PTSD Effects During Addiction Recovery Treatment

PTSD Effects During Addiction Recovery Treatment

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental disorder that affects millions of Americans daily. It develops after an individual experience a physical or psychological traumatic event. As a response to the trauma, the person will experience nightmares, flashbacks, and hallucinations based on the event they suffered. PTSD can affect anyone, at any age, and at any time. Those who develop PTSD usually do so after sexual abuse, extreme acts of violence, natural disasters, or been victims of criminal activity.

PTDS is a different condition than acute stress disorder (a.k.a. ADS). This is basically extreme stress and anxiety directly following a traumatic event. A PTSD diagnosis occurs when someone experiences the symptoms of ADS more than 30-days beyond the date of a traumatic event. Those diagnosed with ADS experience an emotional detachment to others have trouble feeling happiness. They also don’t feel comfortable in their own skin, and can even encounter temporary amnesia. 

Specific PTSD symptoms include:

Vivid and Intrusive Memories: Flashbacks, nightmares, repeated memories, and reactions to these memories that take physical form.

Changes in Perception: Emotional detachment, stressed relationships, memory blackouts, inability to experience happiness, and overall pessimism towards life.

Avoiding the Trauma: Going out of your way to avoid situations that might trigger flashbacks, or refusing to talk or open up about the traumatic event.

Emotional Lows: Constant paranoia, agitation, shame, guilt, sleeplessness, the inability to focus, and engaging in self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse or even suicide.

Individuals who live with PTSD will often avoid situations that will trigger anxiety related to the traumatic event. Many times, a person who suffers from PTSD will be dwell on past traumatic experiences, anywhere they go. So, they will likely avoid interacting with people altogether. Avoidance of this level affects the lives of those living with PTSD on a personal, social, and professional level. It is hard to have friends, communicate with family, or even go to work when a possible flashback can take a person back in time to the worst day of their life.

Understanding PTSD and Addiction

A large percentage of individuals that suffer from PTSD also struggle with addiction. Instead of seeking mental health treatment, they turn to substances for solace from the emotions they avoid. Self-medication is the largest reason for those with PTSD to develop an addiction. Eventually, drugs or alcohol no longer help with the symptoms of PTSD. The individual is subsequently left to cope with a mental health disorder and an addiction.

Understanding PTSD and Addiction Through Dual Diagnosis

When a person who suffers from PTSD reaches toward drugs or alcohol to medicate their depression, anxiety, or discomfort, there is a higher chance that person will become addicted. An addict that has additional mental health issues must undergo a dual diagnosis program for treatment. Simultaneous treatment for these disorders is important because they typically occur in tandem. Treating just the addiction will leave the mental disorder to continue affecting behaviors and treatment of just the mental disorder will allow the addiction to continue flourishing. Early identification is key to understanding and improving these conditions. Getting to the underlying causes of both PTSD and addiction will help an individual to face their problems in daily life. Understanding the causes helps to identify how to recognize and deal with both PTSD and addiction as they appear.

Treating PTSD and Addiction in Treatment

A dual diagnosis program will provide an individual struggling with both addiction and PTSD with the proper tools and skills to succeed outside of treatment. Developing strategies to manage emotions is imperative for all that wish to rid their addiction from their life and maintain their mental disorder. There will be times that addiction or mental health will be shaken on the journey of recovery. It’s important to remember the techniques and methods learned during treatment to keep on the path to sobriety. Dual diagnosis treatment for PTSD and addiction involves:

Exercise: This stress reliever works to reduce anxiety and depression by allowing endorphins to flow freely throughout the body. Endorphins are a mood enhancer that works to make an individual feel better. This can help those in recovery from addiction and PTSD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This is the most successful form of treatment for PTSD. CBT involves individual and group sessions that aim to identify the causes of addiction and anxiety.

Medication Therapy: The mixture of mental disorder compromises many times addiction treatment, so medication is necessary. PTSD medications will help to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia during treatment.

Family Focused Therapy: To work on rebuilding and recovering lost relationships due to PTSD and addiction, the family focus therapy is implemented throughout treatment. This provides a safe environment for all who love the addicted individual to tell how they feel and be educated on mental health and addiction.

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