June 27th is National PTSD Awareness Day
“For anyone who wonders what it’s like to have a tragedy shatter your existence, this is what I would tell them: it’s like going through the motions of everyday life in a zombified state. It’s having outbursts of anger for what seems like no apparent reason, for even the smallest of offenses. It’s forgetting how to be your once-cheerful, perky self, and having to re-learn basic social skills…”
~ Sarahbeth Caplin, Someone You Already Know
Mark your calendar, because June 27th is National PTSD Awareness Day, officially designated by the US Senate to promote better understanding of a mental health condition affecting millions of Americans. This day is also the highlight of other efforts throughout the rest of June, which is recognized as National PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
What is PTSD?
“Today, my Administration pledges to continue fighting the stigma associated with mental health. Through enhanced research, greater access to evidence-based treatments, and continued love and support, we can improve the lives of those suffering from PTSD.”
~ President Donald Trump, for PTSD Awareness Day 2018
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a persistent negative reaction to any emotionally or physically painful experience. PTSD manifests as disturbing psychological symptoms that can disrupt normal functioning.
- Reliving the trauma through flashbacks, nightmare, or even hallucinations
- Avoiding external reminders – people, places, objects, activities, conversations, and situations – that can trigger painful associations
- Disproportionate emotional arousal: Restlessness, anxiety, irritability, anger, hatred, insomnia, or hyper-alertness
- Lingering negative emotions, such as shame, remorse, self-blame, or guilt
PTSD and Substance Abuse
“I didn’t know there were very real reasons why I felt so bad, hopeless, and afraid most of the time. What I did know was that I wasn’t normal…I loved the feeling drugs and alcohol gave me—the soft white glow of the drug-induced high became my obsession. I only felt OK when I was under the influence.”
~ Lisa M. Najavits, Recovery from Trauma, Addiction, Or Both: Strategies for Finding Your Best Self
The related illnesses of PTSD and Substance Use Disorder often occur together. In fact, more than 70% of rehab patients have a history of trauma and 60% of PTSD patients struggle with drug abuse or problematic drinking.
Why does this happen?
First, because people with PTSD trying to erase bad memories or ease emotional pain will “self-medicate” with alcohol or drugs.
Second, substance abuse means lowered inhibitions, reduced impulse control, and poor decision-making, a dangerous combination that can lead directly to new trauma.
Getting the Help You Need
“Trauma is hell on Earth. Trauma resolved is a gift from the gods.”
~ Peter A. Levine
Addiction and PTSD are serious mental health conditions that are hard enough to deal with on their own, but when they co-occur, specialized treatment is absolutely necessary for successful recovery.
If you live in Southern California, you can get that help at Lasting Recovery, the top outpatient dual diagnosis treatment program in San Diego.