Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be caused by many things. The first thing that people think of when they hear about PTSD is people who have fought in a war. But, other situations can cause PTSD as well. An alarmingly high percentage of people, including women, men, and children develop PTSD because they were raped, molested, or otherwise sexually assaulted. In fact, sexual violence is one of the top reasons that people develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Here is a more complete list of the top reasons that someone can develop PTSD:
Please note that there are many other reasons that someone might develop PTSD, but these are some of the most common reasons.
7.7 million adults experience PTSD at some time in their lives. 1 out of 3 of these people are seeking help for some form of addiction. That is simply the number of people seeking help, not the number of people who have both PTSD and an addiction. This translates to 65% of people who have PTSD also have a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, 8% of people in the United States have a documented PTSD disorder.
People who have PTSD often also develop depression and anxiety as well as a substance use disorder. The most common substance abused by people suffering from PTSD is alcohol.
It is not surprising that many people turn to substances such as alcohol to numb the pain caused by these traumatic events. Some people do not know where to turn to get help. Other people develop denial that they have PTSD. Still more people see getting help for PTSD as a sign of weakness, or they believe that going to treatment will affect their ability to hold their current job.
There are dual diagnosis centers, like DreamLife Recovery, that can help you with you PTSD and addiction disorders together. You are worthy. Bad things have happened to you and no one has the right to tell you that you are not suffering enough to merit treatment. Rape and childhood abuse are legitimate causes for PTSD. Three quarters of people who survive violent/abusive trauma and/or any form of assault report alcohol abuse disorders. You are not alone.
PTSD is a mental disorder. Trauma can rewire the brain to cause problems like difficulties telling the difference between long term and short-term memories and present experiences. Post-traumatic stress disorder damages that part of the brain. Some emotional symptoms of PTSD are:
It can be hard for people who suffer from PTSD to know when they need to get help. Many people brush off other people’s experiences. Some things that give someone else PTSD will not affect another person the same way. However, other traumatic events might give them PTSD but it might not affect you in the exact same way it affects them. There is no reliable indicator of exactly which experience will give which person PTSD.
Below are the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing PTSD.
Criterion A (one required): The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s):
Criterion B (one required): The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced, in the following way(s):
Criterion C (one required): Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma, in the following way(s):
Criterion D (two required): Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
Criterion E (two required): Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):
Criterion F (required): Symptoms last for more than 1 month.
Criterion G (required): Symptoms create distress or functional impairment (e.g., social, occupational).
Criterion H (required): Symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.
The DSM-5 only provides guidelines for doctors and other health professionals. Even with a DSM-5 excerpt like the one above it takes a trained medical professional to fully diagnose someone. While it is important to look for these indicators it is also important not to try to diagnose yourself or your loved ones at home. It takes the help of a qualified health professional to make an accurate diagnosis and to start treatment.
Over 70% of people go through a traumatic event in their lifetime; 8% of these people will develop PTSD. One of the key factors in developing PTSD is a history of trauma before the triggering event, such as abuse during childhood.
One of the greatest building blocks of PTSD is the feeling of helplessness. The more helpless the person feels during the traumatic process, the more likely they are to develop PTSD. Addictions, like alcohol addiction, often forms as a way for the person to relax from their hypervigilant state, stop intrusive memories, and soothe anxiety.
Many people who have PTSD are at high risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicidal acts. While some of these suicidal actions are intentional, some come from severely decreased inhibition. The person might know that something is very dangerous but do it anyway because the symptoms of their PTSD and, often, substance use disorder cause them to not care about their own lives.
Every person is different so, depending on the nature of the traumatic event and the nature of the person, someone can spend as little as one month in therapy and move on from their PTSD without developing an addiction. For other people, it is a lifelong struggle in which they may or may not turn to substances to cope with their pain.
It is almost impossible to help someone with the co-occurring disorders of addiction and PTSD unless both conditions are treated simultaneously. Treating the PTSD alone will not cure the addiction. Both the addiction and PTSD are physically separate conditions. If someone who does not get help for their PTSD as well as their addiction disorder, they will relapse no matter how many times they go through treatment.
Because of the nature of PTSD interacting with the addiction(s) the individual going through detoxication must be in full-time care for at least several days. Medically assisted tapering is also usually required.
Medically-assisted tapering is when a person is weaned off of their addictive substance through the use of gradually smaller doses of substitute drugs like methadone. This should only be done under the supervision of medically trained staff and should never be attempted at home.
Both talk therapy and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) are used to treat PTSD. Yoga and creative activities such as painting are also shown to help patients with PTSD. It is worth noting that talk therapy and CBT are completely separate treatments. Both talk therapy and CBT are important and they can be implemented at the same time, but someone who needs CBT and talk therapy cannot rely solely on talk therapy and vice versa.
Here at DreamLife Recovery, we urge you to seek help for your PTSD as well as your addiction disorder. You cannot simply “power through it” and an addiction disorder will not heal on its own. You are worth healing. Sometimes the past does not stay in the past and we are here to help put what happened to rest.