In recent years, PTSD has moved into the mainstream vernacular as more people understand the lasting effects that trauma can have on mental health. Understanding post-traumatic stress disorder and how it can impact mental health and substance use can help you (or a loved one) connect with the right addiction treatment to help you stay sober long term.
Here’s what you should know about post-traumatic stress disorder, and how it can affect addition treatment.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a psychiatric condition that can occur when someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD is diagnosed when someone has intrusive thoughts or overwhelming feelings about the event, that begin to interfere with their daily life, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
It’s important to understand that PTSD can stem from nearly any event that someone finds disturbing. The condition is often connected with military service, because it is common among veterans who have been exposed to the horrors of war. However, PTSD can also stem from a personal event like a rape or car accident, or even a more secondary event, like hearing about a loved one’s death.
How is PTSD Diagnosed?
People with PTSD experience a range of symptoms. However, the symptoms generally fall into four categories that define the disorder. These are:
- Intrusive thoughts. Flashbacks are a common symptom of PTSD that fall into this category. Other example of intrusive thoughts are nightmares or involuntary memories.
- Avoidance. People with PTSD often try to avoid things that will trigger them to remember their traumatic event. This might mean avoiding certain social situations of place. It could also mean refusing to think about the even or acknowledge its impact.
- Negative thoughts or feelings. People with PTSD often have overwhelming negative feelings. They might think that they caused or contributed to the trauma, or that they didn’t deserve to survive it. They might feel they should no longer trust or connect with other people, which can lead to isolation.
- Reactive symptoms. People with PTSD often react to certain triggers. They might startle easily or have outbursts. Others with PTSD have trouble sleeping.
It’s important to note that these symptoms are normal and expected in the first month following a major, troubling life event. However, if the symptoms persist for longer than that, a person can be diagnosed with PTSD.
How common is PTSD?
About 3.5 percent of American have post-traumatic stress disorder, and nearly 10 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with PTSD over the course of their lifetime. The condition is more common in women, who experience it about twice as often as men do (although it may be the case that women are more likely to seek help for PTSD, and therefore are diagnosed at a higher rate).
PTSD and Substance Use Disorder
Having trauma in your past increases your risk for substance use disorder. In fact, research has shown that people with PTSD have two to four times the risk of developing substance use disorder. Some studies have shown that 60 to 80 percent of people with PTSD abuse drugs or alcohol.
Many people with trauma histories turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate the symptoms of their condition. For example, someone who has trouble falling asleep at night because of intrusive thoughts might turn to alcohol or pills to help them sleep soundly.
In cases like these, it is instrumental to treat a patient for PTSD and substance use disorder at the same time. If the underlying trauma is not addressed and treated, people with PTSD are unlikely to be able to stay sober in the long term, since they’re still coping with intrusive, negative thoughts, and overwhelming reactions.
What are the treatments for PTSD?
There are a number of ways to treat PTSD through therapy and medications. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that is extremely effective at treating trauma. Most people begin to experience an alleviation of symptoms after just a few sessions. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be used to treat PTSD, as can medications.
For people with both substance use disorder and PTSD, it is important to connect with a trauma-informed treatment center. At these facilities, providers will understand the need to address underlying trauma and help clients develop health coping mechanisms. This will help clients stay sober long-term, and deal with their past traumas without during to drugs or alcohol to get through.