How to Regain Your Trust in Others After Being Held Hostage

What is the Psychological Impact of Being Kidnapped?

During a kidnapping your brain releases large amounts of fight-or-flight hormone to help you focus on surviving the intense psychological and physical pain you are suffering. This puts huge stress on your body.

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What is an Inner Sense of Safety?

To live and function in society, we need a basic sense of safety. This ingrained faith in others allows us to, for example, sit calmly in a café. But if you go through a traumatic event, you lose it. As a result, your brain is perpetually on the lookout for danger. When a traumatised person sits in that same café, their head will jolt when the door opens and their heart will pound. How can they be sure whoever comes in won’t try to hurt them? Just as their kidnapper did.

What is Complex-PTSD?

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder in which symptoms of traumatic stress remain unchanged or worsen over time. To be diagnosed with PTSD, signs of traumatic stress must recur for more than one month. Complex-PTSD is a severe form of PTSD which requires more intensive and extensive treatment.

  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Engaging in risky behaviour
  • Irrational feelings of shame or guilt (feeling as though the kidnapping was somehow your fault)
  • Feeling tense, easily startled or highly irritable
  • Periods of losing concentration and dissociating from those around you
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Withdrawing from family members (usually those the kidnappers reached out to for the ransom and were therefore involved)
  • Increasingly negative thoughts about yourself

How Can I Rebuild a Sense of Safety?

It is possible to gradually recover your sense of safety, here are three strategies to try:

1. Stick to a Routine

To cope with the shock and terror of a kidnapping, focus on creating small rituals each day that your brain can rely on. This will help you feel more in control. This doesn’t mean you need to plan out your whole day, just include one or two guaranteed actions, such as writing down how you are feeling or going for a walk. Or even simpler tasks like brushing your teeth.

2. Listen to Your Body

In the early months of your recovery, focus on your body. Try to give it whatever it needs, which will most likely be rest. If you are struggling to figure out what your body is saying, meditation or yoga can help strengthen the mind-body connection.

3. Reach out for Support (Ideally, from Strangers)

Reach out and embrace all the connections you can. Ideally, try to make friends with someone new to help combat your sense of distrust in others.

Paracelsus Recovery

At Paracelsus Recovery, our team of psychotherapists and specialists have extensive experience helping hostage survivors heal from C-PTSD. We can help you deal with the traumatic experience, recalibrate your brain’s fight or flight response and, if necessary, help you find healthy ways of dealing with the pain if you have been self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.

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