What is Trauma?
Psychological trauma often occurs in people who experienced significant damage to their psyche due to living through a stressful situation. This could have happened at any point in the person’s life and exceeded their coping abilities. Many victims of trauma cannot work through it on their own and can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is one of the most emotionally debilitating disorders and is caused by psychological trauma. It causes intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anxiety that interferes with everyday life. The National Center for PTSD says between seven and eight out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their life, and women are more likely to develop PTSD. To be diagnosed with PTSD an adult possesses all of the following for at least one month.
At least one avoidance symptom
Avoiding objects, thoughts, events, feelings or places the remind them of the trauma. This avoidance can cause the person to change their typical routine.
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
Easily frightened, insomnia, anger outbursts, and/or feeling tense or “on edge.” They are usually constant and make it difficult for the victim to concentrate, eat, or sleep.
At least two cognition and mood symptoms
Loss of interest in enjoyable activities, trouble remembering key points of the traumatic event, distorted feelings like blame or guilt, or negative thoughts about themselves or others. These may make the victim feel alienated from family and friends. These do not have to do with any injury or substance abuse.
Common Causes of Trauma (PTSD)
There are many situations that can cause psychological trauma for people and it can happen to anyone. Those who experience childhood trauma are more likely to suffer from PTSD, depression, future trauma, and substance abuse. Ultimately, how trauma is dealt with depends on the individual but if guided by a professional they often are able to work through it.
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Any verbal, mental, emotional, or physical abuse by family members, friends, coworkers, or strangers. This also includes witnessing abuse, threats, blackmail, sexual assault, harassment, and rape.
public humiliation, avoidance, unjust, or prejudicial treatment based on age, race, gender, or creed.
Living without basic needed resources.
Surviving/involved in a catastrophic natural disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane, mudslide, tornado, tsunami, or wildfire.
Death/Near Death Experience
Losing a loved one especially if sudden and unexpected. Being involved or seeing a traumatic event like a car accident, shooting, murder, or torture.
Can be caused by a painful pregnancy or childbirth, miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth, complications with an unhealthy baby, or emergency surgeries such as a c-section that weren’t consented to.
Participation in Military Combat
Deployment and involvement in combat. War veterans have brought the public’s attention to PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs PTSD affects almost 31% of Vietnam vets, as many as ten percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) vets, 11% of vets in the war in Afghanistan, and 20% of Iraqi war vets. Many of these men and women have seen their friends killed, been shot at themselves, seen death up close in combat, or been prisoners of war.
Symptoms of Trauma
There are various signs of trauma and each individual handle trauma differently. However, there are some common emotional and physical symptoms of trauma that you may notice. Trauma can affect the individual days, months, or even years after the event.
- Feel sad or hopeless
- Feel anxiety or fear
- Feel guilty or angry
- Denial, shock, and grief
- Withdrawal from others
- Fatigue, insomnia, or nightmares
- Easily frightened
- Muscle tension, aches, and pains
Trauma and Addiction
Those who experience trauma and alcohol, or drug abuse have co-occurring disorders. It is common for those who have been through psychological trauma to abuse drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Depending on the substance the user feels numb, empowered, or calm that they believe they cannot feel without the substance. They feel as though they need the drug to maintain some control in their lives. When substances are abused to manage PTSD symptoms, the symptoms only become more intense. Those addicts who also have PTSD may engage in more risky behavior that puts them and others in danger.
Effective Trauma Therapy and Treatment
Trauma treatment requires special care and expertise. It can be difficult to identify and diagnose, particularly if the trauma occurred in the past or if an individual has difficulty talking about their experiences. Many people (consciously or subconsciously) bury or compartmentalize their trauma in order to live day-to-day without thinking about it, but this makes trauma treatment and therapy challenging. There are, however, targeted types of psychotherapy that are effective for trauma treatment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a cutting-edge psychotherapy that utilizes specific eye movements led by a therapist to help patients “reprogram” their traumatic memories. During this type of trauma therapy, patients recall their traumatic experience while performing guided eye exercises, which helps the brain eliminate the painful elements of the memory that trigger trauma responses.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a method of talk therapy that focuses on helping individuals change behavior patterns through strengthened mental control. This type of trauma therapy helps patients avoid anxiety or panic attacks in the face of triggers and helps eliminate problematic behaviors that arise as coping mechanisms for trauma, such as substance abuse or self-harm.
In exposure therapy, trauma patients face their fears and triggers in a safe environment. This may include imagining the event, viewing photos or videos similar to the event or role-playing. Over time, the patient changes the way their brain reacts to these stimuli so that they no longer trigger fear responses and learns that they can be safe in the outside world even if something reminds them of their trauma.
Pharmacotherapy involves the use of medications to help control the effects of trauma. Trauma often leads to accompanying mental health concerns like anxiety, depression and substance abuse; medication has been used successfully to treat all of these concerns. Managing the symptoms of trauma through medication can make it easier for the patient to work through the underlying trauma in therapy while living a stable life.
Treating Trauma and Substance Abuse
With the holistic treatment offered at Recovery Ways and our qualified staff, working through both will be easier and make lifelong sobriety more obtainable. As part of the psychological treatment at Recovery Ways, an integrated approach is used to teach patients that there is life outside the confines of drug addiction. Each patient is encouraged to be involved in social and spiritual activities that foster awareness of the world around them. By learning to cope with life, our patients are better able to manage their emotions and mood swings. With these under control, it’s easier to form a better outlook on life which, in turn, helps recovering addicts resist the urge to relapse.
Trauma is most commonly treated with a combination of medication and therapy. As with all co-occurring disorders, trauma symptoms may be amplified when an addict begins the withdrawal process. If not properly treated, these patients can represent a serious threat to their own safety and the safety of others. The clinical staff at Recovery Ways is fully trained to support trauma clients and the specific challenges their disorder presents.
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As a client in our residential treatment program becomes clean of drugs and alcohol, the experienced medical staff at Recovery Ways assists in working through the trauma the patient has experienced. Guided by masters-level therapists, our clients then learn to recognize psychological triggers, effectively express emotions, and work through their trauma. With our Occupational Therapy Life Skills Program and our Sensory Integration, we help trauma patients understand, work through, and know how to handle their trauma outside of our facilities.
Utah Trauma and Addiction Treatment Centers
Recovery Ways, accredited by the Joint Commission, offers treatment excellence to those suffering from substance use and mental health disorders. If you or your loved one is struggling with co-occurring PTSD and addiction, please call us today for help finding a dual diagnosis program. Talk to our admissions team by calling 1-888-986-7848 and get help today.