Understanding PTSD and Trauma

Trauma Therapy at Beachway Therapy Center

Despite post-traumatic stress disorder’s high prevalence in America, it remains one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses in the country. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that roughly 7.7 million Americans suffer from PTSD, and the number could be even greater when undiagnosed case numbers are factored in.

Significant numbers of people also suffer from trauma, which can occur from one single shocking or emotionally significant event or after a series of traumatic events. Like PTSD, trauma can lead to depression or anxiety, substance abuse disorders, and other debilitating behaviors. Individuals suffering from PTSD and trauma are often at the highest risk to develop alcohol or substance abuse problems because of the overwhelming need to medicate and make the unpleasant symptoms go away.

PTSD and trauma are unpredictable disorders because the symptoms and behavior are often different in each individual case. Because of this, it’s important to seek specialized care from qualified professionals who have experience helping those with the disorder

 Is Trauma the Same as PTSD?

Trauma is distinct from PTSD and can impact individuals in ways that are completely unrelated to PTSD. PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop from traumatic events. Trauma can stem from various traumatic events, both singular and recurring, intentional and unintentional. They include: 

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Grief and loss:

Some experience trauma via grief and loss after the death of a friend, parent, child, or other family member, and they might cycle into deep depression or feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. 

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Abuse: 

Trauma can result from sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse. Clients who were victims of bullying or dealt with verbal abuse or negative circumstances at home as a child might be suffering from unresolved trauma. Other examples of abuse include abandonment, neglect, sexual assault or harassment, or other sexual trauma.

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Life circumstances:

Betrayal, adultery, divorce, and even termination from employment can be traumatic and create long-lasting effects that might also trigger substance abuse or addiction. Other examples include personal illness, illness of a loved one, surviving a natural disaster, military experiences, witness to violence, and vehicular accidents. 

Because individuals process harmful experiences in different ways, there is no single “type” of trauma that is worse or more damaging. Each client’s traumatic experience is treated with great care, targeted therapy, clinical support and a holistic approach.

Watch for the Symptoms of PTSD and Trauma

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Although PTSD is a common mental illness, the general public is still left in the dark with a lot of the facts about it. Many do not realize that two types of PTSD exist. Chronic PTSD occurs over a long period of time with ongoing symptoms while acute PTSD symptoms occur in a shorter term. It’s common for those suffering PTSD and trauma to feel like no one understands what they are going through, leading to them withdrawing from loved ones.The symptoms of PTSD and trauma vary from person to person, ranging from flashbacks to memory loss. Here is a list of some of the most common PTSD and trauma symptoms:

  • Uncomfortable flashbacks
  • Nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Avoiding triggering locations, events or objects
  • Amnesia or loss of memory surrounding the traumatic event
  • Easily startled or frightened
  • Emotionally numb
  • Loss of interest in once-enjoyed hobbies or activities
  • Tension
  • Experiencing seemingly random bouts of rage or outbursts

Who can Develop PTSD?

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that women are more likely to experience PTSD than men because women are at a greater risk of rape or sexual assault – a common triggering experience that causes PTSD.

While any person could experience a traumatic event that causes PTSD, certain people are at a greater risk of experiencing the symptoms.  Other people who are at a greater risk of developing PTSD include the following:

  • Veterans who have served in the military.
  • People who have experienced homelessness.
  • First responders; paramedics, police officers, and firefighters.
  • Doctors and nurses.
  • Survivors of natural disasters or other major catastrophes.
  • Survivors of major illnesses or medical procedures.
  • Individuals reeling from the unexpected and sudden death of a loved one.

Why are PTSD and Trauma Connected to Substance Abuse?

For people who have endured numerous traumatic episodes, there is a 90% chance they will form an addiction as a coping mechanism to try and dissolve their pain. Drugs or alcohol can become a crutch for people who are suffering. Those suffering with trauma and PTSD often do not come forward for treatment and end up self-medicating with substances to dull the intense and uncomfortable feelings associated with the disorder. For example, those struggling with PTSD who have trouble sleeping may become addicted to sleep aids in order to get a restful nights sleep.

As with using drugs or alcohol to fix any personal issues, it is not a viable solution, and the substance ends up worsening the PTSD symptoms. In most cases, alcohol addiction with PTSD leads to intense feelings of depression, anger, and isolation. At this point, individuals may turn to harder drugs or more intense binges to get the same results, which leads to a serious addiction issue that requires alcohol or drug treatment programs.

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CALL: 877-415-7452

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Identifying substance abuse in yourself or a loved one often requires an objective look at your various habits and opinions. Just like PTSD, the symptoms of addiction and substance abuse vary in each individual; however, there are several warning signs that you should look for:

  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities.
  • Failing to meet work or family commitments.
  • Gaining or losing weight.
  • Feeling the need to drink or use drugs to be accepted, liked, or loved.
  • Hiding habits and being secretive.
  • Engaging in risky behavior such as driving under the influence.
  • Losing contact with family and friends, increasingly isolated.
  • Legal difficulties.
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Treating the Root Cause: Trauma Therapy to Stop Addiction

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Often, drug and alcohol treatment does not include trauma focused therapy—but there is a direct correlation between individuals with substance abuse conditions and those who have suffered trauma of any kind. Individuals who have experienced any level of trauma that is not addressed during drug and alcohol treatment have a greater chance of relapse. At Beachway, we take a holistic approach by implementing proven, trauma-informed care to help clients process experiences that trigger vulnerabilities to substances.

Trauma-informed therapy gives individuals the tools to understand why their addiction or mental health condition is holding power over them. With this “why,” clients who have suffered from trauma are better prepared to engage in therapies that dig deep and address those experiences in a productive, effective way that supports drug and alcohol recovery.

Our Holistic Approach

We offer a well-rounded program with a variety of services. Trauma therapy utilizes experiential therapies to encourage clients to fully participate and engage in the treatment process. Therapies can include: inner-child work, psychodrama, process therapy, talk therapy and meditation. Individuals participating in trauma-informed care can expect to meet with a group throughout the week. Also, they work on individual assignments that promote self-discovery and empowerment. The deeper a client goes to address the root cause, the more successful the healing from trauma and substance abuse.

Often, when an individual digs deep during experiential therapies, he or she might relive those traumas, or feel a sense of shame, guilt, sadness or anger. Clients often need help processing their emotions, memories and traumas effectively. This is expected. Beachway is fully prepared for these natural, healthy responses to therapy. We offer the clinical and therapeutic support to ensure success.

We believe that an educational component is necessary to help heal from trauma. This educational, or factual, phase of the program helps identify areas of trauma, such as:

  • What is the trauma?
  • How does it manifest?
  • What are the effects?

We also incorporate a process component, typically a six week program which begins after stabilization. In this phase of the program, patients meet twice a week as a group and participate in multiple one-on-one sessions with their therapist.

Our holistic approach focuses on healing the mind, body, and soul of the client through personalized treatment and aftercare plans. It is often the most effective way to treat dual diagnosis patients. In addition to these groups we also provide holistic therapies including:

We also believe in giving our patients the opportunity to regain control of their health through physical activity. The holistic approach helps yield permanent results and helps them prepare for a sober and healthy future.

In addition to introducing clients to personalized treatment plans, we also offer personalized aftercare options. Aftercare acts as a transition period where clients can get a head start on life out of rehab. Some key aftercare features include placement in a sober living environment, access to group therapy, help finding a job or post-secondary school, and more. We also recommend a trauma therapist for them to continue working with. 

Learn more about trauma and recovery, and how trauma-informed care can unlock a suffering individual’s potential to embrace drug and alcohol treatment, and succeed in long-term recovery. Call Beachway today at 877-415-7452

CALL: 877-415-7452

Other Ways to Help with PTSD and Addiction

Living with PTSD has many challenges. As a chronic illness, there is no definite cure for the disease. It will get better with time and with specific management tools and coping methods. Those suffering from PTSD should be reminded that there is no overnight fix for the disorder, and they should expect to see gradual results as they continue to work on their recovery.

Some of the best ways that PTSD sufferers can help their treatment include the following:

  • Set reasonable goals that are challenging yet attainable.
  • Give yourself credit when credit is due.
  • Talk to your friends and family about your experiences and triggers so they can help you avoid them.
  • Engage in active hobbies that will help relieve stress.
  • Actively seek out opportunities or events that make you feel safe and comfortable.
CALL: 877-415-7452

*Content written for Beachway Therapy Center by Will Schlifer, LCSW, CAP

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Living with PTSD and substance abuse is not the life you deserve. Get the help you need today by calling the experts at Beachway Therapy Center. Our dual diagnosis specialists can help you identify the cause of your disease and help you reach a resolution.

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