While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Day is observed on June 27, every year, the whole month of June is known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness.
The mental health and addiction specialists at Footprints to Recovery have dedicated themselves to keep an ongoing conversation about this psychiatric condition and the importance of education, as well as, accessing the necessary treatment and resources to recover and live a more fulfilling life.
COVID-19 and Its Effect on Mental Illness
COVID-19 has made a significant impact on everyone’s lives, whether directly or indirectly affected. Across the world, the pandemic has incited feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and fear, inciting unprecedented efforts and global action to institute stay-at-home and social distancing mandates as a means to help stop the spread.
As a result, while these steps may play an important role in mitigating the spread of this disease, being isolated for long periods has caused the onset or predisposition of short-term and long-term consequences affecting people’s mental health and overall well-being. This includes changes in behavioral and thought patterns, causing abnormal daily functioning.
This national crisis has caught the attention of mental health and addiction specialists, as recent evidentiary research has shown increased rates of substance abuse and mental illness such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Amid such a traumatic event such as COVID-19, people with co-occurring disorders also known as dual diagnosis, have been turning to drugs and alcohol as a means of believing that this over-the-counter relief can help them cope with their symptoms, and escape from their pain and problems. Although, this just exacerbates both conditions even further, making them harder to treat.
To help people recover from addiction and properly manage a trauma disorder such as PTSD, prevention, and direct intervention is needed to address the impact that trauma has on mental health.
The Effects Of Trauma
According to the Center For Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, trauma is defined as a psychological and emotional response to witnessing a deeply distressing/disturbing event or experience.
Trauma can disrupt nearly every aspect of an individual’s life, mentally, physically, and socially. We all have really bad days, but someone who suffers from trauma, it is indescribable, unless you or a loved one are the ones going through it.
Research shows that victims of traumatic events lose every sense of control over their thoughts and feelings, and experience a profound sense of vulnerability, loneliness, and isolation.
Types of Trauma
Trauma can range from mild to severe. When applied on looser terms, a person can experience trauma as something upsetting, losing a loved one, becoming injured or sick, getting into an accident, etc. However, trauma can also be classified as extreme and persistent, as a result of experiencing some sort of damaging event, such as accidents, torture, sexual assault, violence, etc.
Traumatic events are viewed very subjectively, which is why the term trauma is used very loosely until accurately defined. Everyone processes trauma differently because we all face them through the lens of something that we have previously experienced. Therefore, only we can consciously or subconsciously know how to feel after it has occurred.
For example, a person might be upset and fearful after being in a bad car accident or witnessing one. As a result, traumatic flashbacks of their terrifying experience commonly occur at random, whether it be as a nightmare, persistent thoughts, etc.
Trauma reactions occur across a wide spectrum, and therefore, psychologists and therapists who specialize in treating it, have placed this phenomenon in two categories to help differentiate between the types of trauma. These include complex trauma, such as PTSD, and developmental trauma.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Complex trauma such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) happens persistently, as it causes direct harm in a specific time and place. PTSD is classified as a type of complex trauma and psychiatric disorder, which commonly develops after a person has either witnessed or experienced a traumatic or terrifying ordeal in which there has been a threat of physical harm or it has occurred.
Types of trauma that causes intense feelings of fear and helplessness and other common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Sexual or physical assault
- The unexpected death of a loved one
- Accidents or Injury
- War/combat/acts of terrorism
- Natural disasters such as a hurricane or tornado
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder wasn’t officially recognized as a mental health condition until the 1980s. Before being recognized as an official medical diagnosis, PTSD was referred to as shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome.
During World War I and II, PTSD was known to mainly affect veterans in combat. However, today, it is important to note, that this condition happens to also affect various groups of people, no matter their age, race, gender, and sex, including families of victims, emergency personnel, and rescue workers.
No matter the reasoning or underlying cause of someone’s PTSD, with the right forms of treatment and counseling, the condition is treatable. There are various resources out there to receive an accurate diagnosis and the necessary help.
An estimated 1 in 11 or 8 million adults throughout the United States are diagnosed with PTSD throughout their lifetime. This equates to 3.5 percent of the population, with women being twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with the disorder.
Studies have shown that men experience more traumatic events during their lifetime than women, but PTSD symptoms in men are far less common than symptoms in women. If left undiagnosed or untreated, severe complications will arise.
Know you are not alone, as other people are suffering too, and therefore, there is so much shame in seeking assistance. Unfortunately, due to various reasons, such as stigma, countless people are not able to seek the treatment they need.
Through National PTSD Awareness and comprehensive treatment methods and services, Footprints to Recovery is here to bridge the gap between wanting help and actually receiving it.
Correlation Between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction
There is a major connection between addiction and trauma disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a two-way street, and both directly affect one another in various ways. In other words, PTSD and substance abuse co-occur.
When someone experiences some type of trauma, that increases the risk of developing substance use disorders (SUD). It makes sense that a person suffering from constant fear, anxiety, and shame needs some source of comfort.
This so-called comfort is usually in the form of drugs and alcohol. These addictive behaviors make a traumatized person with a sense of emptiness, feel whole again, and an insatiable yearning of relief and fulfillment. The rush or euphoric feeling they get from using substances offers them a release.
Substance Use and Trauma
As a result of trauma, people often try to “self-medicate” with drugs and alcohol as a means of relieving and reducing symptoms, including unpleasant thoughts and emotions, fear, and anxiety. This attempt to soothe or block these traumatic life experiences leads to dependency and addiction.
Vice versa, engaging in addictive behaviors such as drinking alcohol and taking drugs, increases the probability of a traumatic event recurring, making it difficult to cope with.
Trauma, especially at the early stages, impacts one’s ability to cope with stressors, which eventually becomes unbearable and harder to control.
Studies show that individuals from childhood, to adolescence, and adulthood, who have traumatic experiences, tend to report higher rates of addiction, in addition to, anxiety, depression, domestic violence, STDs, and heart disease.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 75 percent of women and men who receive substance abuse treatment, have reported having some sort of history with trauma, and 12-34 percent also have PTSD.
A major study estimates that 47 percent of people with PTSD meet the DSM-5s criteria for substance use disorder. This is especially true for people who are addicted to alcohol. Women with PTSD are more likely to abuse alcohol than men, who are more likely to experience trauma.
Prevalence of PTSD
While a majority of studies focus on the development and treatment of PTSD in adults, adolescents and children can also be majorly affected by this disorder. During childhood, PTSD does not occur until the brain has fully developed into early adulthood. Adolescents develop PTSD in their teen years. Symptoms range from mild, moderate, or seriously impairing.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experiences that can persist for a long time, even after the traumatic event has occurred a long time ago.
Reliving the event through intense flashbacks and nightmares, symptoms of PTSD are categorized into four common groups:
- Flashbacks to a stressful
- Feel endangered in everyday situations
- Have an overactive startle response
- Nightmares and intrusive thoughts
Something ordinary such as loud noises or random touch may trigger a negative reaction. This is the main symptom of PTSD, along with a host of others, which include:
- Feelings of sadness and anguish
- Flashbacks and nightmares
- Nausea and headaches
- Intense feelings of guilt and shame (Feel like they are responsible for the trauma)
- Isolation and hopelessness
- Detaching or estranging themselves from others
Anyone can be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its duration which can be from months to years, varies from person-to-person, as everyone reacts to traumatic events differently.
Also, each individual is unique in their ability to manage fear and stress and cope with the threatening situation. For this reason, it is important to note, that not everyone who witnesses something traumatic will develop PTSD.
How a person receives help or support, whether from medical professionals, friends, or family, following their trauma, influences the development and progression of PTSD, and the symptoms severity level.
As mentioned before, people with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and use substances as a way to do so. PTSD can be properly managed with an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Diagnosing and Treatment of PTSD
As mentioned before, the intensity, duration, and frequency of PTSD episodes can vary greatly. Therefore, the best measure for assessing the disorder’s symptoms is the level of disruption a person with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder experiences.
The prognosis for the condition has improved greatly in recent years, as researchers and medical professionals have found effective treatments to eliminate and reduce symptoms.
Data on the prognosis of PTSD demonstrate its prevalence and the importance of seeking treatment for it. To prove this point, studies show that people who have sought treatment for this mental condition had symptoms lasting on average of 36 months, while symptoms for those who did not, lasted an average of 64 months.
PTSD is diagnosed by the presence of an identified stressor or traumatic event followed by the onset of symptoms, such as mentioned previously a month or more following the event; it is evaluated by the level of intensity and the duration of distress.
Most individuals who seek treatment in conjunction with counseling, have seen a significant change and reduction in the intensity of their symptoms.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Statistics
Here are some shocking statistics about PTSD that show how prevalent this mental disorder is, and how important the demand for treatment is.
- 70 percent of adults experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime
- 20 percent of people who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD
- 1 in 13 people will develop PTSD at some point in their life
Dispelling Myths of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
There are many myths out there about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that we would like to help dispel, to avoid any further misinformation. These include:
- Only soldiers or war veterans get PTSD.
- Experiencing trauma is enough to develop PTSD. Unfortunately, traumatic experiences are very common
- People with PTSD are weak or just need to toughen up
- The belief that PTSD cannot be treated
PTSD and Co-Occurring Conditions
Many mental health disorders occur simultaneously with PTSD, because of significant changes caused to the brain’s overall chemistry and function following a traumatic event. Therefore, someone with PTSD may experience depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, or substance use disorders.
Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Through a comprehensive treatment approach, each recovery plan is tailored to each patient’s needs and goals. Our addiction treatment programs such as outpatient treatment, include methods including medication management, individualized therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and relapse prevention.
Encouraging Someone to Get Help For PTSD
A trained professional in medicine or mental health can identify PTSD and offer alternatives for treatment. Help is out there, and you are not alone!
Footprints to Recovery is here to educate people about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and provide them with resources to help raise awareness about recovery and treatment options.
How Footprints Can Help
For people who want to help raise awareness about PTSD, they do so effectively by helping us educate themselves about the condition and exercise understanding and patience when they detect possible symptoms of PTSD.
To learn more about how you can help raise awareness about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and most importantly, help you or a loved one recover, contact us at Footprints to Recovery today!