It is more than likely that we have all experienced a trauma at some point in our lives. Trauma is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as: any event or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as emotionally or physically harmful or life-threatening. It is important to understand that trauma and its effects are relative to the individual. What is traumatic for one person, may not be for another. The effects of trauma relate to the individual’s ability to cope, process, and maintain stability after the traumatic event. When an individual does not get the help, they need after facing a traumatic event, they can experience long lasting effects that may lead to the diagnosis of stressor related disorders and other mental illness.
Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. PTSD is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as trauma and stressor related disorder. There is a wide array of events that could be considered traumatic including but not limited to: grief and loss, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, or a natural disaster. PTSD is a condition that people of all different ages and backgrounds may suffer from. Families of victims can develop PTSD as well as first responders, rescue workers and war veterans. The symptoms of PTSD can vary amongst individuals but often hinder one’s abilities to manage every-day life effectively.
The symptoms and risk factors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can manifest in a person’s life as soon as one month after an event, or sometimes not until years later. Symptoms affect an individual’s ability to function effectively in work, social settings, interpersonal relationships and can interfere with the ability of completing every-day tasks.
PTSD Symptoms and warning signs can be grouped into the following four categories, each with a different order of symptomatology.
People with PTSD often relive the event(s) through thoughts and memories. This could look like
- Severe emotional and physical reactions that remind you of the event
An individual may avoid people, places, and things that remind them of the event(s) This can lead to
- Feelings of detachment from others and the world around you
- Loss of interest in activities
- Trying to avoid talking or thinking about the event
A person struggling with PTSD may experience intense prolonged periods of negative thoughts and decreased mood resulting in
- Memory Problems
- Feeling emotionally numb
-Estrangement from family and friends
PTSD can manifest a set of physical symptoms that may include.
- Irritability or angry outbursts
- Inability to show affection
- being “jumpy” or easily startled
- trouble concentrating and sleeping
- Self destructive behavior such as drinking, using substances, or driving recklessly
For children symptoms may include
- Delayed language, motor, and other developmental skills such as toilet training
- Re- enacting the event
- Trouble with sleep and frightening dreams that may or may not include memories from the event
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PTSD symptoms can vary in their occurrence and intensity overtime. You may have more symptoms when you are under a lot of pressure and stress in general, or when you encounter specific reminders of the event.
Addiction and Substance abuse are commonly connected as co-occurring disorders with PTSD. A co- occurring disorder (or having a dual diagnosis) is having two conditions affecting an individual at the same time. After experiencing a terrifying and traumatic event an individual may not have the coping skills and tools to manage the negative and destructive aftermath of the experience. To alleviate the negative symptoms of PTSD, individuals may begin to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope. Overtime substance use worsens the effects of PTSD and creates a dependency issue for individual increases both physical and mental health risks overtime. Many addiction treatment programs can treat chemical dependency and Post – Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at the same time.
According to research presented by Time, it is estimated that two thirds of individual’s suffering from PTSD also have a substance use disorder.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs lists the following statistics regarding PTSD and Addictions
There are a wide array of effective treatments and modalities that are commonly used to effectively treat Post Traumatic Stress- Disorder as well as PTS, addiction, and other mental health problems at the same time.
EMDR- (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) a focused type of psychotherapy used to help individuals heal from trauma by safely reconnecting them to the thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with trauma and then allowing the brain to move forward with adaptive resolution and healing.
Supportive Counseling and Talk Therapy- Talk therapy in an individual setting can be an effective way to allow yourself to open up about repressed thoughts and emotions while building a healthy therapeutic relationship to make progress towards healing.
DBT and Skill Building- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps individuals learn how to self-regulate and find healthy coping skills and tools to manage stressful situations that may occur in everyday life.
Group Therapy and Activities- Therapy in a group setting can help one combat the debilitating feelings of isolation and become a safe space to work on interpersonal effectiveness, while developing and understanding that they are not alone.
Relaxation, Art, and Mindfulness Therapies: Art, Music, Acupuncture, and Meditation therapies can all be effective in helping one engage in the healing process from the mental and physical effects of PTSD.
Energy Healing and Movement Therapies: Exercise and other forms of energy healing such as yoga, reiki, and breathwork can all help an individual gain coping skill that work for them in managing the effects of PTSD in a healthy and productive way
Medications: There are many medications that can help an individual combat the negative physical and mental effects of PTSD. Finding a local psychiatrist and sharing the symptoms you are currently experiencing will help you to know what type of medications could help you.
Many people struggling with PTSD may not understand the implications of its effects or be aware that they need treatment. Facing trauma and drug addiction may feel scary or bring up ideas and of shame. Those who have been suffering long term from PTSD might not realize that there is a way out and fear, isolation and sadness do not have to be the norm.
If you or a loved one identify with experiencing trauma, the symptoms of PTSD, or are struggling with an addiction to alcohol, other substances, or destructive behaviors, now is the time to reach out and seek help from a treatment program.
If you or anyone you know is dealing with issues around mental health or addiction, contact us for a full evaluation and treatment options. We understand that it is not a process that any individual should tackle alone, and that is why we have a team of qualified personnel who are available to offer you the help you need.