What Is PTSD?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in certain individuals who experience a traumatic event which may involve a threat of harm, danger or death. PTSD sometimes occurs when a person witnesses an accident, natural disaster or other type of violence. Soldiers, for example, who experience combat sometimes develop PTSD.
Other instances that might trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include living in a combat area, experiencing physical or domestic abuse or rape, or surviving a life-threatening injury, illness or natural disaster. Any event that causes fright, helplessness or terror can trigger PTSD.
The resulting stress after such an event is an anxiety disorder. Symtoms of PTSD include sleep problems, nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks or feelings of guilt, detachment or paranoia. Flashbacks are troubling, realistic memories of the tramatic event. The results of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can impair a person's ability to function on a daily basis.
Some victims of PTSD may experience extreme anxiety that the traumatic event is recurring. Others may be unable to talk about the traumatic event or feel unable to express feelings or emotions with those unrelated to the tragedy. Another symptom is extreme tension, which can cause anger or irritability. Other symptoms include having an unexplainable fear, becoming easily startled or experiencing difficulty with concentration.
Although the actual cause of PTSD is not determined, doctors believe that chemicals released during the tragic event alter the function of the brain in some form.
Because not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD, experts have determined that the disorder is more likely to occur in in certain types of people. Those who are likely to develop PTSD might have additional mental health conditions, either personally or in their family, or experienced serious disturbances during childhood. Females, alcohol users, those who are under stress, or those who do not have a strong support group are more likely to develop PTSD.
Someone who experiences PTSD symptoms for over one month should seek help from a mental health professional or medical doctor. Interviews and questionnaires administered by a professional can help diagnose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Counseling and drug therapy are effective forms of treatment. Relaxation therapy is also helpful to some PTSD sufferers.
Organizations that provide additional information on PTSD include the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, National Alliance for Mental Illness, National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, National Institutes of Mental Health and PTSD Alliance.
PTSD and ADDICTION
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is typically thought of as a condition that affects soldiers returning from combat situationss, but it can actually affect nearly anyone, at any age, who has suffered through a traumatic event. PTSD and addiction do share a likely connection, as one may be more likely to increase the risk of the other. It is important to note, however, that not everyone who suffers from PTSD will develop an addiction.
Addiction can occur in many forms, including drugs and alcohol, gambling, shopping, and risky sexual behaviors. Addictions can also be physical, in which the body craves the substance, or psychological, in which the imagined reward is mental. The connection between PTSD and addiction usually involves use or alcohol or narcotics, ecspecially opiates and other narcotic pain relievers, although gambling problems are also prevelant in this group.
Narcotic pain relievers are one of the most common elements of PTSD and addiction, especially in military members returning from combat or those who have suffered a serious physical injury during their trauma. These types of pain relievers are extremely addictive by nature, and when used for too long, it can be difficult for patients to stop taking them. While perscription pain relievers are beneficial in the beginning to help an injured patient get past the physical pain, eventually they may become a crutch to help alleviate emotional suffering. In some cases, when prescription pain relievers are no longer available, sufferers may move on the illegal street durgs, such as heroin.
Alcohol is another major substance connected to PTSD and addiction, affecting as many as 75 percent of sufferers. It is especially common in women who have gone through a traumatic experience, such as sexual abuse or assault. Drinking to the point of intoxication can actually worsen the symptoms of PTSD, as alcohol is a strong depressant. It also lowers inhibitions, which may increase the risk of the user becoming violent or engaging in other risky behaviors.
Treating patients with both PTSD and addiction can be challenging, because both problems need to be addressed at the same time. Patients may need to enter a rehab facility to overcome the physical part of their addiction, but the psychological issues of both PTSD and addiction can take years to overcome. Some may need to learn alternate ways of coping with stress while also getting to the root cause of the disorder. Talk therapy with a qualified psychologist or therapist is often recommended.