The What and Why of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSDAccording to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) PTSD, or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, is caused by the exposure or experience of a traumatic event. A traumatic event is described as sexual violence, serious injury or death of a family member, friend or loved one.

PTSD can cause excessive anxiety, intense stress, nightmares and horrible memories of the traumatic event. The pain of the trauma is so severe that many people with PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of escape. Continued use of drugs or alcohol can push a person to the brink of addiction, which further complicates the underlying PTSD issue.

People with a combination of substance abuse and a mental health issue like PTSD are diagnosed with a dual-diagnosis or said to have a co-occurring disorder. Treatment becomes especially problematic because two things must be treated to recover – the addiction and the mental illness. It’s estimated that more than 5 million people suffer from PTSD in the United States, and women are twice as likely than men to experience PTSD symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorders can express many symptoms, but the most common are:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Flashbacks to the Trauma
  • Hopelessness
  • Self-destruction

What Causes of PTSD?

PTSD is caused by exposure to a traumatic event. Other examples of traumatic events include witnessing a death, physical or sexual assault, child abuse, or military combat. While the number of men in combat is far greater than the number of women, women still experience the symptoms twice as often as men. The University of Southern California School of Social Work created the PTSD info-graphic shown below that illustrates the causes and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder along with some statistics about PTSD. The full-size infographic can be seen here.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD Awareness-Infographic

PTSD Can Trigger Addiction

PTSD can be a debilitating illness which is very painful on both a physical and emotional level. Turning to non-prescribed drugs or alcohol may be a temporary fix, but in the long run will cause more harm than good. The stigma of having or talking about a mental disorder is what keeps most people from seeking treatment. There’s no shame in seeking proper medical treatment; in most cases, is the only way to find relief.

In many circumstances, PTSD can be treated successfully with medication, cognitive therapy, or a combination of both.


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