PTSD & Addiction: A Different Kind of War

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When many people think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they envision military personnel returning from war or veterans. These are the stories commonly shared across the media. While war is a common cause of PTSD, it is not the only cause. Men, women, and children who have nothing to do with the military can be affected by this debilitating condition. There are many types of trauma that can lead to PTSD.

Since 2010, June 27 has been designated PTSD Awareness Day, and since 2014, the month of June as a whole has been recognized as PTSD Awareness Month. This is in an effort to increase awareness and understanding about PTSD and let people know that effective treatment is available. While there is no cure for PTSD, various types of therapy and treatment can help to alleviate the symptoms and allow individuals to live a more normal life.

What Causes PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone, young and old alike. It develops as the result of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic incident. This could include things such as:

  • War
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, etc.)
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Unexpected death of a loved one
  • Serious accidents

While most people would be shaken up by these events, they are typically able to process them and move on within a few days, weeks, or months. They may think about them from time to time, but these incidents do not disrupt their overall life. For those with PTSD, they continue to have strong reactions, hypervigilance, or flashbacks even when there is no present danger. Around 10 percent of men and 20 percent of women who experience or witness trauma develop PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD

Everyone may experience this condition slightly differently, but there are several common symptoms that occur. They may range in severity from person to person.

Flashbacks. Following the traumatic event, some people keep seeing it happening in their mind over and over again. They may have nightmares that keep them up at night. However, the incidents seem very real and dangerous to the person, even though they’re not. Sights, sounds, and smells around them can trigger flashbacks.

Avoidance. People often go out of their way to avoid anything that reminds them of the event. They may take the bus to work instead of driving if they’re fearful of being in an accident.

Hypervigilance. The body goes into a “fight or flight” mode when it is in danger. Those with PTSD may always feel like they’re in this state. They may be acutely aware of everything going on around them and be easily startled. This can make it harder to eat, sleep, socialize, or focus.

Mood changes. After a traumatic event, the person may have a more dismal attitude. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and feel detached from the world around them. In addition, they could feel a sense of guilt or shame about what happened, even if it wasn’t their fault.

These symptoms can interfere with a person’s normal life and ability to carry out daily activities. They may have a lot of trouble functioning in different situations and it can detract from their quality of life. Some people have trouble holding down a job, forming relationships, or being in public situations. If left untreated, symptoms of PTSD may continue to worsen and have an even greater impact on a person’s life. It is not too late to get help or to return to treatment for more support.

PTSD and Addiction

As a way of coping with the symptoms of PTSD, some people turn to drugs or alcohol. They may use these substances to try to relax and calm themselves, or a way to try to forget about their problems. This can quickly spiral into addiction which can make things worse and exacerbate symptoms as well as adding new problems. Some people don’t know how else to cope with what they’re feeling.

However, there is help available and hope for recovery. Addiction treatment centers like Above It All offer services tailored to those with a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis means that the client is struggling with both addiction and a mental health disorder such as PTSD. It is important that both conditions are addressed simultaneously for more effective recovery.

If only the addiction is treated, or only the PTSD, it is easy to overlook the interrelated nature of these conditions. Clients are therefore at a greater risk for relapse because underlying issues have not been properly addressed. With a dual diagnosis program, clients gain a better understanding of how their PTSD and addiction are related and how they affect one another. This allows them to develop more effective coping strategies to reduce risk of relapse and keep symptoms managed.

Above It All uses a mind, body, and spirit approach to recovery. Treatment plans incorporate individual and group therapy and counseling, 12-step methodologies, yoga, meditation, nutrition education, support groups, and other recreational and holistic activities. Each client’s plan is tailored to their individual needs and goals to optimize their recovery and support long-term success. Clients are equipped with the tools and resources they need to overcome trauma and addiction and create a healthier lifestyle in recovery.

Dual diagnosis programs can give clients the support and confidence they need to keep moving forward in their life. They can work through both their mental health and substance use issues and develop routines that are more conducive to a substance-free lifestyle and reduce triggers for relapse. If you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD and addiction, contact Above It All today to learn more about how our dual diagnosis program can provide a safe place for more effective recovery. We will work with you along each step of the way and help you to overcome the challenges that you face. Take back control of your life with help from Above It All. Recovery is possible.

You don’t have to let PTSD and addiction control your life. Reach out Above It All to find the support and care you need for recovery.
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