What is Trauma Stress Addiction
Traumatic stress develops after one has experienced a traumatic event. Most people usually connect traumatic stress or PTSD with the military or terrorist attack survivors. However, the condition can also develop to the general public after events such as physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, death of a loved one, or a serious accident.
While traumatic events are the primary source of PTSD, certain factors may also affect the development and severity of the disorder. For instance, scientists believe that genetic makeup may influence the likelihood of developing trauma stress and how severe it will be. This explains why people may go through the same traumatic event, but while some will develop severe PTSD, in others, the disorder will only be mild, and they’ll get over it within a short time while another section of these people may not develop PTSD at all. Scientists believe that individuals who develop severe PTSD lack or have insufficient brain chemicals that deal with the response to fear and formation of fear memories.
Trauma Stress and Addiction: What’s the connection?
There is a solid connection between traumatic stress and addiction. According to a 2010 report by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, around 46.4% of the people who were diagnosed with PTSD were also experiencing substance use disorder. The Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well Being released international data showing that 34.4% of PTSD patients were experiencing one or more substance use disorders. As you can see, the relationship between these two is too strong to ignore.
Co-occurrence of multiple disorders is a persistent trend among PTSD patients. In most cases, the event that resulted in trauma stress will also cause issues such as anxiety and depression. This makes the symptoms even more severe.
In an attempt to cope or counter the symptoms, most PTSD victims turn to drugs with alcohol being the most preferred. Actually, over 50% of men and 28% of women who meet the criteria for both PTSD and substance use disorders have alcohol abuse problems. Others will start using prescription or street opioids and other drugs without caring about the effects.
Here is the thing though, if you are experiencing PTSD, substance abuse is not a solution. The drugs may numb the pain but by no means is it fixing your core problem. PTSD is already a serious issue as it is. It will affect your social, financial, and professional life. When you get into substance abuse, the problems will only get worse. In the end, you’ll realize that a couple of hours of “peace” after using alcohol and/or opioids are not worth the damage. What you really need is to get professional help. You need trained counselors who will tackle the problem from the source.
To know that you need help, you must first understand the condition, identify the signs and symptoms and accept that you are affected and you need help.
Types of PTSD
Normal Stress Disorder
Normal stress disorder develops after an individual has gone through a single traumatic event. This can be in the form of physical assault, death of a loved, an accident, or injury. It is characterized by emotional numbness, isolation, bad memory, and stress.
Of the various types of traumatic stress, this is the easiest to recover from. Most guys usually get back into their healthy lives within a couple of weeks or a month. However, you’ll need to speak to someone to make sure that it does not lead to poor coping mechanisms such as substance abuse.
Acute Stress Disorder
Prolonged exposure to traumatic events results in acute stress disorder. This is common among sexual assault victims who’ve been abused for a long time. It may also develop among some members of the military.
The common symptoms of acute stress disorder are paranoia, insomnia, panic attacks, confusion, dissociation, inability to maintain a single work, failure to performing self-care duties, and other responsibilities.
Complex PTSD (Disorder of Extreme Stress)
Just like Acute Stress Disorder, Complex PTSD occurs among people who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic events. An example here is children who were sexually abused for a long time since their childhood. Complex PTSD victims usually demonstrate other antisocial personality and dissociative disorders. They also show signs of mental instability, aggression, impulsivity, sexual deviance, substance use disorders, and inability to control their emotions and behaviors.
Comorbid PTSD is accompanied by another mental disorder such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. It’s a prevalent type of traumatic stress because trauma usually affects an individual in more than one way, thus resulting in several disorders.
The best approach to deal with Comorbid PTSD is to treat all the co-occurring disorders together. Priority is usually given to co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorder since it’s very dangerous.
Uncomplicated post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by extended re-experiencing of the symptoms of trauma, emotional numbing, increased arousal, and avoidance of the triggers that remind one of the traumatic events.
What are the Symptoms of Trauma Stress Addiction?
If you are wondering whether you have trauma stress or not, the following symptoms will help you find the answer. You can also use these symptoms to see whether your loved one is experiencing PTSD.
One of the major symptoms is reliving the trauma repeatedly. This is when the traumatic event plays itself in the victim’s head every now and then. It doesn’t have to be all the time, though. It could be just at night, causing sleeplessness or haunting dreams. It could also be that the individual has certain frightening triggers that remind them of the trauma e.g., any slight touch from a stranger or even a family member could be stimuli to a sexual assault victim. Re-experiencing such a stimulus can also result in sweating and spiked heart rate. This symptom can get very problematic as it bars one from living a normal and healthy life.
Avoidance is another crucial symptom that can help you identify an individual with PTSD. This is when the victim tries to avoid places, people, or items that remind them of the trauma. Other than avoiding the things that remind them of the trauma, they may also start isolating themselves from the rest of the community.
The events and things that used to be so enjoyable to them will no longer be as exciting. They may also be clouded with feelings of guilt and worry, which may ultimately lead to depression. Poor memory and difficulty sleeping are also common symptoms.
Hyperarousal symptoms are also very common. This is when individuals become very easy to startle. They always feel like they are on edge. They also develop anxiety plus they’ll feel tensed all the time. Controlling and expressing their emotions is also very difficult.
What’s The Treatment for Trauma Stress Addiction?
Trauma stress and addiction need to be treated simultaneously. This can be done through different approaches, also known as Dual Recovery Programs. By speaking to a professional, you’ll know which method will work best for your specific kind of PTSD and addiction.
In just a summary, here are some of the treatment options that you may use:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – The National Center for PSTD believes that CBT is the most effective treatment program for trauma stress. It has worked in both adults and children. The program involves working with a mental health professional who helps the patient to identify the harmful thoughts and stimuli and how to respond to them. CBT can also be combined with anxiety reduction techniques since PTSD and addiction are also accompanied by anxiety in most cases. You will also learn of various coping skills to help you practice healthy strategies for dealing with stimuli and potential breakdowns. In children, Trauma-Focused CBT can be employed to help the child learn how to cope with the traumatic memory.
COPE – This program treats trauma stress and addiction simultaneously. It involves extended exposure to the trauma that caused PTSD, psychoeducation, and relapse-prevention therapy. In essence, the treatment helps you to learn how to respond and cope with the stimuli in a healthy way that doesn’t involve using drugs.
Other than therapy, the treatments may also involve certain medication to ease the symptoms of the trauma stress and the substance use disorder. The most common drugs used include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antipsychotic meds, and mood stabilizers.
To conclude, you should know that trauma stress addiction is a widespread condition. You are not the only one facing this problem and there’s a lot you can do to get the help for you or your loved one. From the above information, I believe that you can already tell whether what you or your loved one is going through is PTSD and substance use disorder or something else. Go ahead and get in touch with trained counselors through the toll-free hotlines today for more insight. They will give you all the advice you need to get better or to support your affected family or friend. They’ll also tell you of the different treatment centers that can help you. Remember that the earlier the treatment starts, the better.