Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a reaction that develops as a result of exposure to a traumatic event. People experience different degrees of trauma after an event, but some people can develop a set of symptoms that cause them pain, distress, and limited functioning in their daily lives.
People with PTSD may often have a substance use disorder, and the symptoms of PTSD may occur before the person started using substances or after use. Regardless of when the trauma happens, people often cannot fully heal from a substance use disorder unless their PTSD has been treated as well.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Many people experience symptoms after a traumatic event, including disturbing memories as well as feelings of anxiety and grief. For people who develop PTSD, the disorder becomes so harmful that they may have trouble functioning in everyday life.
The symptoms of PTSD develop within a few weeks or months after a traumatic event and must last for over a month for a diagnosis. Acute stress disorder, which occurs immediately after the trauma, shares similar symptoms as PTSD but happens within a few days of the event, but can progress to PTSD if it goes untreated.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories:
For people with PTSD, memories or flashbacks of the trauma can happen at any time. These experiences can be so intense it feels like the person has been transported back to suffer the trauma again. These memories can cause so much pain that the person will turn to substance use to find relief.
People with PTSD may avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. They may avoid situations where people talk about it, people or places that remind them of it, or situations like therapy where they might have to talk about it. Triggering the memories can result in intrusive thoughts.
Thinking and Mood
People with PTSD experience symptoms that affect their mood and thinking. They may experience memory loss, inability to feel enjoyment or pleasure, and negative thinking patterns. They may direct this negative thinking toward themselves, coping with feelings of guilt, shame, and fear that they could have stopped the event. Negative thinking can also be directed outward.
People with PTSD tend to remain on high alert or in a state of hyperarousal, more than most people. They can become suspicious and fearful of others, or they may become irritable, angry, or hostile. Hyperarousal can become exhausting for the mind and body, leading to people feeling tired and unwell.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse
Research has found that over a third of people who present for substance use disorders also have PTSD. Many cases of PTSD go undiagnosed because people have become skilled at covering up their symptoms. Research also found that the earlier in life the trauma occurs, the more likely a person is to develop a substance use disorder, and a higher intervention will be required to treat it.
However, any trauma that occurs in adulthood can also lead to PTSD.
The disorder can develop after events like rape, assault, car accidents, natural disasters, war, manmade disasters, or witnessing serious injuries or death. Each person has their own sensitivity to trauma, and some may be traumatized by particular events related to their past.
How is PTSD Treated?
Many types of therapy have been developed to treat PTSD, including:
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
This form of therapy encourages the person to spend time talking about their experience. They also go out and experience the triggers they have learned to avoid. This exposure decreases the person’s reactivity to triggers.
Cognitive Processing Therapy
This intensive therapy helps people change the way they think about their traumatic experience and their triggers. Processing irrational thoughts can help people become less responsive to triggers, which can help decrease avoidant behavior.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This therapy involves the person thinking about the traumatic experience while concentrating on a moving object in front of their eyes. The eye movement assists the brain in reprocessing the memories.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Common in substance use disorder treatment, CBT teaches people to reprogram their thoughts and behaviors related to the traumatic events. CBT also works to help people change their thoughts and behaviors related to substance use disorders.
How Does Everlast Treat PTSD?
At Everlast Recovery Centers, our clinically trained staff provides trauma-informed therapy and care to everyone who stays with us. Trauma-informed care means assuming that any person might have a history of trauma and that any care must avoid possibly re-traumatizing someone. We operate within a trauma-informed structure from our CEO to every support staff in our centers. This helps us recognize and treat cases of PTSD that can go unnoticed if no one is aware of them.
Our variety of CBT-based therapies allow people with PTSD to spend their time in our care working on their dual diagnosis.
They may succeed in thinking about events with less distress or in going back to places they avoided. We also offer Seeking Safety, a type of therapy designed for people with PTSD to help them decrease symptoms.
By treating each person with a dual diagnosis in a holistic way guided by trauma-informed care standards, Everlast provides a safe and healthy environment for people with PTSD to work on the issues that have disrupted their lives.