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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I stop myself obssessing over a tragic event?

    The anniversary of a terrible crime was marked recently and as a result, there were a number of media stories about it. While I remembered hearing about the event when it happened, my response this time around has been much more pronounced. I find myself alternating between trying not to think about it to researching it in depth , hoping that I might desensitize myself to the event both I do not feel are working. I know that my current position in life, particularly having young children, may be the reason I am unable to put images and feelings out of my mind, but my inability to process this terrible event and move on is beginning to impact on my day to day interactions with my family. What can I do?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I am not sure from what you have written whether or not the “terrible crime” reflects your personal experience (you have posted in both the PTSD and depression threads here). If it does reflect your personal experience of PTSD(?) then talking with members of your care team is the way to go I think.

    If it does not refect your personal experiences then what it says to me is that you are a good and compassionate person. Focusing on your partner and children might help.

    All the best.

  • 1


    Penny Lewis

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I am a Clinical Psychologist with more than 25 years experience working with adults with a broad range of backgrounds dealing with a wide variety … View Profile

    Sometimes people can be traumatised by hearing about traumatic incidents as they imagine what it would have been like for the people involved. It sounds like you were not involved, but are having intrusive images of what you imagine must have happened. Perhaps you have been horrified to think of how devastating it would have been if it happened to your own precious family.

    I believe that you can be helped by having EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing) therapy. EMDR is an evidenced based cognitive behaviour therapy designed to rapidly process unresolved trauma. It is particularly good with intrusive images, which tend to fade after EMDR. EMDR often also helps people gain insight into why something has been so disturbing in the first place.    

    For more information on EMDR and a list of EMDR practitioners in your area, see this  website. Best wishes for your recovery.

  • 1


    Dr Toni Metelerkamp

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Toni works with adults and couples, and specialises in diagnosing and treating anxiety (panic disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder), phobias, substance and gambling, addictions, suicide and … View Profile

    Anniversaries of traumatic events can be distressing, especially if the trauma is not yet resolved for you. If you find your day to day functioning and your close relationships are being affected at the anniversary that is a good indication that in all probability it will not resolve itself spontaneously and needs a structured approach.

    Desensitization is, as you probably know, one of the ways that often helps, but it can be difficult to do on your own. This is because when we are struggling we have a tendency to think about traumatic events in particular, almost habitual ways. As a result, desensitizing becomes ruminating and that only reinforces the habitual distressing thoughts. 

    Talking the images and thoughts through with a psychologist specializing in trauma therapy will almost certainly be helpful. They key will be to make the reprocessing more about desensitizing and less about ruminating.

    I wish you well.

  • Belinda Chelius

    Counsellor, Social Worker

    I am a skilled, dedicated, culturally sensitive and passionate Senior Social Work Clinician, practicing in the field of complex mental health and substance misuse (Dual-Diagnosis) … View Profile

    I would like to suggest you explore some of the skills connected to ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). These kills are based on the principle of mindfulness which means being psychologically present-consciously connecting with whatever is happening right here, right now (being in the moment)
    Then applying a technique called Defusion which means learning to step back or detach from unhelpful thoughts, worries and memories, so instead of getting caught up in your thoughts (fusing) or struggling to get rid of them, you learn how to let them come and go (de-fusing) - as if they were just cars driving past outside your house. You learn how to step back and watch your thinking, so you can respond effectively - instead of getting tangled up or lost inside your thinking (fusing).
    A trained ACT counsellor would be able to run you through some of these de-fusing exercises to assist you to cope with these intrusive thoughts.
    Another core principle of ACT is - Committed action, which means taking action guided by your values. Acting on what matters to you, even if it's difficult or uncomfortable. Yet again, there are some great values based techniques you can utilize.
    This is just a very brief summary, have a look at the web site below, and it has some great resources for you to familiarize yourself with this kind of intervention. They even have a link to finding an ACT therapist on the site.
    Dr Russ Harris wrote an easy to read self-help book utilizing ACT- it’s called The Happiness Trap.


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