According to research by TIME Magazine, 66 percent of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also suffer from addiction. To put this in perspective, people with PTSD suffer addiction two to four times more frequently than those without PTSD.
It’s no secret why there is such a strong correlation between PTSD and addiction. Many people who suffer from PTSD struggle with addiction issues daily. Many times these people will turn to alcohol or drugs to help numb the pain that is associated with their PTSD. When someone is suffering from a mental health disorder as well as substance use disorder, it is referred to as co-occurring conditions or dual diagnosis.
PTSD recovery programs are essential for those that have not just lost the battle with their PTSD, but also lost the battle with drugs and alcohol. Let’s take a look at the need for PTSD rehab centers in North Carolina.
What is PTSD?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assault. While PTSD is mostly associated with veterans coming back from war, everyday occurrences can cause PTSD.
PTSD is most commonly associated with military veterans, but it is among the general public just not as common. Civilian PTSD is caused by trauma that happens in everyday life, such as car accidents, physical or sexual abuse, or natural disasters.
In the United States, 61 percent of men and 51 percent of women have experienced at least one traumatic event during their life. Out of those, 8.1 percent of men and 20.4 percent of women develop PTSD. Rates of PTSD are also high among American youth. Up to 15% of girls and 6% of boys experience at least one traumatic event that leads to PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experiences that last long after the traumatic event has ended.
They may even relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares. Some people do not experience symptoms of PTSD until years later. Symptoms of PTSD can affect a person’s personal relationships, work-life, and their social life. And for some PTSD completely cripples every aspect of daily living.
Someone with PTSD will arrange their life to avoid anything that may trigger a flashback or panic attack. They will avoid people and places that could trigger a memory. They will also avoid any conversations about similar events that caused their PTSD.
People who suffer from PTSD can have vivid and “real” flashbacks. All of their senses go back to that moment as if they are reliving it. Flashbacks can cause severe emotional distress and physical reactions that are uncontrollable and can have severe consequences.
Dissociation is a scary and dangerous symptom of PTSD. Someone who is suffering from dissociation feels a disconnect from their body and their surroundings. Symptoms can range from “losing touch” with what’s going on around you to having no memory of that block of time. This can be temporary or more severe cases can last for long periods of time.
People who have PTSD can react differently to “normal” stimuli. They may be easily startled or frightened, which could trigger a flashback. A person who suffers from PTSD lives their life on guard. They are always on the lookout for perceived dangers. They are prone to angry and aggressive outbursts and can be easily irritated. These symptoms lead to a life of guilt and shame because they know the toll it puts on their families. Sufferers may also live life on the edge. They may drive extremely fast or put themselves in life-threatening positions.
This is a very common symptom of PTSD and can be mild to severe. Depression can cause feelings of worthlessness, extreme sadness, and helplessness. Depression in PTSD can lead someone to abuse alcohol and drugs.
PTSD in Children
PTSD is not just something that adults suffer from exclusively. Children and teens can also suffer from PTSD and can often have extreme reactions to the trauma. The symptoms are different in children than in adults, so it is important for parents to pay close attention to their child’s behavior. One major symptom is the nightmares that involve the initial event change to nightmares about monsters and other scary situations.
PTSD symptoms in children can include:
- Wetting the bed after having learned to use the toilet
- Complains of constant stomach sickness
- Forgetting how to or being unable to talk
- Acting out the scary event during playtime
- Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult
- Trouble concentrating in school
- Emotional numbness
- Aggressive behaviors
- Reckless behaviors
Children in their teens are more likely to experience symptoms that are more similar to those that adults suffer from.
Just as the events that led someone to develop PTSD are unique and personal, so is the timeline of the disease. Some people start showing signs of PTSD within the first 48 hours, and some take weeks, months, or even years.
Role of PTSD in Addiction
Close to 60 percent of people that suffer from PTSD also suffer from an addiction. For the majority of those people, addiction is directly related to PTSD. In fact, according to the Clinical Psychology journal, people who suffer from PTSD are between two and four times more likely to also battle addiction than their peers who do not also struggle with PTSD. That’s because those that suffer from PTSD are more likely to turn to drugs and/or alcohol to self-medicate feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress.
The abuse of drugs and alcohol is common among people who suffer from PTSD. The medications, such as opioids, which are prescribed to treat PTSD, are highly addictive. Suffers of PTSD are more likely to self medicate in order to “escape” their thoughts and depression. Alcohol is the more common “go-to” substance to numb the feelings. “Binge” drinking is a huge problem among those with PTSD. Some people fall down the dark hole of drug addiction, and some become addicted to drugs and alcohol. When someone with PTSD also has a substance abuse problem, it is known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disease.
Signs of Addiction
- Change in behavior
- Weight gain or loss
- Spending changes
- Money problems
- Change in sleep patterns
- Change in friends
- Being secretive
- Anger when confronted about addiction
PTSD changes brain chemistry, producing fewer endorphins than it did before PTSD. As a result, people suffering from PTSD in North Carolina are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to increase those endorphin levels in the brain, so they feel happier again. Over time, they grow dependent on the drug and alcohol the same way people suffering from addiction do.
While drugs and alcohol may provide a short-term reprieve from PTSD symptoms, it can lead to much bigger problems in the long-run. As the drugs and alcohol wear off, the PTSD symptoms become worse, making it vital for the person suffering to continuously turn to drugs or alcohol for help.
The same goes for withdrawal symptoms. Drug withdrawal symptoms can make PTSD symptoms significantly worse, thus making it even harder to stop drug use. It’s for this reason that it is crucial that both PTSD and addiction are treated simultaneously and in an integrated fashion.
PTSD and Families
PTSD affects not only the sufferer but also their family. The family members can suffer the same symptoms after caring for someone with PTSD. The stress of “walking on eggshells” around the sufferer can trigger a survival type response and, over time, rewires the brain. Caring for a person with PTSD takes a lot of patience and time and can cause feelings of resentment and anger. It is important for not only the sufferer to seek counseling but also their family. Most treatment centers require family participation in order to completely heal the patient. With family involvement, not only is the patient benefiting, but families gain knowledge on how to help the sufferer handle situations that may pop up and be stressful.
What are the Benefits of Addiction Treatment with a PTSD Treatment Program
When you suffer both addiction and PTSD, you need a specially designed PTSD recovery program for addiction in North Carolina. Therefore, as mentioned above, both conditions must gain treatment at the same time. This treatment starts in detox and continues through rehab and into recovery. Without a trauma-informed approach in a PTSD treatment program, the PTSD fuels the addiction to relapse.
PTSD makes many addiction withdrawal symptoms worse. In fact, these symptoms sometimes last for months after substance abuse ends. For this reason, you need to go to a PTSD rehab center specializing in trauma recovery. Dual diagnosis treatment helps both conditions at once, your stress disorder, and your substance abuse.
In rehab, a variety of tools and methods treat your trauma and addiction. These methods include behavioral therapies, medications, and education. For example, your behavioral therapies take place in individual, group, and family counseling settings.
In individual therapy, you gain important behavioral therapies for PTSD treatment and recovery. These behavioral therapies include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Additionally, CBT helps you learn how to manage your stress, change your thinking, and improve your self-esteem. It also teaches you about your own personal triggers and how to overcome them and prevent relapse.
Medications help many people with PTSD live healthier lives. In addition, these medications treat anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. When you enter rehab, your therapists perform an assessment. This assessment and other tests help them determine whether you need medication for your condition.
The most important role of rehab for addiction and PTSD is to treat both conditions at the same time. Treating only one condition leaves the other unchecked, causing you to relapse in both substance abuse and mental illness.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
According to the National Center for PTSD, cognitive behavioral therapy or talk-therapy is when patients work with a mental health counselor to help them identify negative behaviors and how to handle them correctly. CBT is the most effective way to treat PTSD. CBT is also used in combination with anxiety reduction techniques and coping skill development treatment.
While every treatment center’s CBT program is unique, they all have two main components they focus on.
Exposure therapy: This type of intervention makes people face their fears in a safe and controlled environment. Exposure techniques include mental pictures, writing, and sometimes include visiting the site of the trauma. Virtual reality (virtual environment to resemble the traumatic event) is more frequently being used. No matter what is used to expose a person to the trauma, it always starts off slowly, and progression is dependent on the patient’s response.
Cognitive Restructuring: This type of intervention helps people get all the facts of the event correct and to make sense of the memories. It is not uncommon for a patient to remember some of the details of the trauma differently then it happened. This normally happens when an event was so traumatic that the brain has “forgotten” or buried it away. It is important to get all the details correct so that all aspects of the PTSD can be treated.
There are other types of PTSD interventions that are closely like CBT’s but not considered CBT.
Present Centered Therapy (PCT): is a type of non-trauma focused treatment. PCT focuses on teaching the patient how to deal with the current issues, not focused on dealing with the trauma. In this type of program, the patient will learn problem-solving skills and sealing with daily stress.
Are You Looking for Trauma and Addiction Treatment in North Carolina
Crest View Recovery Center in Asheville, North Carolina, understands your struggle with PTSD and addiction. At CVRC, you gain the addiction therapy services and treatments you need for a strong recovery from both of your conditions.
Specifically, programs at Crest View Recovery Center include:
- Rehab treatment
- Eight hours of daily treatment
- Gender-specific group therapy
- Intensive outpatient program
- Reality therapy for life skills development
- Weekend activities
- Wellness program