World Kindness Day:Understanding Individuals With PTSD And
Co-occurring Disorders

Silver Hill Hospital

“You know my name, not my story”Jonathan Anthony Burkett

Every year on November 13th we celebrate World Kindness Day by promoting good deeds and pledging acts of kindness. Individuals, communities and organizations participate in this World Kindness movement in order to inspire one another and create more kindness for the world. Kindness has the power to change lives because of its simplicity.  The main focus this year is to:

  • Be Kind: It takes very little effort to do and a kind gesture should be selfless.
  • Empathize: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • Listen: Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand.
  • Be there: Being in someone’s corner may seem like a small thing, but it really goes a long way.

As an organization, Silver Hill Hospital wants to take part in this World Kindness movement by bringing attention to the mental health community. Specifically, we want to highlight the individuals who suffer from traumatic experiences and develop disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These individuals constantly battle judgement from society and have stories from these experiences that often leave mental scars. In some cases these traumatic experiences lead to other mental disorders and substance abuse as a coping method. That is why it is important for us to bring this to the forefront,  so that society can better understand mental health issues. 

Ultimately, if we shed a light on this particular topic we can play our part in World Kindness Day and provide a better understanding of individuals with PTSD and co-occurring disorders.

Understanding PTSD and it’s connection to co-occurring disorders

PTSD is a mental health disorder triggered by a traumatic event that can either be experienced or witnessed. Traumatic events that lead to PTSD can emerge as a result of witnessing or experiencing any of the following events: 

For men, PTSD is more likely to occur if they have experienced:

  • Combat trauma
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Disasters caused by humans
  • Childhood trauma

PTSD in women presents more often after these types of events:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Domestic violence 
  • Sexual assault 
  • Childhood trauma

Of course these are generalities and there is a fair amount of crossover. Many individuals who have suffered through traumatic events often have trouble with parts of their brain associated with memory and emotions. PTSD interferes with the brains process of past memories and present experiences. In the event that PTSD takes over someone’s memory and emotions someone might react to a current incident that reminds them of past trauma. This can derail their brain, causing them to respond as though the person is still in the past, triggering fear, anxiety and stress.

More symptoms of PTSD can include one or more of the following and can strike the individual at any time:

  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Severe anxiety
  • Depression
  • Avoidance 
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the event
  • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
  • Irritability or anger outbursts
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Suicidal thoughts

When PTSD develops, the symptoms might last for months or even years after the event. Prolonged agitation and not seeking treatment can even lead to a dual diagnosis of other disorders like depression, anxiety and more. In some cases the individual in distress will turn to substances to cope with their symptoms.

PTSD changes brain chemistry the same way substance abuse and addiction does. As both go hand in hand these disorders form at the same time and can often feed off of each other. Someone with PTSD may turn to substances to cope because they believe it will alleviate the symptoms. However, this does not fix the problem and can only make things worse for the individual. Physically someone can develop health risks by abusing substances like drugs or alcohol. 

Repeated drug use or alcohol abuse can lead to a dependence that can then turn into an addiction. In addition, to this drinking or abusing drugs can also interfere with decision-making abilities and can increase risk-taking behaviors. Drug use or addiction can lead to many health consequences like accidents, injuries and even death from overdose. It can also increase the chances of suicidal thoughts. If this does occur it is important to take action by helping your loved one find help immediately. More information on substance abuse can be found here.

How to help someone struggling with PTSD and substance abuse

Everyone has a story that you may not see behind closed doors. PTSD and substance abuse can affect multiple populations, genders and segments. According to the American Psychology Association approximately one half of all individuals will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime. Further research from the APA indicates that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD, experience a longer duration of posttraumatic symptoms and display more sensitivity to stimuli that remind them of the trauma. If left untreated,  PTSD symptoms can also lead to adverse effects on the physical health of a woman.

Women can experience: 

  • Headaches 
  • Gastro-instinal problems
  • Sexual dysfunction

Men on the other hand are more likely to experience more traumatic events. Although women tend to have higher rates of developing PTSD, men who do develop symptoms tend to lash out in anger and violence as a result of trauma. Men are also less likely than women to seek help for  PTSD and have difficulty engaging in therapy when it comes to feelings of shame and embarrassment. 

Research from the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs reported that when you are in the military, you may see combat that can be gruesome and life threatening. These types of events and experiences can lead to PTSD. Recent statistics from the Dept of Veterans Affairs from operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom reported about that 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. These are staggering numbers. In addition to combat trauma, military sexual trauma was also another cause for PTSD in the military.

It has been reported that Veterans who use VA health care show that:

  • 23 out of 100 women (or 23%) reported sexual assault when in the military.
  • 55 out of 100 women (or 55%) and 38 out of 100 men (or 38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.

Although the type of trauma is different for each gender or segment more than 20 percent of veterans with PTSD also suffer from an addiction or dependence on drugs or alcohol. Truth is, anyone can develop PTSD and it is important to take action if you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event and has symptoms that last over a month.

In light of World Kindness day, we believe that listening and understanding is an important concept to consider for you or someone you know dealing with PTSD and/or addiction. If you or someone you know are experiencing PTSD, the first and most important thing is to get the right diagnosis and treatment. As PTSD and other disorders can co-occur,  it is important to identify all disorders in order to treat the whole person. 

 In addition, to getting the right diagnosis, it is also important to try some therapeutic approaches to help manage some of the symptoms for you or someone you know dealing with PTSD. Alternative coping methods following a traumatic event can help replace the need to abuse substances. According to the CDC there are many different options you can try out for yourself and loved ones.

These options include one or more of the following:

  • Understand that your symptoms may be normal, especially right after the trauma.
  • Keep to your usual routine. 
  • Take the time to resolve day-to-day conflicts so they do not add to your stress.
  • Do not shy away from situations, people and places that remind you of the trauma.
  • Find ways to relax and be kind to yourself.
  • Turn to family, friends, and clergy person for support, and talk about your experiences and feelings with them. 
  • Participate in leisure and recreational activities. 
  • Recognize that you cannot control everything. 
  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
  • Learn about PTSD so you can understand what your friend is experiencing.
  • Listen carefully. Pay attention to your relative’s feelings and the situations that may trigger PTSD symptoms.
  • Share positive distractions such as walks, outings, and other activities.
  • Remind your friend or relative that, with time and treatment, he or she can get better.

We each have the potential to improve each others lives through understanding and kindness. Whether it’s a friend, family member, coworker or stranger be kind, empathize, listen and be there. If professional help is needed for a proper diagnosis and the severity of symptoms is not manageable Silver Hill Hospital is here for you.

Treatment for PTSD and Co-Occurring Disorders At Silver Hill Hospital

At Silver Hill Hospital we are your community leader who can help with your struggle with PTSD, addiction and all other mental health disorders. If we diagnose you with a co-occurring psychiatric disorder ,  our staff has the skill, sensitivity, experience and training to treat your dual conditions together rather than one at a time. This simultaneous treatment is the most effective approach for dual conditions, and often the least available at other institutions. As our care team can help with a variety of treatment and prevention knowledge, our Transitional Living Treatment is one of our specialty programs that can really help individuals with co-occurring disorders and substance use disorders find their road to recovery.

The transitional living treatment program provides a goal to help both men and women develop an understanding of their psychological condition and new behavioral skills to manage their recovery process. It’s a 4 week process, but it ensures that during your stay it continues the progression of treatment protocols from your inpatient stay, including:

  • An Updated Psychiatric Diagnostic Evaluation
  • Pharmacologic Therapies
  • Individual And Group Counseling
  • Residential Care For A Structured Treatment Environment
  • Aftercare Planning

 

In addition, treatment also includes these two pillars of our therapeutic approach that has been proven effective for all successful patient outcomes:

 

We also recognize that the entire family can be affected when one member suffers from any mental health disorder or substance abuse. Ultimately, we believe that family support is truly valuable during the recovery process. According to a recent Silver Hill study, our patients tend to have a high level of satisfaction with their treatment and a low level of relapse after treatment if they have completed at least one month of our residential Transitional Living program. More information about the study and patient outcomes can be found here.

For more information about our Transitional Living Treatment you can start by making an appointment or calling 1 (866) 542-4455 to learn more about our levels of care and treatment for mental and co-occurring disorders.