Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition in which you experience a frightening, dangerous, or harmful event and continue to experience the trauma for months or years. We typically associate PTSD with combat veterans, who often endure horrific experiences during wartime. However, PTSD is actually more common among civilians. It may be caused by an accident, a physical or sexual assault, a burglary, a natural disaster, or the unexpected death of a loved one. PTSD can adversely affect your life in many ways, including making you more vulnerable to addiction. More than half of people with PTSD will develop a substance use disorder. To be diagnosed with PTSD, you must have all of the following kinds of symptoms for at least a month.
At least one re-experiencing symptom
These include flashbacks, such as reliving the experience, which may cause racing heart and sweating. These may be triggered by some reminder of the trauma or you may have them for no apparent reason. Other re-experiencing symptoms include nightmares and frightening thoughts. These symptoms can be disturbing and can disrupt your regular life.
At least one avoidance symptom
This means avoiding things that remind you of the trauma. For example, if you were the victim of an armed robbery, you may be afraid to leave the house alone. You may have to make significant changes to your daily routine to avoid reminders of the trauma. Even more dangerous is when you try to avoid thoughts or feelings related to the trauma. These thoughts and feelings are best processed in a safe environment, such as therapy. Avoiding them or repressing them often makes symptoms worse. And using alcohol or drugs to escape unpleasant thoughts and feelings often leads to addiction.
At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
While re-experiencing and avoidance symptoms come and go, arousal and reactivity symptoms are relatively constant. This is because your sympathetic nervous system is always on high alert. Symptoms include feeling easily startled, feeling tense or irritable, having trouble sleeping, or having angry outbursts. These put a lot of stress on relationships, since you are likely to be irritable and short-tempered. Also, having poor sleep or too little sleep is likely to make these symptoms worse.
At least two cognition and mood symptoms
These are cognitive or mood symptoms that aren’t related to injury or drug use. They may include being unable to remember important features of the trauma, negative thoughts about yourself or the world, excessive feelings of guilt, or losing interest in things you used to enjoy. It’s normal to have some of these symptoms right after a traumatic event, but if they don’t go away after a few weeks, you may have PTSD. If you think you have PTSD, ask for help. It is usually treated with individual or group therapy and sometimes with medication too.
If you’re struggling with substance use, Recovery Ways can help. We offer intensive outpatient treatment as well as residential treatment. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.