How psychoanalysis can be used to treat PTSD

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder in which the affected individual frequently relives stressful, frightening, or distressing events in the form of flashbacks, dreams, or sensations.

The symptoms of PTSD can vary significantly from one person to the next. However, in many cases, they have a considerable impact on both social and professional life. As well as general feelings of anxiety and depression, the most common symptoms of PTSD are:


Re-experiencing is one of the core symptoms of PTSD. It typically involves having sudden and unwanted traumatic memories that intrude in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive and distressing images, or physical sensations such as sweating or trembling.

Emotional numbing

Repressing a traumatic event by avoiding certain places, people, or situations is another core symptom of PTSD. A person may try to make themself “numb” to their true emotions, pushing out memories of the event through various distractions, such as hobbies and work.


Hyperarousal is a state in which the affected person is highly sensitive to their surroundings, which often makes it difficult for them to relax. They may feel anxious and be easily startled, often leading to irritability, angry outbursts, sleeping problems, and difficulty concentrating.

How is psychoanalysis used to help cure PTSD?

Psychoanalysis is rooted in the work of 20th-century Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Although it covers a range of theories and approaches, one of the central ideas of psychoanalysis is based on bringing the unconscious mind into conscious awareness.

As a treatment for PTSD, psychoanalysis has proved very effective for a number of people because it involves working through painful unconscious feelings by bringing them to the fore, rather than ignoring them.

To achieve this, a therapist will typically help the patient recognise the defence mechanisms at play, how they’re being used, and finding ways to release thoughts and feelings that were previously being avoided.

Through a number of sessions, this can help bring insight to the underlying cause of the problem and help the patient work through the painful feelings.

How effective is psychoanalysis in treating PTSD?

The impact of PTSD not only on the person suffering with it, but also on those around them can be devastating. It can cause a breakdown in relationships, disrupt work, lead to low self-esteem, and result in long-term depression.

By applying a psychoanalytic approach to treating PTSD, the affected person can face their problems head on by drawing out the feelings rather than burying them and allowing them to fester. A trained therapist can help the person break down the issues into manageable chunks and address them as they go along.

According to studies on psychoanalytic therapy for PTSD, many people report improvements in their interpersonal relationships, fewer feelings of hostility and depression, and greater confidence. Nevertheless, like all forms of therapy, much of it relies on the willingness and motivation of the patient to get better and work through their problems for treatment to be successful.

At Philippe Jacquet & Associates, we offer decades’ worth of experience in treating PTSD with psychoanalysis. Based in Harley Street, London, our approach to therapy is based on the idea that to overcome traumatic events, we must bring repressed thoughts, feelings, and emotions into conscious awareness. Our trained therapists provide professional, approachable, and fully confidential one-on-one sessions.


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