Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that sometimes develops following a traumatic experience. It is characterized by a number of symptoms including re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares; emotional numbness; avoiding people, places, and things associated with the trauma; difficulty concentrating; and increased arousal, which is often characterized by insomnia, irritability, and being easily startled. About four percent of men will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. Not only is PTSD disruptive in itself but it also massively increases your risk of developing a substance use disorder. Studies show that about half of people seeking help for a substance use disorder also have symptoms of PTSD. PTSD can also complicate addiction recovery, leading to more intense cravings and shorter periods of sobriety. Many people have been touched by PTSD in some way but despite this, many misconceptions persist, including the following.
“PTSD mainly affects combat veterans.”
It’s true that combat veterans suffer from PTSD at a higher rate than civilians, but relatively few Americans ever serve in the military and even fewer ever see combat. PTSD is usually caused by more familiar kinds of trauma, such as childhood abuse, sexual assault, armed robbery, the unexpected death of a loved one, a serious car accident, or a natural disaster.
“PTSD is a sign of weakness.”
A relatively small percentage of people who experience a significant trauma develop PTSD. Someone who has experienced a significant trauma and didn’t develop PTSD might have little sympathy for someone who did, perhaps thinking that person was weak. However, like other mental health issues, PTSD stems from complex causes, which are mostly beyond the control of the person who develops the condition. One study of Vietnam War veterans found four main factors that influenced whether someone developed PTSD: severity of the trauma, history of mental illness such as depression or childhood abuse prior to combat, whether they were involved in harming civilians, and age at the time of combat.
“PTSD happens right after a trauma.”
Another common myth about PTSD is that it happens immediately after the trauma. Actually, it’s normal to experience some symptoms for a few weeks following a trauma. If you’ve been in a serious car accident, for example, it’s normal to feel anxious in the car or have intrusive memories of the accident but these typically diminish over time. You may suddenly start experiencing symptoms of PTSD months or years following a trauma.
PTSD is a serious disorder that disrupts your life and increases your risk of addiction. If you have a substance use disorder and PTSD, it’s crucial to address them both in an integrated way to give yourself the best chance at a full recovery. At Tree House Recovery of Portland, Oregon, we treat the whole person through an integrated program that emphasizes mental and physical recovery. Call us today at (503) 850-2474 to learn more.