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People experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) have an extremely high risk of developing an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol because of their tendency to self-medicate their symptoms. Many people do not even realize they are experiencing PTSD, they just know they are having specific symptoms and attempt to drink them away or use drugs to feel better. June is National PTSD Awareness Month, offering Aspire Counseling Services the opportunity to educate people regarding PTSD, the causes, symptoms, risks of addiction, and how to find support and treatment.

Most people automatically think of military personnel when you say PTSD. While those who experience military combat have an extremely high risk of developing PTSD, it is not limited to just military people. PTSD can occur following any type of trauma. We are seeing increased incidents of medical personnel experiencing PTSD symptoms following the pandemic. Any traumatic incident can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

PTSD can be caused by exposure to a traumatic event or prolonged, repeated traumatization with no opportunity for escape. Some examples of traumatic events linked with PTSD include combat exposure, childhood abuse, sexual violence, physical assault, experiencing a threatened assault, accidents, and prolonged exposure to a stressful situation. Exposure to a traumatic event does not mean an individual will develop PTSD, in fact relatively few people do, however, it has nothing to do with weakness and can impact anyone. Over 7% of the population will experience PTSD symptoms at some point in their lives. Twice as many women (10%) are affected by PTSD than men (4%).

Regardless of the causes of PTSD, the symptoms vary greatly and can occur immediately or take months or even years after the traumatic experience to occur. One noted similarity is the PTSD symptoms typically will not resolve, or go away, on their own; however, it is treatable and there are many different treatment options offered by Aspire Counseling Services.

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Intrusive Memories
    • Recurring, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
    • Flashbacks – reliving traumatic event as if it were happening again
    • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
    • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to triggers that remind you of traumatic event
  • Avoidance
    • Attempting to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
    • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of traumatic event
  • Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood
    • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people, or the world in general
    • Hopelessness about the future
    • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
    • Feeling detached from family and friends
    • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
    • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
    • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions
    • Easily startled or frightened
    • Always on guard for danger
    • Self-destructive behavior – drinking, drugs, driving too fast, etc.
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Irritability, angry outbursts, aggressive behavior
    • Overwhelming guilt or shame

The risk of addiction with PTSD is extremely high because of the tendency to self-medicate to reduce the fear, stress, and anxiety symptoms. PTSD changes brain chemistry similar to the changes caused by substance abuse and addiction, and often these disorders form at the same time and impact each other. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, nearly three-quarters of those surviving violent or abusive trauma report alcohol use disorders. Prolonged alcohol and drug abuse will eventually rewire the brain’s neurocircuitry, causing an addiction to the drug to feel normal.

Treatment for PTSD and addiction should occur simultaneously. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help those with PTSD and addiction. Aspire Counseling Services develops personalized treatment plans for anyone suffering from PTSD and/or substance abuse or alcohol addiction. Contact Aspire Counseling Services today to get help and support and put you on the road to recovery.

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