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Mental Health Treatment California

PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is caused by a past traumatic event, either due to severe abuse or violence, or a natural disaster whose effects are significantly distressing such that they interrupt an individual’s ability to function effectively in their daily activities, or when certain stressors are triggered.

Trauma and Substance use

Studies show that traumatic experiences during childhood or adolescence may lead to substance use and addictive behaviors later in life. When a traumatic event occurs, it triggers an increase in endorphins initially, and then a severe withdrawal of endorphins. Individuals who are affected by trauma disorders turn to using substances to compensate for the withdrawal of endorphins each time they experience trauma stressors or triggered by flashbacks. Depending on substances to cope with trauma eventually leads to addiction.

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

Some Common Causes of Trauma

  • Childhood neglect, abandonment
  • Physical violence
  • Sexual abuse
  • Accidents
  • Witnessing a death
  • Life threats, or life threatening events
  • Natural disasters such as fire, earthquakes, flooding, tornados

Symptoms of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD vary between individuals depending on the severity of the trauma and the person’s response to it. Below are groups of symptoms commonly experienced by PTSD patients. To be diagnosed as PTSD, an individual must experience symptoms from one or more of the groups.

Re-experiencing/Intrusive Symptoms

This group of symptoms include persistent thoughts and re-experiencing past traumatic events, flashbacks and nightmares, leading to severe psychological distress when reminded of the trauma.

Avoidance Symptoms

Intentional efforts to avoid remembering or thinking about past traumatic events, or people, places and things related to the event.

Negative Mood and Cognition Symptoms

This group of symptoms include misremembering or difficulty remembering the traumatic event, social withdrawal, experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, anger, fear and horror.

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

This set of symptoms include hypervigilance, sleep problems, difficulty holding attention, quick to react with anger, irritability and self-destructive behaviors.

Treatment of PTSD and Addiction

Research indicates that more than 40% of addiction patients are also trauma disorder patients. There is an unmistakable link between trauma and substance use, and hence dual diagnosis and treatment is necessary to address both.

Due to the sensitive nature of most traumatic events, individual therapy including behavioral therapies (CBT, DBT, EMDR) and psychotherapy have been found to be most effective in treating co-occurring disorders such as trauma disorder and substance abuse disorder. Prescription medications such as antidepressants may be recommended in some cases. Holistic practices such as yoga, meditation, as well as balanced diet and exercises go a long way toward enhancing an individual’s wellbeing.

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