Post-traumatic stress disorder stems from a life-threatening event or psychological trauma, and signs of PTSD can surface at different times for different people. While they may begin soon after a frightening event and then continue, others may develop new or more severe signs months or even years later. And while we often associate PTSD with veterans or active military service members, the condition can happen to anyone, even children, according to mentalhealth.gov.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, affecting how we think, feel, and act. The state of our mental health also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and how we make choices in our everyday lives. Because mental health issues can negatively impact our lives, it’s especially important to address them when treating addiction. The goal at Broad Beach is to help each client gain the courage to face difficult issues, heal from emotional trauma, overcome grief and loss, and become accountable for their own feelings, behaviors, and recovery.

What You Need to Know About PTSD

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months. If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD.

About one half of all U.S. adults will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives, but most do not develop PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Events that may lead to PTSD include, but are not limited to, violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, combat, and other forms of violence.

PTSD can cause:

  •       Flashbacks, or feeling like the event is happening again
  •       Trouble sleeping or nightmares
  •       Feeling alone
  •       Angry outbursts
  •       Feeling worried, guilty or sad

Exposure to events like these is common, but people who experience PTSD may have persistent, frightening thoughts and memories of the event, experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or may be easily startled. In severe forms, PTSD can significantly impair a person’s ability to function at work, at home, and socially.

Scared woman in window

What You Need to Know About Trauma

Trauma can be a single event or a series of traumatic events that are repeated over time, causing an individual to become overwhelmed with painful, frightening, or loathing emotions. There are many different responses to potentially traumatic events. Most people have intense responses immediately following, and often for several weeks or even months after, a traumatic event. For most people, these are normal and expected responses and generally lessen with time. Healthy ways of coping in this time period include avoiding alcohol and other drugs, spending time with loved ones and trusted friends who are supportive, trying to maintain normal routines for meals, exercise, and sleep. In some cases, the stressful thoughts and feelings after a trauma continue for a long time and interfere with everyday life. For people who continue to feel the effects of the trauma, it is important to seek professional help.

Trauma, PTSD, & Substance Abuse

Physically or emotionally traumatized people are at much higher risk for drug use and substance use disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). and the co-occurrence of these disorders is associated with inferior treatment outcomes. People with PTSD may use substances in an attempt to reduce their anxiety and to avoid dealing with trauma and its consequences.

Researchers have found a link between substance use disorder and PTSD, particularly for active service members who return from deployment. Between 2004 and 2010, approximately 16% of veterans had an untreated substance use disorder, and 8% needed treatment for serious psychological distress (SPD), according to National Institute on Drug Abuse data. The survey of veterans estimated that the rate of lifetime PTSD was 8%, while approximately 5% reported current PTSD. Approximately 1 in 5 veterans with PTSD also has a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Treating PTSD & Trauma

Effective treatment for PTSD in individuals with substance use disorders include both psychosocial interventions (for example, relapse prevention, contingency management, prolonged exposure, and teaching coping skills) and pharmacotherapies, according to drugabuse.gov. The types and sequencing of these treatment modalities will vary based on the individual’s condition, goals, and preferences. Prescribers should discuss risks and benefits of medications, so that every individual can make an informed choice regarding treatment options.

Psychosocial interventions are key to effective treatment of both co-occurring conditions. They serve to educate individuals about both disorders, improve awareness on how these problems interact to contribute to poor outcomes, and assist in the development of coping skills to manage PTSD or trauma and substance use disorder symptoms. This dual diagnosis approach offers the best chance of lasting recovery.