A woman has opened up about how she manages her PTSD with a technique known as primal screaming, or scream therapy.
Cristina Alciati, 54, a fitness coach, who lives in Essex, developed severe PTSD after suffering major trauma that manifested as panic attacks.
"For months, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't think," she says. "I was just really scared of everything, even things that nobody should be scared of. I'd see a leaf moving the wrong way and my mind would jump ahead.
"It was literally ruining my life, because I couldn't really function like a normal person anymore."
Alciati believes her mental health issues began in childhood after experiencing bullying and a "violent environment" at home. "The surroundings that I grew up in meant that I was on edge all the time from a very young age," she explains.
Introduction to 'death metal screaming'
After seeking professional help from the NHS, Alciati was diagnosed with PTSD, but treatment was not a straight forward process.
While she benefited from the therapy she received from a mental health charity, she also describes coming up with her own methods for dealing with her trauma - death metal screaming.
During lockdown, voice coach Jo Ellul gave Alciati what she describes as death metal screaming lessons via Zoom, something she says really helped her recovery.
"Screaming is a good way to let go of the anger," she explains. "If you've been silenced for some reason, and you just let it all out in a way that's not confrontational, it gives you a massive, amazing release. It is best done under supervision because it also dredges up a lot of emotions that are stuck in your body.
"You also have to do the screaming in a way that doesn't destroy your vocal cords," she adds.
Alciati said that she has no plans of stopping her primal screaming, even though she often gets some shocked reactions from her partner and strangers alike.
She is now hoping that by sharing her story, she can encourage others with PTSD to think outside the box when it comes to their recovery.
"It was really helpful to speak with a counsellor for six months, but the unconventional stuff is a good way of releasing it too," she adds. "It's about following your instincts."
What is scream therapy?
“Scream therapy stems from a therapeutic approach called primal therapy developed in the 1970s as a way to release pent up emotion,” Zoë Aston, therapist and mental health consultant, previously told Yahoo UK.
“In day-to-day life the feeling of wanting to scream is something we will all experience but nine times out of 10, we have to suppress that very primal reaction.
“What we don’t realise is that the psychological response to wanting to scream lights up a part of your brain called your amygdala; this is the part of the brain that holds trauma, memories and emotion.”
Aston explains that the amygdala activates when we are under threat, whether it is our job, family, health or wealth somewhere along the line we will have experienced some psychological threat.
“If your amygdala doesn't get a signal that it is safe again, if it doesn’t ‘switch off’, you stay in trauma mode and experience the fight, flight or freeze response which can contribute to mental health declines and long-term stress,” she says.
How does scream therapy help our mental wellbeing?
Aston says that when you scream with the desire to create change, you let go of what holds you back and give yourself the message that change is possible.
“Screaming clears some of the emotional blockages that might have built up and lets the charge out,” she explains.
“The charge that is released is the stagnant and repressed emotion that can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.”
When we give ourselves permission to release and express feelings we have been avoiding, the mind gets the message that it is in fact safe again, you move out of survival mode and into thrive mode, you free up brain space to be able to make better decisions.
“This contributes to lower stress levels and improved mental wellbeing,” Aston adds.
One of the main benefits of scream therapy is an activation of adrenaline that helps us all to work with our fears and other difficult emotions rather than ignoring them or letting them control us,
“Screaming, shouting, venting, letting it out are all ways of regaining a bit of power at a time when we have felt so unexpectedly powerless,” Aston says.
“It is vital that we have appropriate, responsible and accessible forms of releasing our frustrations effectively.”
Additional reporting Caters.