Causes of PTSD
PTSD often occurs in men and women serving in military units, especially if they’re involved in active combat. Troops may witness multiple traumatic events over several weeks or months, increasing the risk for PTSD substantially. For example, someone who witnesses the death of a fellow soldier may have trouble coping with their trauma, leading to flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms.
Although PTSD is common among service members, military service isn’t the only risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder. Sexual assault, mass shootings, natural disasters and serious automobile accidents are all examples of traumatic events that can increase the risk for PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder can even develop in someone who has a serious illness requiring admission to a hospital.
Risk Factors for PTSD
Anyone can develop PTSD, but some people have an increased risk based on their personal histories. These risk factors include:
- A family history of mental disorders, including depression and anxiety
- Exposure to intense trauma
- Early childhood trauma
- Problems with substance use
- Military service
- Experience working as a paramedic or member of a fire brigade
- Lack of support from loved ones
The main symptoms of PTSD are grouped into three categories: hyperarousal, avoidance and emotional numbing, and re-experiencing. Hyperarousal is characterised by a heightened state of awareness when it comes to potential threats. People with hyperarousal symptoms often experience anxiety and have difficulty relaxing due to their psychological trauma. Over time, hyperarousal may lead to insomnia, angry outbursts and increased irritability.
Avoidance and emotional numbing are ways people with a PTSD diagnosis can avoid remembering their trauma. It’s common for an individual with PTSD to avoid people, places and things that remind them of what happened. For example, if someone experienced a sexual assault at a local pub, they may stay as far away from the pub as possible. People with PTSD may also throw themselves into their work as a way to avoid dealing with their feelings about the trauma.
Re-experiencing is when someone with PTSD relives the trauma. Flashbacks are common, as are nightmares and uncomfortable physical sensations. Some people blame themselves for the event or think about what they could have done to change the outcome.
The Link Between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction
It’s quite common for people with post-traumatic stress disorder to develop addictions to drugs or alcohol. This happens when the symptoms of PTSD become so overwhelming that it seems like the only solution is to engage in substance use. Drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs can help some people with PTSD block out their traumatic memories or put a stop to their flashbacks and nightmares. As a result, some people with PTSD go on to develop serious substance use disorders.
In some cases, a person who struggles with drug abuse or alcoholism may develop co-occurring PTSD due to trauma that occurs when they’re under the influence. For example, someone who sustains a serious injury after drinking may develop PTSD months or even years after the accident. Because substance use disorders increase impulsivity, some people also develop PTSD after engaging in unusual behaviour while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Treatment Options for PTSD and Substance Abuse
A substance abuse disorder can have lasting physical and emotional consequences for someone who also has PTSD. Therefore, it’s important for both conditions to be treated together. People who complete treatment for substance use disorder without addressing their trauma tend to have poorer treatment outcomes, making comprehensive substance abuse treatment a must. For best results, a treatment Program should be customised to meet an individual’s unique needs.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the most common forms of addiction treatment; it’s also used to help people with PTSD. This therapeutic approach is based on the theory that many problems occur due to negative thought patterns or distorted thinking. During a CBT session, a person with substance use disorder works with a therapist to change their thought patterns and improve their coping skills.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy
Prolonged exposure therapy is a type of CBT that helps people face their trauma. This type of therapy helps with the avoidance symptoms of PTSD by encouraging patients to confront their fears, which can make traumatic memories less intimidating for PTSD sufferers. During a therapy session, the patient describes the traumatic event in detail and discusses the emotions they experience as they think about what happened. A therapist may also assign “homework” that involves confronting trauma outside the therapeutic environment. For example, a therapist may encourage someone with PTSD to visit the site of a traumatic automobile accident.
Seeking Addiction Treatment
If you have PTSD and some type of addiction, it’s important to treat both conditions at the same time. Addressing your trauma can reduce your desire to consume alcohol or use drugs, and addressing your addiction can give you the push you need to confront your fears. Clinic Les Alpes is licensed by the Swiss Health Department, giving patients extra peace of mind when they check in for treatment. The clinic is staffed by experienced professionals who understand how substance use and PTSD symptoms can affect every aspect of a person’s life, giving them the insight needed to develop a customised treatment Program for each patient.
Take the first step towards your recovery by calling (877) 630-4284 to learn more about our luxury treatment center tucked away in the Swiss Alps.