Post-traumatic stress disorder can be a sneaky condition. Events that are traumatic for one person may have little to no effect on another. Once you experience the crippling anxiety and fear that accompany PTSD, you may feel helpless or out of control. And you also may have no idea that your symptoms are connected to a trauma that happened several months or years ago. It is important to understand how PTSD develops, how it can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), and what you can do to overcome it.
At Confidant Health, we understand that trauma can be life-changing in the worst way. Self-medicating with alcohol can sometimes feel like the only way to numb your symptoms. But it doesn't have to be that way. Our medication-assisted treatment for alcohol use can help you heal from AUD and PTSD together. You'll receive one-on-one help from a recovery coach and a customized treatment plan consisting of medication and therapy. To learn more about our virtual dual diagnosis treatment for alcohol use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, schedule an online assessment today.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a condition in which a person undergoes significant psychological distress after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or series of events. Some examples of traumatic events that can lead to PTSD are:
- Serious accidents
- Childhood abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Loss of a loved one
- Sexual or physical assault
Trauma is fairly common, with 60% of men and 50% of women going through at least one traumatic experience at some point in their lives. Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops post-traumatic stress disorder afterward. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 6% of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder during their lifetime. And according to the United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS), as many as one in three people will develop this condition after a severely traumatic event.
Symptoms of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder often takes time to develop after you have been involved in or witnessed a traumatic event. For most people, symptoms start to crop up approximately three months after the event. However, even if you haven't experienced PTSD symptoms by the three-month mark, that does not mean the event will not lead to PTSD down the road.
Some people don't start to notice signs of PTSD until years after a traumatic event, but by then, they don't often put the two together. This can make it more challenging to get a correct diagnosis and treatment. If you have experienced trauma, be mindful of the following symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
You may avoid people, places, or things that remind you of the event.
You might find it hard to stop thinking about what happened. The event may even infiltrate your dreams or cause nightmares.
You might live in a constant state of anxiety and fearfulness, worrying that you are unsafe or that the event or something similar could happen again. It can be difficult to relax or let your guard down, and you may be easily startled.
You may find yourself in a persistent low mood and unable to feel positive or hopeful for the future. Activities you once enjoyed may no longer interest you. You might even start to have a negative view of your life and the world as a whole.
It can be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Your mind may keep bringing up the traumatic event, so you cannot relax enough to drift off. Or, you may be awakened by nightmares and struggle to fall back asleep.
What Triggers PTSD?
Many people experience or witness traumatic events without developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Although two people can experience the same event together, one may develop PTSD while the other moves on without any issues. Why is this?
There are certain factors that can make a person more likely to develop PTSD. Some potential triggers for PTSD include:
- Childhood trauma
- Excessive stress after a traumatic event
- Existing mental health disorders like anxiety or depression
- Family history of mental health disorders
- Lack of emotional support after a traumatic event
And some people are more likely to experience specific types of traumatic events. For example, men have a higher chance of:
- Physical assault
- Witnessing death or injuries
On the other hand, women may be more susceptible to experiencing trauma related to:
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
Some triggers are already present prior to a traumatic event, so you can help prevent PTSD by seeking proper treatment for your mental health. You can also reduce the chances of developing PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event by talking with a therapist and reaching out to loved ones for support.