As the saying goes, “time heals all things,” but in some cases, the side effects of these traumas can persist leading to long term mental suffering also called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Being party to an earth-shattering event or a string of deeply stressful events, can live with us far beyond the event itself. The scars that are left behind is what is known as psychological trauma.
PTSD can occur due to a wide variety of circumstances such as, being in combat, living through a natural disaster, situations of sexual abuse or domestic violence.
Other times, it can occur after hearing details of a deeply disturbing event such as murder or torture. This is especially true if this occurs to somebody that the person is close to.
When a person has PTSD, they relive their trauma through nightmares and intrusive thoughts. They may also self-isolate and become distrustful of others and the world at large. PTSD can also lead to feelings of low self-worth, anger, anxiety and depression.1
Symptoms And Effects of PTSD
- Involuntary reliving a traumatic memory (also called flashbacks) along with physical symptoms such as increased heart rate or perspiration.2
- Disturbing dreams or nightmares.
- Intrusive thoughts that come without warning.
- Avoiding regular situations and places that are connected to a traumatic memory or experience.2
- Changes in mood and behavior such as hopelessness; feelings of low self-worth, emotionally numbness, blaming oneself (others) for events out of the realm of control and anger, and guilt over past actions.1
- Being constantly on edge or at a heightened state of alert making it difficult to relax around others or have healthy sustained sleep.1
- PTSD Is More Common Than You May Think
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 8 million American adults struggle with PTSD.3 Women are also more likely than men to have PTSD and by race, PTSD disproportionately effects Latin, African American, and Native populations.1,4
- There Is More Than One Type of PTSD
Not everyone who suffers from PTSD does so in the same way. Understanding the type of post-traumatic stress disorder of the patient, allows practitioners to develop more effective treatment plans. Here some examples of the different types of PTSD:
Acute Stress Disorder
Like PTSD, acute stress disorder arises in response to experiencing a traumatic event or being in proximity to someone who has. Unlike PTSD, acute stress disorder generally lasts less than a month after the traumatic event occurs.5
Acute stress disorder is generally treated with a variety of psychotherapies. If left unchecked acute stress disorder can escalate into PTSD.5
Uncomplicated PSTD is the most common form. It usually arises from a single traumatic event and has symptoms that are less prevalent than complicated PTSD.
This type of PTSD arises from repeated exposure to traumatic events. Those with complicated PTSD experience flashbacks more often and are more likely have negative opinions about themselves.6
The presence of PTSD with at least one other comorbid psychiatric disorder. These may include anxiety disorders, depression, and addiction.
- PTSD Therapy Has 3 Main Goals7
- Treat symptoms by bringing them to a manageable level.
- Give patients the skills to effectively manage their trauma.
- Help the person restore their sense of self-worth and improve their outlook on life.
- You Will Learn to Face Your Trauma Head On
In exposure therapy, people with PTSD learn to process their trauma through confrontation. One of the most effective methods for this is exposure.
Different types of exposure used in PTSD treatment include imaginal exposure or discussing, and working through the traumatic events in a therapeutic setting or in vivo exposure. Vivo exposure involves confronting triggering situation either out in the world or by simulating it, when it is considered safe and beneficial to do so.8
- You May Be Prescribed Medication
While medication may not be necessary for everyone, when used alongside psychotherapy it can greatly benefit treatment.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRI’s] and selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors [SNRI’s] have shown to be the most effective medications at treating PTSD symptoms.9
- Therapies For PTSD Are Evidence Based
Suffering with PTSD can be overwhelming and even feel even hopeless at times. Fortunately, there are several therapeutic methods deemed to be effective at treating PTSD.
In a joint study with the Veterans Health Administration, the Department of Defense (VA/DoD) and the American Psychological Association [APA], Cognitive Processing Therapy [CPT], Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT] and Prolonged Exposure Therapy [PE] were determined to be the most effective treatments for PTSD.10
- Learning To Manage Triggers is Key
Those with PTSD often deal with sudden emotional shifts. These experiences can be brought on by the most subtle of triggers.
Unfortunately, this also means those with PSTD can become distrustful and even fearful of people, places and situations that can trigger unwanted memories.
To help patients regain a sense of security, PTSD therapy trains them to identify triggering experiences and develop coping strategies to deal with them.
- One On One Treatment Will Help You Change Your Mind
Centered around trauma are the thought patterns that keep people with PTSD stuck in negative emotions. Continually living with trauma, they can develop distorted thoughts.
“The outside world as a dangerous place”, “It was my fault that this happened to me” and “I don’t deserve to get better”. These are all harmful thought patterns which can be reframed by working individually with a therapist.
- Group Therapy Can Also Be Beneficial
Group therapy for treating PTSD goes back to World War 2 and was used to help soldiers coming back from the from lines.
Today, group therapy has been shown to treat a variety of traumas including sexual abuse in childhood, trauma stemming from war, refugee displacement, and sexual violence.11
- The PTSD Therapy Timeline
While no two cases are the same, studies indicate 15-20 sessions can provide recovery for 50 percent of patients.12 In cases of comorbid disorders such as addiction, however, longer treatment (a year or more) may be necessary.12
Conclusion – Treating PTSD And Addiction
Today we discussed how PTSD works and discussed the symptoms and differences between the different types of the disorder. We also covered the purpose and goals of therapy and how it can help patients to manage their triggers and gain control of their thinking. We also briefly covered the effectiveness of PTSD therapy and timeline for treatment.
One significant speedbump for the treatment of PTSD is co-occurring illnesses, most notably substance use disorder. According to one study, nearly half of individuals with lifetime PTSD also have substance use disorder.13 For these individuals, it is imperative that they find an addiction treatment program that will help them treat their addiction, while also providing them with therapeutic options to treat their PTSD.
Get Help with Addiction Today
Are you or a loved one struggle with substance abuse? At All American Detox Center, we specialize in helping you through the earliest stages of recovery. For more information about how our programs call us today at (844) 570 -1301.
What is posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Psychiatry.org – What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Post-traumatic stress disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
PTSD Facts & Treatment: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. PTSD Facts & Treatment | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/treatment-facts
Julia, N. (2022, August 9). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) statistics: 2022 update. CFAH. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://cfah.org/ptsd-statistics/
Moore, M. (2021, May 24). Types of PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/ptsd/types-of-ptsd#acute-stress-disorder
YouTube. (2021, June 22). 6 hidden signs of Complex PTSD (CPTSD) | medcircle. YouTube. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44hqDT7NNHU
Durning, M. V. (2020, December 15). Treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Healthgrades. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/mental-health-and-behavior/treatment-options-for-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
Zoellner, L. A., Feeny, N. C., Bittinger, J. N., Bedard-Gilligan, M. A., Slagle, D. M., Post, L. M., & Chen, J. A. (2011). Teaching Trauma-Focused Exposure Therapy for PTSD: Critical Clinical Lessons for Novice Exposure Therapists. Psychological trauma : theory, research, practice and policy, 3(3), 300–308. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024642
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Medications for PTSD. American Psychological Association. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/medications
Watkins, L. E., Sprang, K. R., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2018). Treating PTSD: A Review of Evidence-Based Psychotherapy Interventions. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 12, 258. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00258
Trauma/PTSD. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.agpa.org/home/practice-resources/evidence-based-practice-in-group-psychotherapy/trauma-ptsd
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). How long will it take for treatment to work? American Psychological Association. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/length-treatment
Treatment of Co-Occurring PTSD and Substance Use Disorder in VA. (2017, May 15). Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/cooccurring/tx_sud_va.asp