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05 Oct 2022

As Katie Price opens up about PTSD in new documentary – why it’s never too late to seek help for past trauma

As Katie Price opens up about PTSD in new documentary – why it’s never too late to seek help for past trauma

It’s no secret Katie Price has had her share of struggles – but behind the headlines, the mum-of-five has been facing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Ahead of her new Channel 4 documentary – Katie Price: Trauma And Me, set to air on September 8 – the model-turned-entrepreneur has revealed being involved in a terrifying carjacking while filming in South Africa in 2018 took a major toll on her mental health, leading to a breakdown and ongoing difficulties.

In 2021, she was given a suspended jail sentence and two-year driving ban after crashing her car near her home in Sussex due to drink-driving while disqualified.

In the documentary, filmed after these events, the Daily Mail reports Price, as saying: “I live in the countryside, I had no outlet, I needed to talk to someone and that night I let myself down. I am not justifying anything, there was a reason why I got in the car and why my head was like that. Unfortunately, I did get into that place. I would never get into that place again. It happened and it’s real but I have learnt.”

Price also talks about developing depression and seeking treatment for PTSD, reportedly saying: “I might be 44 now and have therapy each week, but I wish I would have done this years ago. It would have stopped a lot of things that I might have said or reacted to.”

Whether or not you relate to Price’s experiences, she is highlighting something that potentially affects many people – how trauma can have a deep and long-lasting impact, and how it’s never too late to seek help.

What is trauma?

PTSD symptoms can include reliving past traumatic experiences through flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts, as well as intense stress and anxiety when ‘triggered’ (something reminds you of the trauma, which can happen with or without you realising), mood changes, trouble sleeping and concentrating. People might become a lot more irritable, easily upset or angry.

However, you don’t have to have a diagnosis of PTSD to be affected by trauma. And it’s not just about something terrible happening, but how we process experiences.

“People have this concept that trauma is the event. Actually, trauma is something that’s held within the body, it gets locked in the body. The brain hasn’t time-stamped events into the past,” says trauma therapist Caroline Strawson (carolinestrawson.com). Although time may have passed since the initial experiences and we know on a logical level those things aren’t happening now, our nervous system can respond as though they are.

She suggests our early experiences can also play a huge role. “For instance, you could have two people involved in the same car crash. One could get PTSD, and the other may not. This really highlights it’s not necessarily the experience itself, and really goes back to a lot of childhood experiences and beliefs we feel about ourselves,” Strawson explains. “That we’re not good enough, not important, worthless. The person who gets PTSD would often be saying on a deep level [things like], I was weak, I was powerless, I wasn’t able to control the situation. Even though cognitively they know it wasn’t their fault, these things can happen.”

It can have a long-lasting impact

Trauma “can stay with people for years, decades, it’s not uncommon”, says senior therapist Sally Baker (workingonthebody.com). “Think about trauma as layers of an onion. You might have come up with coping strategies to cope with the outer layers of the onion, but some of these can be maladaptations.

“Often people who come to me with complex post-traumatic stress also have addiction issues or alcoholism – they use drugs or alcohol to dull the pain they’re carrying.”

Strawson agrees the impact can be felt years down the line, and it might not immediately make sense why people are reacting in certain ways. She compares our “capacity to cope” as being like a swimming pool – imagine experiences we encounter through childhood as beach balls landing in the pool.

“If we don’t have somebody around to help us in those moments and say, ‘Hey, that happened, but it wasn’t your fault’, you end up with a swimming pool packed full of beach balls.” Fast forward to adulthood, something happens one day and your pool suddenly overflows – you might react with the weight of all those bottled-up beach balls. Carrying a lot of shame and guilt can be a big part of trauma too, Strawson notes.

It’s never too late to seek help

Baker and Strawson agree there is no time limit on seeking support for trauma, no matter how many months or years have passed. Baker had one client who was in their 60s when they first disclosed something that happened to them as a young child.

Seeking help won’t remove memories of traumatic experiences – but it may help remove their hold on you. “The goal is not to lose the memory, but to lose the emotional discomfort that can be triggered by those memories,” explains Baker. “So you’ll still have the memories, but they’ll feel much calmer, much more separate from you, and they won’t trigger and spiral into ruining your day, week or month.”

Talking therapy is one of the main options, as well as other trauma-based therapies such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). Some people may find these beneficial alongside medication and self-help measures such as meditation – the important thing is to seek support from somebody who is trauma informed.

Baker acknowledges talking about traumatic experiences in a safe, confidential space can bring great relief and validation. But it can also be terrifying and may put many people off, so she wants people to know you don’t have to keep reliving your trauma in order to start healing from it.

“For some people, having to forensically go through each aspect of the trauma they’ve endured is too retriggering to even contemplate, but there are many therapeutic approaches that are called ‘content free’, and instead of having to detail what happened, we can use metaphors, and still work to clear the associated feelings around it,” she says.

Strawson believes recovering from trauma is about addressing the root cause, not just the symptoms, and recommends somatic therapies which incorporate the mind and body. “That doesn’t mean talking can’t be helpful too,” she says. “But trauma is in the body. Our nervous system is responding in a certain way, and as humans we are driven by our nervous system – it’s there to keep us safe.”

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