't know I had PTSD," Albaro said. "I didn't realize I was traumatized. Because of this treatment, my whole life has changed dramatically. It's like I'm a whole new person."

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