Awareness in June: PTSD Awareness Month
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”
– Danielle Bernock, Emerging With Wings
Earlier this month, we discussed the importance of men’s mental health and International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. We continue to raise awareness in June by introducing the next important awareness topic: PTSD Awareness Month
The month of June is dedicated to raising awareness about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the general public. Initially, in 2010, the United States Senate designated June 27th as National PTSD Awareness Day. To raise further awareness, in 2014, the Senate designated the full month of June for National PTSD Awareness.
Eliminating the stigma surrounding PTSD
PTSD is a mental health disorder that can be debilitating if left untreated and can affect any individual who has experienced some form of trauma. PTSD affects approximately 7.7 million American adults and affects three to six percent of adolescents. Raising awareness about PTSD and the importance of treatment begins with eliminating the stigma associated with this mental illness. Several myths about PTSD appear to contribute to this stigmatization. Misunderstanding can lead to various negative implications, such as prejudice and maltreatment.
Myth: PTSD is only seen in war heroes and veterans.
Fact: PTSD can affect anyone involved in a traumatic experience.
PTSD is commonly associated with soldiers returning home from battle after experiencing deadly and violent attacks overseas. Approximately 30% of soldiers who have spent time in combat develop PTSD. However, this disorder affects witnesses and victims of sexual abuse and physical abuse, refugees, victims of natural or unnatural disasters, first responders such as firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police officers, and family members of abuse victims.
Myth: PTSD immediately occurs after a traumatic experience.
Fact: Not everyone who experiences trauma will be diagnosed with PTSD.
PTSD is a specific diagnosis where symptoms must be present in an individual for at least one month after the traumatic event. If stress reactions last less than one month, then the diagnosis is deemed an acute stress reaction.
Myth: Individuals with PTSD are dangerous.
Fact: PTSD is not characterized by psychosis or violence.
Several classic war movies and sensationalized media coverage have helped perpetuate the “dangerous war vet” stereotype, which is an inaccurate depiction. PTSD does not involve psychosis or violence; rather, it is characterized as having severe anxiety, fear, flashbacks, and negative thoughts after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic, life-threatening event.
Myth: Any event can be deemed traumatic.
Fact: There are delineating characteristics that separate traumatic events from stressful events.
While it is true that nearly any event can be stressful, there are a few diagnostic criteria that must be satisfied before the stress response can be classified as “traumatic” in nature, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Mental Disorders. These criteria include: (1) “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence,” and (2) directly experiencing the event, witnessing it in person, or being indirectly exposed to the event.
Myth: PTSD cannot be treated.
Fact: PTSD cannot be cured, but it can be treated.
Researchers and clinicians have uncovered multiple treatment modalities that reduce the symptoms associated with PTSD, including cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization therapy, or EMDR. Psychiatric medication like mood stabilizers can help if the person has an underlying cyclic mood disorder. Often, the most useful medicines, such as prazosin (Minipress), calm the brain and the individual and allow healthy sleep without nightmares. It’s entirely possible to live a healthy life while also coping with PTSD. You’ve probably met multiple people with PTSD throughout your life, and never even realized it.
The myths associated with PTSD build a stigma that prevents individuals from seeking help, making misinformation about this disorder not only wrong but also dangerous. All of us must understand how to separate the facts from the myths when it comes to mental illness.
PTSD and addiction
Many individuals who become addicted to alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, or other illicit substances often do so to cope with an underlying traumatic event. Individuals struggling to manage the effects of trauma in their lives may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.
- Up to 75% of all individuals who have experienced a serious trauma have reported alcohol abuse.
- Alcohol abuse affects 52% of men and 28% of women with posttraumatic stress disorder.
- Drug abuse affects 35% of men and 27% of women with posttraumatic stress disorder.
- Among all veterans receiving care within the Veterans Affairs healthcare system for posttraumatic stress disorder, 27% also have a substance abuse disorder.
Alcohol and drugs are a temporary way to numb the emotional, mental, and physical pain as these substances release a surge of dopamine in the brain, bringing euphoria feelings. Often, years of self-medicating through drugs and alcohol will effectively dull the memories and associated emotions tied to the traumatic event. Therefore the individual’s only current battle is with addiction. As a result, when an individual tries to become sober, they will often struggle because of their underlying unresolved emotions associated with past trauma. If an individual attempts sobriety on his or her own, they have a higher rate of relapse because the underlying trigger is not addressed.
In a professional treatment setting, therapists are trained to uncover underlying triggers that are linked to addiction and will work on therapy approaches to address the client’s trauma to help the client overcome their substance abuse disorder.
“I did not ask for the thinks that I’ve been through, and I certainly did not ask my mind to paint and repaint the pictures in flashback form”
AKUA Mind & Body Cares
No matter where you are in your journey to recovery, AKUA can help. We understand that life in recovery can be tough. If you are afraid of a relapse, seeking help for the first time, or trying to get back on track, we have a program for you. AKUA Mind and Body offers gender-specific treatment programs that focus on men’s needs. We want you to feel healthy and strong, so when you return home to your family, you can fully function within your family unit.
We are committed to the health and safety of you and/or your loved ones, and we are FULLY OPEN & OPERATIONAL. At AKUA Mind & Body, the safety of our Clients is our top priority. We are aware of the increased fear and anxiety among most people regarding the current pandemic. Hence, we are doing everything that we can to keep healthfulness and safety.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health illness or substance use and addiction disorder, we can help now more than ever! AKUA Mind & Body provides an integrative treatment approach with multiple levels of care from detox, residential to virtual outpatient programs. With several facilities throughout the Sacramento Region, Los Angeles & Orange County Region, and San Diego Region, we aim to provide our clients with a solid foundation for healing and transformation.
Call our 24/7 admissions helpline to seek help today!