Art therapy working wonders in PTSD treatment

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be challenging to treat because simply discussing the original traumatic event is such a horrific experience for the trauma victim.  Because direct analytical approaches to therapy can be too overwhelming for some with PTSD, alternative methods are extremely helpful.

Traumatic experiences are stored in the brain in such a visceral way that words are often inadequate to describe them accurately.  Imagery can safely access memories of traumatic experiences, as well as helping trauma victims work on understanding their triggers and changing their reactions to them.

Art therapy, used as a means of exploring the self, can help trauma victims work through what has happened to them in a way that does not trigger panic in the brain because it is abstract.  The practice of art-making can be extremely therapeutic in and of itself, allowing the mind to relax as it focuses in on hand-eye coordination.  Art therapy groups can act as a safe space where PTSD victims find a sense of calm and comfort – a feeling that can be rare for those dealing with trauma.

Art therapy’s success as a supplement to tradition PTSD treatment bodes well for other alternative therapies.  The brain is incredibly complex – why confine treatment to conventional therapy?

What is dual-diagnosis?

Dual-diagnosis is a term used to denote individuals who suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism as well as another mental disorder (often bipolar disorder, PTSD, or eating disorders).

Considering the fact that addicts tend to be people who use and drink to self-medicate for pre-existing problems, it’s not surprising to learn that dual-diagnosis is incredibly common.

The question is: which came first, the chicken or the egg? In one case, an individual may clearly begin drinking as a means of coping with symptoms of a psychological disorder. In another, a long-term drug user may develop a psychological disorder as a result of substance-related mental imbalance.

The answer is: It doesn’t really matter, both disorders must be addressed in treatment in order for an individual to recover.

If an addicted individual attempts to work on deep psychological issues without getting sober, she will not succeed, because she will be incapable of accessing important memories and emotions that are numbed by drugs and alcohol.

If a person with a psychological disorder attempts to get sober without dealing with their mental condition, they will find sobriety miserable, causing them to return to drinking and using.

Each person will discover the true root of their problems in time, as they progress in their personal journey through recovery.  The important thing is to get into treatment, and begin the process of working through both substance abuse patterns and mental health issues.  Nothing will improve until both of these areas are addressed.

Equine therapy for treating PTSD

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a condition that is inherently difficult to treat.  Traditional methods of treating PTSD rely mostly on cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which patients work one-on-one with a therapist to assess situations that trigger traumatic re-experiences, and then intervene by retraining the mind to associate these triggers with new ideas, generally ones that are calming and self-empowering.

CBT is very successful for patients that are capable of delving right into their memories of trauma, but for many, talking about traumatic experiences is difficult or impossible, as these memories may be repressed.  In these cases, experimental or alternative therapies are wonderful tools.

For most women who suffer from PTSD, trauma centers around some type of violation by another person.  For this reason, PTSD can bring with it a profound distrust of other people.  Equine therapy, in which patients work with a therapeutically trained horse, engaging in communicative exercises, gets around this by encouraging the patient to relate to a non-human being.  The experiences the patient has with the therapeutic animal can be eye-opening, mirroring situations or dynamics that the patient has experienced with humans.

The uninhibited nature of these inter-species interactions allows a freedom seldom experienced by trauma victims, who tend to be constantly vigilant in their dealings with people.  Once patients let their guards down, emotions and memories that they have been unconsciously holding back may come forward, allowing for therapeutic progress.

Trauma-induced changes in genes could cause post-traumatic stress disorde

Traumatic experiences “biologically embed” themselves in select genes, subsequently alter their functions and lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a study has revealed.

Conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the study is the first large scale investigation to search for trauma-induced changes in the genes of people with PTSD.

“Our findings suggest a new biological model of PTSD in which alteration of genes, induced by a traumatic event, changes a person’s stress response and leads to the disorder,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, principal investigator of the study.

“Identification of the biologic underpinnings of PTSD will be crucial for developing appropriate psychological and/or pharmacological interventions, particularly in the wake of an increasing number of military veterans returning home following recent wars worldwide,” he added.

Previous studies have found that lifetime experiences may alter the activity of specific genes by changing their methylation patterns.

Methylated genes are generally inactive, while unmethylated genes are generally active.

In the new study, DNA samples were obtained from participants in the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS), a longitudinal epidemiologic study investigating PTSD and other mental disorders in the city of Detroit.

The researchers analyzed the methylation patterns of over 14,000 genes from blood samples taken from 100 Detroit residents, 23 of whom suffer from PTSD.

The analysis found that participants with PTSD had six to seven times more unmethylated genes than unaffected participants, and most of the unmethylated genes were involved in the immune system.

The observed methylation changes in the immune system genes were reflected in the PTSD participants’ immune systems levels of antibodies to a herpes virus were high in PTSD patients, indicative of a compromised immune system.

While people who experience severe trauma will exhibit a normal stress response, in PTSD, the stress response system becomes deregulated and chronically overactive causing compromised immune functioning.

PTSD has long been linked to increased risk of numerous physical health problems – including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The study suggests why PTSD is so strongly associated with physical health problems – trauma exposure causes epigenetic changes in immune system genes and thus, compromised immune functioning putting individuals at risk for a host of disorders.

“Our findings show that PTSD may be associated with epigenetic changes in immune-system genes. If this is the case, these clusters could provide clues to our understanding of how a traumatic event changes gene expression, thus altering immune function and resulting in other possible physiologic alterations,” said Galea.

The findings are published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

PTSD and Drug Addiction

Simultaneous PTSD and drug addiction is a substantial problem among women. PTSD and drug addiction, according to an emerging body of research, have been documented to have a very strong association with one another. In many cases, substance use begins after the exposure to trauma and the development of PTSD, thus making PTSD a glaring risk factor for drug abuse.

It is critical to intervene in order to help women who have suffered trauma, as it has been shown that women who witness or are exposed to a traumatic event and are clinically diagnosed with PTSD have a greater likelihood for developing drug and alcohol use disorders. Of individuals with PTSD and drug addiction, many meet the criteria for comorbid PTSD, meaning the PTSD has been diagnosed alongside another psychiatric disorder. Patients with substance abuse disorders tend to suffer from more severe PTSD symptoms than do PTSD patients without substance use disorders.

There are gender-specific risk factors, including but not limited to experiences of interpersonal trauma and violence, which underscore the need for tailored interventions for women in addiction treatment programs. An extremely high number of women that have sought treatment for PTSD and drug addiction have reported lifetime histories of sexual or physical assault, or both.
Helping Those Who Suffer from PTSD and Drug Addiction

Just as many factors were likely involved when a person begins to use drugs or alcohol, there are also mitigating circumstances that surround the recovery phase. A good addiction treatment center will know this and will appropriately incorporate those factors and their effects on both initial addiction and addiction recovery into its programs.

Two major factors that affect the addiction and recovery phases when it comes to treating PTSD and drug addiction are relapse and co-dependency. These factors more then likely played a role in the addiction process, and therefore they must be addressed in order to set up successful recovery from PTSD and drug addiction.

  • Relapse: When a relapse occurs, the person who is addicted to drugs could be reluctant to get back into an addiction recovery program. Some might even feel, mistakenly, that the treatment center that was used the first time may not be accepting of them again. This is not true of Safe Harbor Treatment Center for women. At Safe Harbor, we understand that relapse can and does happen and has always welcomed those who have relapsed to start the recovery process all over again at the same center they formerly used.
  • Co-dependency: Co-dependency can be and often is a huge factor in the addiction cycle. Because co-dependency often comes from the fact that the co-dependent person desires to feel needed, this can act as a barrier in the process of recovering from PTSD and drug addiction. A good addiction treatment center must address the matter of co-dependency with both individual and group therapy – which are both integrated into Safe Harbor’s Capella Treatment Center for women. Capella is designed to provide intensive recovery from the woman who is suffering from the grips of PTSD and drug addiction.

In order to be helpful to those who suffer from PTSD and drug addiction, those who are working with the person must be understanding of the fact that PTSD frequently co-occurs with depression, anxiety disorders, and alcohol or other substance abuse issues. People who experience the symptoms of PTSD must have support from physicians and health care providers. The likelihood of treatment success increases when these concurrent disorders are appropriately identified and treated in a safe and nurturing environment.

Studies show that successful detoxification of individuals trying to cope with PTSD and drug addiction will likely require inpatient admission to permit vigorous control of withdrawal and PTSD-related arousal symptoms. Studies also show that those who suffer from PTSD can improve with EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, or exposure therapy, in which the individual gradually and repeatedly relives the frightening experience under controlled conditions to help him or her work through the trauma.

Exposure therapy is thought to be one of the most effective ways to manage PTSD when conducted by a trained therapist. For example, recent studies have suggested that individuals with PTSD and comorbid cocaine addiction can be successfully treated with exposure therapy.

All of these methods and more are integrated into the program at Safe Harbor’s Capella Treatment Center for women whose lives have been affected by PTSD and drug addiction. What you will find at Safe Harbor is a place to heal and recover, and deal with the issues that have prevented both of those things from happening before.

Symptoms of PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects men and women all over the world. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur after traumatic events and it often prevents people from living happy and fulfilling lives.

It has been documented that women are much more likely to display PTSD symptoms and suffer from the disorder. Of those women exposed to a traumatic event, 20 percent will exhibit PTSD symptoms and 30 percent of those women will develop chronic PTSD.

PTSD symptoms are abundant and can often be confused with other mental ailments. It is important to not hide the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or deny them in any way, for doing so can interfere with a person’s diagnosis.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD was first recorded as Da Costa’s syndrome during the American Civil War and is often associated with military service. But it doesn’t only affect war veterans – it also affects civilian men, women, and children who have experienced particularly traumatic events.

PTSD occurs after a distressing event, like war, terrorism, torture, natural disasters, accidents, violence, or rape. Usually the disorder begins within three months of this experience, although the disorder can take years to appear in some cases. Common PTSD symptoms include extreme fear, depression and anxiety.

PTSD is caused by a traumatic event but there are also other things that can lead to a person being affected by PTSD. For example, the sufferer may have been predisposed to development of the disorder before their trauma occurred. Men and women with a history of drug or alcohol abuse, experiences of childhood physical abuse or neglect, or who have previously experienced sexual abuse, unwanted sexual contact, or rape are more likely to develop PTSD. It appears that these experiences can change the chemical balance of your brain, altering a person’s perceptions of fear and anxiety.

Some PTSD Symptoms

There are three categories of symptoms associated with the disorder: intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms.

1. Intrusion (re-experiencing the traumatic event): Intrusion symptoms arrive suddenly and occur when memories of the past event invade the life of a person who is suffering from PTSD. The most common intrusion symptom is the flashback. Flashbacks are vivid memories that can be triggered by sights, smells, or sounds, and cause you to relive the traumatic experience over and over again. These flashbacks can seem very real and are often detailed and filled with emotion. Another intrusion symptom is the nightmare, which can occur unexpectedly, causing extreme anxiety and fear.

2. Avoidance (emotional numbing): Avoidance symptoms describe a sufferer’s unconscious attempts to prevent remembering anything to do with the traumatic event. These signs of PTSD often interfere with family relationships, marriages, and careers. A person may avoid being with family and friends in order to hide their illness and they may also experience an overall feeling of numbness. The trauma survivor may alternate between feelings of intense emotion and simply no emotion at all. Consciously and unconsciously they will avoid reminders of the traumatic event or events in order to escape flashbacks. Depression is also as avoidance symptom.

3. Hyperarousal (increased arousal): Hyperarousal symptoms are the result of stimulated nerves and hormones. The PTSD sufferer may experience severe insomnia, trouble remembering the entire traumatic event, and difficulty concentrating. They may also experience irritability or explosions of emotion for no apparent reason and more frequent startling responses.

In addition to intrusion, avoidance and hyperarousal, PTSD symptoms can include physical symptoms. Not uncommon are headaches, stomach problems, dizziness, and chest pain, along with nausea, diarrhea, skin problems, rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure.

Different Types of PTSD

There are four types of PTSD and all of them involved the same PTSD symptoms. The only difference is the length of time by which a person’s PTSD symptoms have become observable.

The four different types of PTSD are:

1. Acute Stress Disorder: Acute stress disorder is diagnosed when symptoms occur within four weeks of the traumatic event and last for more than 2 days, but less than 4 weeks.

2. Acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Acute PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last for more than four weeks.

3. Delayed Onset Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: This form of PTSD may not appear until years after the initial traumatic experience.

4. Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: This form of PTSD is diagnosed when symptoms last for more than 90 days. A person will likely experience lapses in PTSD symptoms for a number of days or weeks in a row, but your PTSD symptoms will always return.

If not dealt with properly and effectively, PTSD can cause major problems in a person’s life. It’s common that PTSD can cause other psychiatric problems including major depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and agoraphobia. PTSD also often leads to substance abuse problems, including alcohol and drug abuse.

The good news is that there are effective treatments for PTSD at Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women. At Safe Harbor’s Capella, we specialize in comprehensive treatment for women struggling with trauma and addiction. Capella is dedicated to providing women with a safe, loving, and affordable environment in which to heal the mind, body and spirit. Too often, women start on the path of recovery, but stop due to unresolved trauma. Capella will provide a holistic integrative program for emotional trauma to support women through the healing process around these issues.

Treatment of PTSD

Treatment of PTSD is imperative for the person who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Fortunately, there are currently many successful ways of treating PTSD. Psychological treatments, including both cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic treatments, have been found to be successful in helping people manage and reduce their PTSD symptoms.

There is a great need for treatment of PTSD as a diagnosis of PTSD can have a major impact on a person’s life. PTSD can negatively affect your mood, work, school, and relationships with family and friends. Fortunately, a number of different treatments for PTSD have been found to be effective in helping a person recover from the diagnosis.

A number of different treatments for PTSD are available that can help people successfully cope with the negative and widespread effects of this diagnosis, including individual or group therapy. Treatment of PTSD may be psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral in nature. It may also differ on the number of treatment sessions required. Regardless, there are many ways of effectively targeting the symptoms of PTSD.

For the psychological treatment of PTSD, these are just some of the following types of PTSD treatment that have been proven effective: cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. There are several more types of therapy available at Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, but this article will spotlight CBT and ACT.

COGNITIVE-BEHAVIORAL THERAPY

When it comes to the treatment of PTSD, cognitive-behavioral therapy is an approach based on the idea that psychological problems arise as a result of the way in which a person interprets or evaluates situations, thoughts, and feelings, as well as our behaviors.

The goal of CBT is to help people learn healthier ways of coping with distressing thoughts, as well as reducing avoidance or other problematic behaviors, such as drug and alcohol abuse. The idea is that if someone can change how they evaluate their environment or thoughts and feelings, anxiety and avoidance may be reduced, improving a person’s mood and overall quality of life.

A number of techniques are used in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Some common techniques are self-monitoring, cognitive restructuring and behavioral experiments.

In self-monitoring the therapist may first have the patient track (or monitor) their thoughts. The patient writes down thoughts they have in response to certain situations, especially those that bring about anxiety or another upsetting feeling. This helps the patient become more aware of how they evaluate their experience and the consequences of these evaluations, such as anxiety.

Once these evaluations are identified, the therapist may then help the patient gather evidence for and against these evaluations. This process is called cognitive restructuring. Through cognitive restructuring, the person may realize that their evaluations or interpretations of situations are not entirely accurate. They may also realize that, although thoughts often feel true, they are rarely based on fact.

Finally, the therapist will often ask the patient to take part in behavioral experiments. This involves having the patient test these new ways of looking at the world by going into situations where he or she may contact something that was once feared. By encountering something that was once feared and not experiencing any negative outcomes, the person will have even more evidence that their previous thoughts were not so accurate.

ACCEPTANCE AND COMMITMENT THERAPY

From an early age, we learn to label some experiences as bad and others as good. For example, sadness and anxiety are viewed as bad or negative emotions, and happiness and joy are good or positive emotions. It is understandable then that we try to limit painful experiences and maximize positive experiences. In particular, when we experience some kind of emotional pain, we tend to want to try and get away from it. However, in the long run, this avoidance may not be that effective.

Avoidance is not effective because emotional pain is a part of life. We cannot really avoid it. At some point everyone experiences uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, such as sadness, anxiety, or anger. How we choose to respond to that emotional pain can determine whether we are able to get through that pain or whether we prolong and intensify it.

In fact, it is thought that trying to avoid or escape our inner experiences may be what leads to suffering and psychological disorders. For example, a person who has experienced a traumatic event may be constantly flooded by memories of that event, as well as anxiety and fear. As a result, the person may try to get some temporary relief through drugs or alcohol. This may work in the short term, but the alcohol or drugs will do nothing in the long run to alleviate that pain. In fact, it will likely cause the pain to become worse, as well as introduce a whole host of other problems.

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) is a behavioral treatment that is based in the idea that suffering comes not from the experience of emotional pain, but from our attempted avoidance of that pain. It is used in the treatment of PTSD and other mental health disorders. Its overarching goal is to help people be open to and willing to have their inner experiences while focusing attention not on trying to escape or avoid pain (because this is impossible to do) but instead, on living a meaningful life.

A CALL TO ACTION

PTSD rarely occurs alone. PTSD has been found to be co-occurring with a number of other mental health disorders, including depression, substance abuse disorders, anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, eating disorders and borderline personality disorder. Therefore, when it comes to treatment of PTSD, mental health professionals often take into account not only the symptoms of PTSD that a person might be experiencing, but other difficulties as well.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, these issues and others, such as sex and love addiction, are addressed based on the client’s needs. Safe Harbor is a loving community of women that grow together in sobriety. If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the grips of PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, or any of the aforementioned mental health disorders, call us today at 877-660-7623. We are here to help.

PTSD in Women

PTSD in women, usually caused by abuse, is a life-impeding mental condition. Women who suffer from PTSD live their lives in constant fear of reliving their most horrific memories, an experience that happens regularly and can be triggered by almost anything. PTSD in women is persistent and will not subside until it is properly treated. Treatment for PTSD is a long-term process, and does not yield immediate results.  It may also involve a great deal of emotional work on the part of the patient. However, entering treatment is the only strategy proven effective as a cure for PTSD in women.

WHAT EXACTLY IS PTSD?

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental condition that arises in many individuals after exposure to or involvement in profoundly disturbing situations. These situations, which can be referred to as traumatic events, can be dramatically diverse. One woman may develop PTSD after an incident of sexual or domestic abuse. Another may experience PTSD as the result of long-term neglect as a child. Still others may struggle with the disorder after surviving a natural disaster or near-death experience.  Because trauma is an internal phenomenon, it is not dictated by the actuality of an experience, but by the individual’s reaction it.  For this reason, two people may develop equally severe cases of PTSD as the result of experiences, which seem from the outside to differ significantly in degree of trauma. Similarly, two people who survive the same traumatic experience may have different psychological reactions, one of them developing PSTD while the other continues to live normally.

PTSD in women manifests by way of persistent flashbacks to past traumatic events. These flashbacks can be triggered by any sensory input that resembles the environment where the original event occurred.  Essentially, this means that a woman with PTSD must be constantly vigilant of her surroundings, else she be suddenly transported back to the most terrible experiences of her life. Because this prospect is so threatening, PTSD in women can also cause reclusiveness and social anxiety. Many women attempt to keep flashbacks in check by simply remaining at home, where surroundings are controlled and predictable.  No person should have to live this way.

The other extreme symptom of PTSD in women is dissociation. Dissociation, a disconnecting of the mind from any emotional register of a person’s surroundings, functions as a protective barrier against stimuli that might trigger a flashback. The mind dissociates as a means of self-preservation, but it does not have the capacity to predict the problems this coping technique can cause in the long run. While PTSD sufferers who have a tendency to dissociate are able to leave their homes without risking unexpected flashbacks, they face the serious risk of completely losing the ability to access emotions and memories that are stored within their own minds.

TREATING PTSD IN WOMEN

When treating PTSD in women, dissociative patterns are a huge barrier that must be overcome before any real progress can be made. Gradually and carefully, the emotions and memories that these women have buried for so long must be excavated. This process is inevitably painful, and can traumatize a person further if executed poorly. Because trauma is essentially a violation, trauma treatment must proceed in a manner that does not compromise the patient’s sense of safety. Though some parts of PTSD treatment will be emotionally uncomfortable for those who have grown accustomed to lack of emotion, it is extremely important that this discomfort is limited by a slow and steady treatment progression. If a patient is forced into emotional or mental territory where they do not feel secure, they will once more shut down emotionally, nullifying any progress that has been made up to that point.

METHODOLOGY IN TREATING PTSD IN WOMEN

There are several methods of treating PTSD in women that have proven success, especially when applied in conjunction with one another. The standard model for PTSD treatment is the cognitive-behavioral model.  In this type of therapy, a trauma victim works one-on-one with a psychologist to inventory and assess traumatic experiences and their affects on the patient’s ability to function in the present. Once this thorough assessment is complete, the therapist begins to provide coping techniques that the patient can implement when she is exposed to stimuli that have the potential to trigger a flashback. Through breathing patterns, self-affirmation mantras, distraction techniques and other tools, the patient begins to rewire her own brain in such a way that flashback-triggering stimuli lose their power.

The cognitive-behavioral model of PTSD treatment is proven to work, but many trauma victims come into treatment in such a state of collapse that they are completely unprepared to begin the first segment of the process, which involves extensive communication about traumatic experiences. For these patients, alternative therapies like art therapy, experiential therapy and equine therapy are incredibly productive.  These practices allow patients to explore the memories and emotions surrounding past trauma in an indirect fashion. Because trauma is a profoundly visceral experience, memories of trauma often fail to fit cleanly into a verbal description.  Expression through alternative means can help patients come to terms with their history of trauma, preparing them for the next step in recovery.

Other types of therapeutic practice that have proven successful as components of a PTSD treatment program are hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).  These two practices utilize distinct methods to access trauma in the subconscious mind, and aim to reprogram the brain so that stimuli, which once induced panic, will instead trigger rational and calming thoughts.

LIFE BEYOND PTSD

Trauma victims who develop PTSD are in no way culpable for the the events that led to their mental disease, however they are the only ones who have the power to change it.  Unlike physical illnesses, PTSD can only be treated by means of the patient’s willingness to engage in an emotionally and mentally painful process.  In order to experience life beyond PTSD, a patient must have the courage to first endure the vulnerable period that constitutes the first phase of recovery.  Any woman suffering from PTSD will know that the prospect of freedom from past trauma is more than worth the journey.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, these issues and others, such as sex and love addiction, are addressed based on the client’s needs. Safe Harbor is a loving community of women that grow together in sobriety. If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the grips of PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, or any of the aforementioned mental health disorders, call us today at 877-660-7623. We are here to help.

Drug Abuse and PTSD

Drug abuse and PTSD, both life-altering afflictions, compound the seriousness of each other’s symptoms when they affect a person simultaneously.

WHAT IS PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a condition characterized by the residual effects of emotionally and mentally scarring experiences.  After surviving a traumatic event, some individuals will suffer from perpetual re-experiences of the event, such that their lives are significantly disrupted.  These individuals suffer from PTSD.

WHAT IS A TRAUMATIC EVENT?

A traumatic event can be anything that is emotionally or mentally scarring to an individual,  Often, these events center around physical violence, and are constituted by sexual or physical assault.  Trauma can also result from persistent verbal or emotional abuse (including neglect).  Essentially, a traumatic event is one in which an individual feels fundamentally violated.  This violation may be physical, or it may be a violation of a person’s sense of security or understanding of the world.

When PTSD was initially discovered and analyzed as a legitimate condition, it was in the context of war veterans.  For these men, trauma was a combination of physical violence and the emotional and mental shock of witnessing (and causing) so many deaths.  Quite often, modern-day instances of PTSD follow the same model.  There is a physical aspect of the traumatic experience, but the psychological impact of the event compounds the violation, rendering the victim emotionally crippled.

PTSD SYMPTOMS

The most notable symptom of PTSD is the re-experiencing of traumatic events, commonly referred to as “flashbacks.”  Any circumstance that bears resemblance in any way to the circumstance of the original trauma has the potential to trigger such a flashback.  This means that sounds, smells, physical sensations, emotions and situations that recall memories of past trauma are all threats to a person who suffers from PTSD.  Because these threats come in so many forms and are constantly present, those with PTSD live in constant vigilance.  They do not find safety even in sleep, when these flashbacks persist in the form of nightmares.

The other common symptom of PTSD is dissociation, which takes place as the mind’s means of self-preservation.  When trauma is so great that it compromises a person’s ability to function, the mind protects itself by “numbing out.”  Distancing oneself from reality makes life as a trauma victim easier in the moment, but is counterproductive in the long run.  The more an individual has practiced dissociating, the harder it will be to work through core issues once the recovery process begins.  As time passes, these deep traumatic memories become buried deeper and deeper within the subconscious, so much so that psychotherapy may be the only way to access them.

DRUG ABUSE AND PTSD

In the same vein as dissociation, substance abuse is a common coping mechanism for trauma victims.  Drug abuse and PTSD often go hand in hand because intoxication does act in the short term as a means of protecting oneself from traumatic emotions and memories that reside within the mind. Unfortunately, as with dissociation, drug use only compounds a trauma victim’s long-term problems.

In addition to worsening the already sizable psychological burdens of PTSD, drug abuse creates its own set of problems.  Psychological conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and schizophrenia can develop as a result of drug abuse, and PTSD patients are ill-equipped to deal with these additional afflictions.  Drug abuse and PTSD, when combined, make emotionally and psychologically wounded individuals even weaker.  For individuals who suffer from both of these conditions, treatment is of the utmost importance.

DUAL DIAGNOSIS TREATMENT: OVERCOMING DRUG ABUSE AND PTSD

For individuals who struggle with drug abuse and PTSD, recovery from either of these conditions is contingent upon effectively treating the other.  If a person attempts to recover from PTSD but refuses to discontinue using drugs and alcohol, these substances will act as a barrier that prevents the trauma victim from accessing and processing emotions and memories that must be addressed in order for healing to take place.  If a person attempts to quit using drugs and alcohol but refuses to address issues surrounding past trauma which drove her to drink and use in the beginning, she will be stuck in the perpetual fear and misery of unresolved trauma, which will prevent her from maintaining long-term sobriety.

SAFE HARBOR TREATMENT CENTER FOR WOMEN

For women looking for help with drug abuse and PTSD, a gender-specific treatment facility is the ideal setting for recovery.  Because the feeling of violation is the defining feature of traumatic events, the locale of treatment must exude the opposite feeling – safety.  A large percentage of the traumatic experiences that cause PTSD in women center around physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a male.  Especially considering this fact, it is imperative that PTSD treatment take place in a single-sex setting.  Women must feel comfortable and secure before they can undertake the intense emotional and mental task of working through past trauma.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center, women have the opportunity to recover from drug abuse and PTSD alongside an intimate group of females who have come to do the same.  Safe Harbor’s multilateral treatment program is comprised of structural therapeutic groups, individual counseling, 12-step work, life skills development and uplifting social activities.  Groups like experiential therapy, art therapy and hypnotherapy help PTSD patients unearth aspects of their trauma they may have difficulty accessing, while individual therapy helps them work through their emotions and experiences on a personal level.  Additional therapies like equine-assisted therapy and EMDR, both respected treatments for trauma victims, are options that are available to supplement each client’s individualized treatment program.

What makes Safe Harbor truly unique is its emphasis on community. The camaraderie that develops amongst the women at Safe Harbor as they work together to change their lives for the better makes treatment an experience of self-discovery as well as an experience of learning to help others by sharing personal experience.  The sisterhood that forms is a beautiful and unparalleled phenomenon.  All women looking for a chance to leave drug abuse and PTSD behind them have a place awaiting them at Safe Harbor.

PTSD Treatment Programs

PTSD Treatment Programs can help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a debilitating condition that dramatically encumbers the lives of trauma victims. PTSD treatment programs help these people regain the ability to lead normal healthy lives.

WHAT IS PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that is caused by traumatic experiences.  Essentially, PTSD manifests as an inability to cope with or move on from a traumatic event, trapping trauma victims in a perpetual cycle of reliving their most horrific experiences.  PTSD treatment programs aim to free trauma survivors from the constant fear of revisiting traumatic events – a fear that dominates the lives of those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The phenomenon of mentally re-experiencing past trauma is commonly referred to as a flashback.  Flashbacks, along with recurring nightmares about traumatic events are the fundamental symptom of PTSD.  The emotional turmoil that ensues with each flashback is a tremendous amount for the mind to process, which often leads to the phenomenon of dissociation, PTSD’s other key symptom.  Dissociation occurs when the mind shuts itself off from emotional input that may cause a flashback as a means of self-protection.  Though dissociative patterns may insulate a trauma survivor from emotional pain on a day-to-day basis, the mental barrier they create is strong and becomes a significant roadblock in recovery.  PTSD treatment programs work with individuals who have developed dissociative tendencies on reconnecting with their emotions and memories.  This step, though painful. must be taken in order for an individual to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.

WHAT KINDS OF EXPERIENCES CAUSE PTSD?

PTSD treatment programs are designed to accommodate patients whose PTSD results from a wide variety of traumatic experiences.  Trauma is defined in terms of an individual’s personal reaction to a situation, not in terms of the situation itself.  Therefore, there is no concrete definition of what constitutes a traumatic event.  The definition is fluid and must be able to adapt to the experiences of all individuals who exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

That said, there are certain characteristics that tend to apply across the board to traumatic experiences.  The primary characteristic of any traumatizing event is a sense of violation.  In many cases, this takes the form of a physical violation (e.g. rape, incest, domestic violence).  In other cases, this may mean an emotional violation (e.g. loss of a loved one, childhood neglect).  A traumatic experience may also violate a person by forcing them to witness a violent or horrific act.  Though there is no strict definition of a traumatic event, it is easy to see how countless different experiences might traumatize an individual.  PTSD treatment programs work one-on-one with patients to ensure that each individual’s treatment plan is ideally suited to that individual’s particular trauma.  Tailoring the recovery program to the patient is an essential aspect of affective trauma treatment.

HOW DO PTSD TREATMENT PROGRAMS WORK?

PTSD treatment programs work by helping trauma victims come to terms with their experiences and cultivate techniques for coping with flashbacks.  The delicate issue here is that because trauma is fundamentally a violation, treatment must be executed in a way that maintains the patient’s sense of safety and security at all times. This can be a very complicated prospect when progress in trauma treatment is often contingent upon facing horrifying memories and allowing difficult emotions to surface.

For some who enter PTSD treatment programs, a straightforward cognitive-behavioral approach is appropriate. The cognitive-behavioral model of PTSD treatment involves an in-depth assessment of the original trauma and its aftermath, followed by the development and implementation of a structured plan that will allow the patient to cope effectively with situations likely to trigger a flashback.

Others come into PTSD treatment programs completely incapable of speaking openly about past traumatic experiences. For these individuals, treatment has a different starting point. In order to coax these patients into slowly beginning to explore their trauma, alternative therapies are extremely productive.  Therapeutic approaches like equine therapy and art therapy offer trauma victims the opportunity to forge a non-verbal understanding of their experiences. Because traumatic experiences are so powerfully visceral, the brain stores memories of these experiences differently than it stores other memories. The physical bonding that takes place between patient and animal in equine therapy and the hand-eye explorative process that occurs in art therapy act as muses which help patients get in touch with the many levels on which they experienced and continue to relive their trauma.

Additional alternative therapies, namely hypnotherapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), can be highly successful as supplements to more traditional cognitive-behavioral PTSD treatment programs. Operating under the same basic treatment model as cognitive-behavioral therapy, both of these disciplines seek to intervene in the patient’s mental processes by building new connections within the brain. In both cases, a structured protocol is used to allow more direct access to the subconscious, where many of a trauma victim’s memories and emotions surrounding trauma are stored.

Effective PTSD treatment programs recognize that no single type of therapy is universally applicable to trauma victims and no specific treatment plan will be successful for all patients. The best programs make a wide variety of treatment options available and encourage patients to experiment with different techniques in order to discover what feels right to them.

LIFE BEYOND PTSD

Though trauma survivors have no culpability in the situations that caused them to develop PTSD, it is up to these individuals to take recovery into their own hands. Though others who love them may want to help, trauma victims must find the motivation to overcome PTSD and the willingness to push through the exhausting emotional work that recovery entails within themselves. With this honest desire to be rid of the burden of PTSD and the therapeutic tools available in a trauma treatment program, victims of trauma have the chance to free themselves. The road may not be easy, but the reward is priceless.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, these issues and others, such as sex and love addiction, are addressed based on the client’s needs. Safe Harbor is a loving community of women that grow together in sobriety. If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the grips of PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, or any of the aforementioned mental health disorders, call us today at 877-660-7623. We are here to help.

PTSD Treatment Medication

PTSD TREATMENT: MEDICATION AND ITS ROLE IN RECOVERY

Though it can be an extremely useful component in PTSD treatment, medication is not in and of itself a solution to post-traumatic stress disorder.  Recovery from this debilitating mental condition depends upon thorough and intensive psychological treatment.

UNDERSTANDING PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental condition that results from the residual effects of profoundly disturbing, or traumatic, experiences. Because trauma is an internal phenomenon, it is dictated not by the outer descriptors of an event, but rather by the individual’s personal response to it.  Accordingly, traumatic experiences vary dramatically from case to case, but tend to share a theme of fundamental violation. Types of trauma typically associated with PTSD are physical abuse, sexual abuse, and involvement in violent situations, such as combat. Less physically intrusive experiences like verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, and untimely loss of a loved one can also cause an individual to develop PTSD.  No matter the specific incident or incidents that cause the disorder, the sense of violation that they produce unifies them in a way that allows a protocol to exist for PTSD treatment. Medication works alongside an arsenal of varied therapeutic approaches to give each patient as many tools as possible in PTSD recovery.

Symptoms of PTSD fall into three categories: Re-experience, avoidance, and hyper-arousal. The first of these categories, re-experience, is the predominant, other symptoms stemming from this problematic pattern of returning mentally to the scene of trauma. Upsetting and persistent thoughts about a traumatic event are common, as well as recurring nightmares about the event. More intense “flashbacks” are a key symptom of PTSD, in which the individual actually feels and acts as though they are reliving the original traumatic experience. The body may also physically respond to reminders of past trauma with increased heart rate or sweating.

The second category, avoidance, encompasses PTSD symptoms that display an individual’s wariness of situations that may trigger distressing memories or flashbacks, both consciously and unconsciously.  Individuals with PTSD often make a conscious effort to avoid talking, thinking or feeling emotions about past trauma. Accordingly, they also commonly choose to avoid people and places that remind them of a traumatic event. The mind of an individual with PTSD may also act of its own accord to aid in avoiding the re-experience of a traumatic event.  This often manifests as an inability to remember important details about a traumatic event. When a person’s brain begins to grow accustomed to patterns of avoidance, depressive side effects begin to develop.  Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, feelings of isolation, and difficulty connecting with positive emotions like affection or happiness are examples of this phenomenon.

Hyper-arousal symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability, and “jumpiness” can also be interpreted as attempts at self-protection.  Sleeping is an activity that requires complete vulnerability, a prospect that can be terrifying to a person suffering from PTSD.  Inability to fall or remain asleep, difficulty concentrating, and constant vigilance are all attempts, however misdirected, at protecting one’s self from further harm.

All of these varied symptoms are addressed in an effective program of PTSD treatment.  Medication is used in combination with therapeutic methods to alleviate symptoms, allowing the patient to resume living normally.

HOME-BREWED PTSD TREATMENT: MEDICATION VS. SELF-MEDICATION

The rate of substance abuse problems amongst people with PTSD is shockingly high, with 31% having struggled with drug abuse or dependence and 40% with alcohol abuse or alcoholism. This abnormally high co-occurrence can be explained by the phenomenon of self-medication.

Many who suffer from PTSD are unaware that their problems are in fact a legitimate diagnosable disease.  Those who do have some understanding of the fact that their woes are the result of past traumatic experiences often feel that they are responsible for their dysfunctional state, or do not see it as something that can be cured. Unaware that PTSD treatment, medication, and therapy are all options that can improve their situations, many individuals who suffer from PTSD turn instead to alcohol and illegal drugs as emotional pain-killers.

For those whose lives are impeded on a day-to-day basis by symptoms of PTSD, alcohol and drugs present a welcome escape route.  Specifically, substances that fall into the depressant category function as “medication” for hyper-arousal symptoms of PTSD. Drugs that create a feeling of emotional numbness allow a person with PTSD to expose themselves to situations that might otherwise trigger an intense emotional reaction.

While drug and alcohol consumption may initially reduce PTSD symptoms, it is counterproductive as a long-term treatment strategy. When substances wear off, PTSD symptoms often return even stronger, and drug and alcohol abuse brings its own set of problems when it becomes a regular activity.  People who self-medicate for PTSD with alcohol and drugs increase the risk of incurring many undesirable consequences, such as depression, suicide, legal difficulties, medical complications, relationship problems, and psychiatric hospitalization.

PTSD TREATMENT: MEDICATION

When combined with other methods of PTSD treatment, medication (when taken as prescribed by a licensed professional) can be of great help in alleviating PTSD symptoms, and can help patients become more receptive to therapy.

Recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as effective in PTSD treatment, medication that falls into the category of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are widely prescribed for this application.  Medications in this family (e.g. Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil) reduce anxiety and depression in PTSD patients.

Though still being evaluated by the FDA, D-cylcloserine (DCS) may be even more effective in alleviating PTSD symptoms.  Known to separate memories from stimuli once associated with them, it may be effective as a means of decreasing the fear and panic PTSD patients experience when remembering a traumatic event.

Propanolol, a beta-blocker, may also be useful in PTSD treatment, as it has the potential to curb hyper-arousal symptoms like restlessness and insomnia.

TREATING PTSD: THE DUAL APPROACH

Though it can be quite helpful in PTSD treatment, medication alone will not free an individual from PTSD.  Therapy must be used in tandem with medication if true progress is to be made. Medication is a fast-acting remedy that can lessen PTSD symptoms while other treatment continues, but PTSD sufferers must work thoroughly and gradually through the therapeutic aspect of treatment.  When used appropriately and as a supplement to therapy, medication is effective in treating PTSD, but it cannot stand on its own as a cure.

PTSD Symptoms

PTSD SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT

Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a psychological condition caused by living through emotionally and mentally scarring experiences. PTSD is a debilitating disorder, impairing the lives of trauma survivors by forcing them to live in fear as they perpetually re-experience traumatic events.

WHAT IS A TRAUMATIC EVENT?

A traumatic event is an experience in which an overwhelming violation takes place.  In many cases, it is a physical violation (sexual or physical assault) that constitutes the traumatic experience.  However, verbal and emotional abuse (including neglect) can also violate an individual in a way that often results in trauma.  PTSD can result from the violation of an individual’s sense of love and safety, or their understanding of the world.  In cases where the trauma is rooted in the witnessing of a violent or destructive act, it is a person’s emotional self that becomes traumatized.

PTSD was first understood in the context of war veterans, whose physical experiences were numerous and incredibly violent.  However, the physical experiences were not the only traumatizing ones.  Witnessing the deaths of close friends and peers in such multitude was undoubtedly an emotionally traumatic experience for these men.  In these cases, as with many that originate in very different circumstances, the violation at the root of trauma is both physical and emotional.

PTSD SYMPTOMS

Most PTSD symptoms relate to the phenomenon of re-experience, in which trauma survivors are brought vividly back to the scene of traumatic events.  This phenomenon is generally referred to as a “flashback.”  For those who suffer from PTSD, flashbacks can be brought on by any number of triggering situations – any experience that might call to mind the original traumatic event is a potential trigger. This means physical experiences, emotions, sounds, smells, locations and countless other aspects of every day life are constant threats to those who experience PSTD symptoms. The phenomenon of re-experience also occurs in the context of dreams.  Individuals with PTSD often experience recurring nightmares about past traumatic events.

Stemming from these re-experiences is another one of the key PTSD symptoms – dissociative tendencies.  Because the mind is wired for self-preservation, it has the capacity to distance itself from reality in traumatic situations. For many trauma survivors, dissociation is the mind’s default state.  In order to avoid living in a constant state of re-experiencing past trauma, the mind numbs itself to potentially triggering stimuli. As previously discussed, flashbacks can be triggered by a wide variety of things, which means that individuals who experience dissociative tendencies spend a large portion of their lives in a disconnected, zoned-out state.

PTSD AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE

In order to stifle PTSD symptoms, many victims of trauma end up resorting to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication.  These substances function in a similar way to mental dissociation, but both coping mechanisms are ineffective in the long run, leaving core issues buried inside and unresolved.  With substance abuse, there is the added negative consequence of becoming addicted, both physically and mentally.  It is a well-known fact that drugs are physically addictive, but the psychological aspect of addiction is less widely understood.  Especially for a victim of trauma who learns to depend on drugs and alcohol as a way to quiet PTSD symptoms, these substances are incredibly addictive psychologically.

TREATING PTSD SYMPTOMS

PTSD symptoms are detrimental to the prospect of leading a normal life, which makes treatment incredibly important. Because of the nature of exploring past trauma, treatment for PTSD must be done delicately, and at a pace that suits the individual being treated.

In the initial phase of treatment, medication can help ease PTSD patients’ nerves, and help them cope with flashbacks and intense emotions when they arise, which is an inevitable part of the recovery process.  Effective PTSD treatment programs begin with an extensive individual evaluation, which helps counselors formulate a specialized treatment plan that is ideally suited to each individual. This evaluation will also help determine whether or not the patient is a candidate for medication.

Before any real emotional or psychological work can be done, it is imperative that patients come to feel comfortable in the treatment environment.  Because trauma is rooted in the feeling of violation, the healing process is contingent upon the patient feeling safe, secure and supported. PTSD treatment should, therefore, take place in an intimate setting, where clients come to know each other well and are able to support one another.

For female trauma victims, a gender-specific treatment facility makes it infinitely easier to cultivate this crucial sense of security.  Especially considering the fact that many of these women’s traumatic experiences centered around violation by men, keeping the recovery environment women-only is essential.  Getting to know other women and realizing that others are facing the same challenges that they face is also an empowering aspect of treatment.  By supporting one another in the exploration of their trauma, patients strengthen their own recovery.

SAFE HARBOR DUAL DIAGNOSIS TREATMENT

For those women who find themselves burdened by PTSD symptoms as well as alcohol or drug dependency, a specialized dual-diagnosis treatment program is the best resource available. Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women treats women who struggle with both PTSD and alcoholism or drug addiction.  In order for either of these conditions to mend themselves, the other must be addressed. If a woman attempts to resolve past trauma while continuing to abuse substances, she will find that she is unable to process the emotions and memories that she must work through in order to move forward.  Conversely, if an alcohol or drug addicted woman attempts to quit drinking and using without working through residual trauma, she will find that her emotional and mental turmoil drive her back to substance abuse.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, these issues and others, such as sex and love addiction, are addressed based on the client’s needs. Safe Harbor is a loving community of women that grow together in sobriety. If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the grips of PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, or any of the aforementioned mental health disorders, call us today at 877-660-7623. We are here to help.