Because June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, it is important to acknowledge the link between PTSD and other issues it can lead to. PTSD is commonly associated with war, as many returning veterans are diagnosed with the disorder, but people of all ages can have PTSD from different events. Anyone who has undergone trauma often experiences certain symptoms from the experience, even after a traumatic event or situation has ended.
The Importance of PTSD Awareness Month
The American Psychological Association (APA) and National Center for PTSD play a large role in PTSD Awareness Month by providing resources and information about the disorder. To spread more awareness about PTSD, several celebrities have also spoken out about their experiences, such as Ariana Grande, Mick Jagger and Charlize Theron.
The key signs and causes of PTSD vary, but understanding the signs and symptoms can lead to early treatment and prevent any further issues, such as substance use.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
A variety of traumatic events can lead to PTSD, and identifying the event that triggered symptoms is an important part of any effective treatment plan. This will also lead to a more thorough understanding of the trauma so future or worsening symptoms can be prevented or lessened with proper therapy or other treatment options. Some common traumatic events that may lead to PTSD include:
- Domestic abuse
- Rape or sexual assault
- Childhood neglect or abuse
- Severe injury
- Wartime events
- Natural disasters
- Witnessing a traumatic event
PTSD has a large set of symptoms — everyone suffering will experience symptoms unique to the traumatic event from which their disorder stems. However, some of the typical symptoms of PTSD include:
- Reliving the event: Even after a traumatic event is over, someone with PTSD may experience realistic night terrors or bodily reactions when they are reminded of the event. Common physical reactions can include sweating, chills and a racing heart.
- Avoiding reminders of the event: Someone suffering from PTSD may experience frequent reminders of the event, leading them to avoid certain people, places or objects associated with their trauma.
- Experiencing hyperarousal: When someone is experiencing PTSD, they are frequently still in fight-or-flight mode, meaning they are easily scared, jumpy or constantly on edge, even in situations that are not stressful.
- Changing emotionally: After a traumatic event, people will frequently experience changes in their behaviors, such as withdrawing from friends and family, experiencing fatigue and having difficulty sleeping.
Because traumatic events have a lasting impact, people with PTSD often self-medicate to cope with their symptoms. Ultimately, this type of drug and alcohol use can lead to a substance use disorder.
PTSD and Substance Use
PTSD and substance use go hand in hand because they are co-occurring disorders, which require a dual diagnosis to treat. Some of the key signs of co-occurring PTSD and a substance use disorder include:
- Developing chronic health conditions
- Attempting suicide
- Engaging in violent behavior
- Experiencing difficulty at social functions
- Engaging in self-harm
If you’re experiencing both PTSD and a substance use disorder, it’s important to seek professional help as a professional must make an accurate diagnosis of both disorders. A dual diagnosis can lead to long-term success, while a diagnosis that only treats one disorder may not be as permanent, increasing the likelihood of relapse.
Reach Out to Gateway Foundation for Treatment
At Gateway Foundation, we have provided individualized treatment plans for over 50 years. Our compassionate team of medical professionals understands how to perform a dual diagnosis of your PTSD and substance use disorder to provide evidence-based treatment tailored to your needs.
Our dual recovery program includes:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy helps a patient become aware of their PTSD symptoms and the traumatic event that caused them, which can lead to an increase in self-awareness and a reduction of symptoms and anxiety.
- Exposure therapy: This therapy can treat PTSD symptoms and a substance use disorder simultaneously, making it especially effective.