People have a natural tendency to shut down and block things out under enormous pressure. Nowhere is that more dangerous than when dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Men, and soldiers, especially are hammered with the idea that seeking help is emasculating. “Life will never stop throwing problems at you—learn to deal with them on your own!” Understanding this mindset provides some insight into why addiction and coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, followed closely by substance use disorders. For women, these same causes of death are also rising at an alarming rate. The modern era has made us prolific and given us ways to connect with others globally, but somehow these innovations have actually increased our feelings of chronic loneliness and made us more likely to turn to ourselves and easy-reward systems, like drugs and alcohol, to temper our feelings of frustration, anxiety, or depression.
Loneliness, Addiction, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder has been one of the most challenging tasks for mental health experts, with the catalysts of constant global conflict, growing work-life imbalances, and ongoing stress, violence, and abuse in daily life. Many people suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder often try to avoid clinical treatment, turning to “self-medication” such as drugs and alcohol to numb symptoms. While this may provide a small, temporary boost in dopamine, or lower the underlying stress and anxiety for a short while, in turn it creates unhealthy patterns of dependency, and can quickly become dangerous. It never addresses the underlying trauma, and while living in a state of self-medication you might feel comfortable, this is generally short-lived and temporary relief. Eventually the “hits” from self-medication won’t provide the same comfort or euphoria, but barely sustain feelings of normalcy. Additionally, the withdrawal from self-medication often creates increased anxiety.
Chronic self-medication will never cure or heal post-traumatic stress disorders. Therapy can break down some of the barriers that we build in trying to avoid help. It can make our commitment stronger, improve outcomes, addressing the post-traumatic stress and the underlying trauma. Therapy and professional healing are the most effective ways to truly overcome the consequences of trauma.
Women, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder
One study by Reynolds, et al. found that a large number of people suffering with addiction were previously survivors of physical or sexual abuse, yet little research focuses on the actual traumas. Too often, experiences of severe trauma like this can make survivors turn to self-medication (and ultimately addiction). It can make survivors wary or afraid of authority figures, groups, or treatment programs. It’s important to understand that without proper medical treatment, some addictions can be dangerous to treat on their own, with severe withdrawal symptoms and high rates of relapse.
Therapy and treatment will help. You should never go day-to-day living in a state of suffering and anxiety, waiting for your next dose. Professional addiction rehab and recovery treatment options exist especially for those who have suffered severe trauma in their past, and with proper care in a safe environment, you can begin the recovery process one step at a time. If you know someone in need of recovery care, or treatment of a severe traumatic experience, we suggest you give us a call immediately at (619) 639-7325.