Understanding Trauma and PTSD

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It’s very common for people to have flashbacks, nightmares or upsetting memories after undergoing a traumatic event. However, some of them are unable to make a full recovery from their experience, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

PTSD is a serious and potentially devastating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a natural disaster, serious accident, mass shooting, combat situation, sexual assault or a similarly life-threatening event.

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Trauma’s Profound Effect on the Mind

Trauma can shatter someone’s belief that the world holds any safety or certainty. Because your mind has difficulty processing shocking life events, the resulting trauma can haunt you to the point of becoming overwhelming.

If the following symptoms of trauma have begun to interfere with your everyday life and continue for at least a month, you may receive a PTSD diagnosis.

  • Avoidance: Not wanting to be around people, places or things that remind you of the traumatic occurrence
  • Reliving the event: Having flashbacks, disturbing thoughts or bad dreams
  • Anxiety and reactivity: Difficulty sleeping, a feeling of being “on edge,” angry outbursts or startling easily
  • Cognition and mood: Feelings of guilt, negative self-esteem, memory issues or loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities

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The Correlation Between PTSD and Addiction

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a link between PTSD and substance abuse disorders. As many as 66 percent of people who develop substance misuse also suffer from PTSD, and vice versa. Drugs and alcohol can become a coping mechanism, or a method of self-medication, for the symptoms of PTSD, helping survivors smooth the pain of the trauma they experienced. As the effects of the substance wear off, however, levels of stress and PTSD symptoms often become more severe. PTSD can also heighten drug withdrawal symptoms, worsening the disorder and making it more difficult to stop misusing the substance.

For people with co-occurring PTSD and addiction, it is essential to treat the two disorders simultaneously and holistically. For those with significant substance dependence, medically supervised detox is often the first step in a detailed treatment plan.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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