June is an important month regarding mental illness; this is a time to play an essential role in the effort to encourage people to seek assistance for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At Synergy Group Services, we treat a significant number of people each year who meet the criteria for both addiction and PTSD. More than half of individuals living with an alcohol or substance use disorder also struggle with the symptoms of co-occurring mental illnesses; PTSD is one the more common “dual diagnosis” that people contend with each year.
The primary sponsor of PTSD Awareness Month is the National Center for PTSD, a division of the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Makes sense, right? After all, the condition we speak of effects a good many service men and women. In fact, researchers estimate that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. More recently, about 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year; and, about 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) have PTSD in a given year.
The division, which leads the nation in trauma and PTSD research, is right to point out that the disorder can affect anyone who has experienced trauma. About 6 of every ten men (or 60%) and 5 of every ten women (or 50%) experience at least one traumatic event in their lives.
PTSD: A Common Condition Requiring Treatment
Raising awareness about post-traumatic stress and available treatments is vital. Those unable or unwilling to seek help are at terrible risk of experiencing myriad problems. One of the reasons people with PTSD often struggle with addiction is due to the common practice of self-medication: the act of drinking alcohol or taking drugs (illicit or nonmedical pharmaceuticals) to cope with the symptoms of the disease. The Division recognizes four primary symptoms, including:
- Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms): Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place.
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event: You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
- Negative changes in beliefs and feelings: The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma.
- Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal): You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable, i.e., hyperarousal.
If any of the above symptoms occur right after the trauma, it is normal. However, you should seek assistance if any of the above markers present for longer than three months, cause you great distress, or disrupt your work or home life. The following statistics focus on Veterans, but the trend holds true for citizens who struggle with PTSD; more than 2 of 10 Veterans with PTSD also have SUD and almost 1 out of every 3 Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD. 1 in 10 OEF and OIF soldiers seen at the VA have alcohol or substance use problems.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
It doesn’t matter if addiction manifests before PTSD, or the other way around, simultaneous treatment is critical for lasting recovery. If you are struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder, and PTSD, Synergy Group Services can assist you in your recovery. Please contact Synergy today to learn more about our programs.
The field of addiction medicine falls under the umbrella of mental health. Both alcohol and substance use disorders have a home In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). At this point, to call addiction something other than a mental health disorder would be erroneous. Substance use disorders have a debilitating effect on people’s lives in the same ways as anxiety, depression, bipolar and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
With that in mind, it is always worth reiterating how common it is in our field to treat patients who do not only have problems with drugs and alcohol, they also have a co-occurring mental illness. What is often referred to as a dual diagnosis. While it’s important to acknowledge the occurrence of two or more disorders affecting one person, it is even more salient to treat the various disorders at the same time. Treating one, while neglecting the other, is typically a recipe for relapse.
In many cases, the symptoms of conditions like depression or PTSD lead people down an ineluctable path to addiction. Coping with untreated mental illness is trying, to be sure; and drugs and alcohol can keep some of one’s symptoms at bay—for a time. However, continued substance use for self-medication, actually makes the symptoms worse. What’s more, over time dependence develops and an alcohol or substance use disorder. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it is more prevalent than you’d might think.
At Synergy Group Services our goal is always to address both the addiction and any other form of mental illness that may be present. In many cases, clients don’t even know they meet the criteria for such disorders, which is why screening is of the utmost importance early on in treatment. For those who do know that have a mental health disorder, and are self-medicating the symptoms, it is vital that we all do our part to encourage them to seek help before the matter becomes even more dire.
PTSD Awareness Month
The paradox about mental illness is the fact that people living with it need help more than anything, yet they resist treatment for several reasons. One of the greatest obstacles to seeking help that they face is the stigma that hovers over brain diseases. Seeking help acknowledges that one has a problem, and fearing what other people will think or say can be debilitating. It is paramount that everyone working in the field, those who’ve sought treatment and are in recovery and the general public do what they can to show compassion. Making people feel comfortable when talking about their symptoms will give them the motivation to seek help.
Every June is PTSD Awareness Month, a time to encourage people to get a better understanding of the condition, including the symptoms and treatments which have proven to be effective. By doing so, more people will be inclined to reach out for help. And not just veterans, everyone who has been touched by serious trauma.
“Greater understanding and awareness of PTSD will help Veterans and others recognize symptoms, and seek and obtain needed care.” – Dr. Paula P. Schnurr, Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD.
Please take a moment to watch a short PSA:
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Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment
Our dual diagnosis treatment facility is fully equipped to help you or a loved one begin the process of recovery from both addiction and co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Please reach out for help today. Those who have successfully completed our program have had great outcomes, going on to live fulfilling productive lives in recovery.