Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
If you are involved in a very traumatic incident or witness to one – especially if the incident is life-threatening – your body has a fight-or-flight reaction. In addition to an emotional reaction, you will experience sweating, a rapid heartbeat and a rush of certain chemicals in the brain. While these responses are meant to help you survive, sometimes after the traumatic event, they won’t abate. If these feelings and reactions remain for a long period of time, they can develop into post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
About 7.7 million adults in America currently suffer from PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. PTSD may occur at any age after a traumatic event – whether you were the victim or just a witness. In most cases, these traumatic incidents involve physical harm or a life-threatening situation. When someone has PTSD, they will relive the event over and over again.
Typically, the symptoms of PTSD fall into three main categories: hyperarousal, avoidance and re-experiencing. Hyperarousal symptoms are usually consistent and defined by high levels of anxiety. Re-experiencing symptoms can come on when triggered, interfering with day-to-day life. Avoidance symptoms can include attempts to avoid reminders of the incident. PTSD symptoms can also include:
- Emotional numbness
- Feeling on edge constantly
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Short-term memory loss
- Guilt and/or shame
- Episodes of aggression
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling of isolation and disconnection
In some cases, it can take a few weeks or month for PTSD to show up. In order for a patient to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms must persist for a month at least.
Why People Experience PTSD
Some people go through traumatic events and do not develop PTSD. In a patient with PTSD, certain parts of the brain may be affected as well as the brain’s neurotransmitters. The amygdala is responsible for a fear response. This may be hyperactive in patients that develop PTSD. There are other risk factors that can play a part in the development of PTSD. Among these factors are:
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of social support
- History of mental illness
- Previous trauma
Treatment for PTSD
There are many therapies that are used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The most popular treatment of PTSD is psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients to have an understanding of what triggers their symptoms and how they can control them. Exposure therapy is another tool used by therapists to treat PTSD. In this therapy, the person is exposed to their trauma safely in indirect and direct ways. Writing, images or even visits to locations where trauma occurred may be used as tools for the therapist to expose the patient to.
Medication can be necessary as well to help to regulate brain chemistry. Antidepressants and antianxiety medications are common among patients that have PTSD. Group therapy and family support can also be essential in the treatment of PTSD.
PTSD and Substance Use Disorder
Patients with PTSD frequently have substance use disorders as well. When a person has two disorders at the same time, this is called duel diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Drug and alcohol abuse often occurs in the PTSD patient as a way to self-medicate. PTSD patients may abuse substances in order to cope with their symptoms.
If you have a co-occurring disorder like PTSD and you are considering seeking treatment for substance abuse, it is important that you enroll in a treatment program at a facility that specifically treats patients with a duel diagnosis. Our addiction specialists and healthcare professionals understand that each patient is different and will work to formulate an individualized treatment plan based on your needs.
The Recovery Village Ridgefield is conveniently located three hours from Seattle, Washington and thirty minutes from Portland, Oregon. We provide a healing environment for patients to discover a path to recovery. We feature detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and aftercare. Most importantly, we are well equipped to treat patients with co-occurring disorders like PTSD. If you are considering treatment, give us a call today and allow us to help you.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.