Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs among people who have experienced or witnessed traumatizing events. Common among veterans, survivors of domestic assault, and victims of physical or sexual abuse. PTSD can also occur after the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one, following an auto accident, or after a verbal threat of injury, assault, or death. PTSD can last for several months or it may span for several years. For some people, PTSD can even become a chronic, ongoing issue that affects them for the rest of their lives.
In addiction treatment, diagnosing and treating PTSD for those living with this disorder is essential. PTSD is a common co-occurring disorder among people with either substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD). Classified as one of several types of anxiety disorders, PTSD often leads to prescription benzodiazepine abuse, alcohol abuse, and the abuse of many other prescribed or illicit substances. Sadly, when people attempt to self-medicate or self-treat their PTSD, they often wind up exacerbating and intensifying its symptoms. Moreover, the widespread effects of addiction such as legal troubles, financial troubles, and relationship difficulties only further compound their anxiety.
People with PTSD deal with intensely disturbing and disruptive thoughts long after they have experienced the trauma that caused their condition. They may additionally have flashbacks of their traumatic events that are so vivid and realistic seeming that they’re forced to regularly relive old, painful emotions. Avoidance is a common sign of this disorder. People with PTSD often go out of their way to avoid environments, objects, and people that cause them distress. These and many other symptoms of PTSD make it difficult for those who live with this illness to lead fulfilling and productive lives.
Risk factors for PTSD
Unlike many other mental health issues, PTSD often has an identifiable cause. Ultimately, it is the result of a specific traumatic event or experience in a person’s life. This is trauma that has caused painful and terrifying emotions that the individual has yet to process. However, how a person processes trauma and the resulting emotions can result in a higher likelihood of developing this illness. Common risk factors for PTSD include:
- Childhood trauma
- Insufficient social support following trauma
- History of abuse
- Traumatic experiences in adulthood
- Severe, ongoing stress
- Family history of anxiety or depression disorders
- Poor coping skills
- Low tolerance for distress
Insufficient social support at any time in life makes it harder for people to process challenging emotions and move beyond traumatic experiences.
Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
The intensity of a person’s PTSD can surge and wane over time. This is often the result of changes in life habits, avoidance, and self-treatment through substance abuse. Some people live with PTSD for weeks or even months without having this illness disrupt their daily lives. Others spend large portions of their lives in isolation, avoiding social interaction, and missing out on countless personal and professional opportunities. For diagnostic purposes, the symptoms of PTSD are classed in four distinct categories:
- Intrusive thoughts and memories
- Changes in emotional and physical reactions
- Changes in mood and cognition
People with PTSD frequently experience sudden, negative changes in their thoughts that cause them to think negatively about others and themselves. They may struggle with intense feelings of distrust even when distrust is not warranted. PTSD can make people feel unwanted, unworthy, and detached from those around them. It can additionally cause intense feelings of hopelessness.
Intrusive memories are frequently the result of outside triggers. People with post-traumatic stress disorder often go out of their way to avoid places and individuals that act as triggers. However, even when diligent in using avoidance as a coping tool, PTSD sufferers can still have vivid nightmares and flashbacks, and severe physical and emotional distress as the result. They may additionally have a hard time remembering the events that have caused their trauma. Aggression, frustration, irritability, and angry outbursts are also indicative of this disorder.
How is PTSD diagnosed?
Before PTSD is diagnosed, patients undergo comprehensive medical and psychological examinations to identify underlying medical or mental health issues that may be responsible for their symptoms. During these assessments, people are asked to talk about their symptoms, the trauma that may have caused them, and the way in which their symptoms are preventing them from living normal lives. For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, they must have experience of:
- Severe injury
- Extreme violence
- The threat of death or injury
This can include experiencing a traumatic event firsthand, watching others be subjected to trauma, or being exposed to the details of a violent or traumatic event repeatedly. However, it can additionally include learning that a loved one was exposed to trauma.
How is PTSD treated?
In some instances, the underlying causes of PTSD are determined to be medical in nature. For instance, a person may have chemical imbalances that have created a “fight or flight” response that’s easily triggered. Taking medications for PTSD can alleviate sleep-related symptoms such as insomnia and disturbing dreams. It can also minimize or prevent flashbacks, feelings of frustration and aggression, and the need to shut down socially and emotionally.
However, there are also many effective, non-medical treatments for PTSD. These include various forms of psychotherapy that help people process their trauma, move past it, improve their coping skills, and increase their overall distress tolerance. Stress inoculation training (SIT) is designed to change how PTSD sufferers deal with stress. SIT teaches special breathing and massage techniques for calming the body and mind during flashbacks, when exposed to external or internal triggers, or when feeling generally upset.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) uses two, simultaneous forms of stimulation to help people move past their trauma and process or overcome the difficult emotions that their trauma has caused. Options in cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy can be used as well. Psychotherapy for PTSD can be performed in a private setting, in a group setting, or in a combination of these two depending upon the patient’s needs and abilities.
Among some of the goals of psychotherapy for PTSD are:
- Rebuilding a person’s self-esteem
- Teaching healthier and more effective coping skills
- Alleviating or eliminating certain PTSD symptoms
Treatment for PTSD at agape
At Agape Treatment Center, our dual diagnosis program helps people with co-occurring disorders establish a solid foundation for recovery. When unknown and untreated mental health disorders are diagnosed and properly managed, many of our patients no longer feel compelled to abuse substances for self-treatment.
We offer multiple forms of psychotherapy for PTSD, and we can help those who need it find the right type of medication for promoting mood balance, peace of mind, and overall emotional stability. Best of all, when treating co-occurring mental health disorders at our Florida facility, we strive to use methods that do not create the risk of new dependencies.
We also take a whole-health approach to treating mental health disorders, and we encourage all of our clients to do the same. We offer a number of holistic services on our Florida campus, and we teach many natural stress management techniques. By prioritizing the well-being of the entire person, we help our patients establish comfortable, healthy, and sustainable lives.
Contact us today to get started
Living with PTSD is never easy. However, the challenges of this illness are greatly heightened when PTSD is paired with alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder. If you’re ready to reclaim your wellness and take a positive, proactive step toward long-term healing, call us today. Our counselors are always standing by.