Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur whenever a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic, or life-threatening event. PTSD is most commonly associated with experiences such as military combat, but other experiences can lead to PTSD if a person was:
- Seriously injured during an event, or felt as though their life were in danger
- Exposed to trauma for a long period of time
- Felt helpless in a situation
A person living with PTSD experiences extreme stress and anxiety after be a part of or witnessing a traumatic event. A traumatic event is defined as “an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm,” according to MedlinePlus. “It is an event that is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or to the stability of one’s world.” With such a broad definition, PTSD can be caused from events ranging from natural disasters to divorce, from extreme illness to physical or sexual assault.
Survivors of trauma often return to normal, everyday life once the initial anxiety and stress of the event has passed; however, some people develop stress reactions that may not go away on their own, and could get worse over time. For those whose symptoms don’t recede over a period of time are at a great risk of developing PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 7-8% of the population will develop PTSD at some point in their lives, and about 5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year. Symptoms of PTSD can severely affect a person’s daily life and should be taken seriously.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD symptoms vary depending on the nature of the traumatic experience, and is often difficult to detect because other disorders can evolve from PTSD including, but not limited to depression, substance abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol, and issues involving a person’s cognitive ability, says the Nebraska Department of Veteran’s Affairs. However, common symptoms that can be recognized in a person suffering with PTSD are:
- Nightmares/flashbacks of the event – some people experience flashbacks, often times, after a certain “trigger” is switched that reminds them of the event, i.e. a car backfiring can remind a military veteran of a gunshot.
- Avoidance of certain societal norms – crowds, driving, friends and loved ones, etc.
- The way they perceive themselves and life in general – negative emotions towards people you used to care about, memory lapses of the event itself or blockage of the details of the event, or, in extreme cases, mistrust of the world as a whole.
- Symptoms defined as being “hyper arousal” symptoms – trouble staying/falling asleep, concentration difficulties, an exaggerated startle response, or insisting on controlling pieces of your surroundings, i.e. sitting with a wall to your back, in a position where you can view your entire surroundings.
- Suffering from PTSD alone is difficult, and can be unpredictable, with some symptoms taking an immediate onset, while others may not experience symptoms for weeks, months, even years after the traumatic experience. What makes matters worse, is that often times PTSD can lead to more harmful diseases, disorders, and habits such as drug and alcohol abuse.
PTSD and Substance Abuse: What is the connection?
It is common in those who are not suffering with PTSD, but are having problems coping with certain aspects of their life, to turn to drugs or alcohol to “numb” their feelings and emotions. Therefore, it is no wonder why a person suffering with PTSD would turn to the same addictions in order to deal with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. In a recent article published in Behavioral Health Evolution, research says that “among people seeking treatment for substance use disorders, it is estimated that nearly one in three are suffering symptoms of PTSD.” The consumption of alcohol in large amounts in a short amount of time, called binge drinking, or excessive alcohol abuse over a long period of time, alcoholism, is common among both men and women who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD.
Self-medication in those who experience symptoms of PTSD is also a common occurrence. In an article published on AboutHealth.com, it is said that 31% of people suffering with PTSD have abused drugs during a period of their life. Although a larger amount of people with PTSD – 40% – have admitted to alcohol abuse, drug dependency, most commonly depressant substances similar to the effects of alcohol, is a serious problem among those with PTSD.
How to find help
If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from symptoms of PTSD, there are avenues you may take to find help. In emergency situations, call 911 or contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you suspect that you or a loved one’s life is in danger to due substance abuse or an injury sustained while experiencing symptoms of PTSD, go to your nearest Emergency Room.
For those who are ready to get help for a drug or alcohol addiction related to symptoms of PTSD, Serenity Acres is here for you. Our luxury facility provides a home away from home where our patients can feel relaxed and safe in their environment. We offer a variety of treatment programs including Holistic therapy options, Group and Individual Therapy, the 12-Step Program, Medical Addiction Treatment, and more. Since PTSD and substance abuse cannot be treated separately, as they are two halves of the same brain, we offer a dual diagnosis treatment that helps to treat both substance dependency and mental disorder.
For more information, contact Serenity Acres today.