The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional response, yet we know that our bodies suffer physical symptoms as well. Indeed, a trauma-inducing event can wound all of our systems. It can affect our thought processes, sleep, digestion, immune systems, outlook on life, and how we feel about ourselves and others.
As a mental health issue, PTSD is not confined to servicemembers and veterans. It can affect any person who has gone through a significant and terrible life event. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “anyone can develop PTSD at any age.”
While Pysciatry.org indicates that “one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime,” it is important to remember that such numbers, as high as they are, fail to take into account undiagnosed PTSD cases. There is an untold percentage of sufferers who have never seen a doctor, never gotten help, and perhaps attempt to “self-medicate” as a way to cope with the pain.
Substance abuse can sometimes be an attempt to self-medicate an issue such as anxiety or depression. Often, they occur so closely together it is hard to distinguish which came first. Like the chicken or the egg, did the substance abuse cause anxiety or depression or did the depression and anxiety lead to substance abuse?
Five Obstacles to Substance Abuse Treatment–Shame is often at the top of the list of reasons people don’t seek help for an addiction problem. Another reason people sometimes don’t go into treatment is that they have feelings of guilt over things they may have done while addicted, as well as guilt over the people they may have hurt.
Psychological trauma is literally damage done to an individual’s mind. The damage can be caused by an event or situation, one so stressful and overwhelming that the brain loses some control over the body. The person then experiences physical symptoms as outward manifestations of the anxiety within.
The impacts of trauma during childhood often linger on into adulthood and can lead to the development of psychological problems and/or addictions. Indeed, research has established such a firm link between childhood trauma and substance abuse that some treatment facilities now offer concurrent treatment of addiction and any underlying trauma.
Regardless of their age, social status, race or education level, females are statistically more prone to experiencing traumatic events precisely because of their gender. To cope, females may tend to develop substance dependence.
The rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be up to 15 times higher in the military population than it is in the general population, which likely explains in part the prevalence of substance use disorder in the military. Consequently, when people see or hear the term PTSD, they likely think of veterans.
Numerous studies over the past 30 years have established that there is a definite link between trauma and alcoholism and/or drug addiction. In fact, many substance abuse treatment facilities treat trauma and addiction as co-occurring disorders.