Studies have shown that roughly one in three people seeking addiction treatment have symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These statistics reveal an alarming rate of self-medication among sufferers of PTSD. Though treating PTSD symptoms with drugs and alcohol is common, self-medication in this manner actually aggravates the symptoms by increasing depression, anxiety, and physical pain. These are the result of endorphin withdrawal, which occurs after self-medicating. If you have PTSD and are realizing that your self-medicating has led to addiction, you have a few options for treatment and prevention.
- Relaxing Therapies are Helpful for Treating PTSD
Some therapies may dredge up flashbacks or negative emotions, sending a sufferer back into the mindset that led to addiction. Instead, a person with PTSD might want to seek therapies that utilize relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, or art. Creating a soothing outlet while working through addiction is an ideal way for PTSD sufferers to both treat addiction and prevent later relapses. Cultivation of a healthy coping mechanism is key. Addiction treatment also should be supplemented with treatment for the PTSD itself.
- Service Dogs Can Aid Both Addiction and PTSD
Though the traditional image of a service dog is one of a large dog aiding a person with physical disabilities, psychological service dogs often are extremely helpful for individuals suffering from PTSD. Treating the PTSD itself will greatly help the addiction recovery process, and service dogs are a wonderful way to heal from trauma. PTSD service dogs can perform tasks such as guiding the handler from a crowd, keeping strangers at bay, drawing the handler from a flashback, or alerting a human assistant to an episode.
For addiction, a dog helps the individual ease the depression that triggers the need to self-medicate. The service dog also can provide a reason for the person to stay sober, and it can comfort the handler during difficult times. People with PTSD also find that it is beneficial to take their service dogs to potentially upsetting therapy and rehabilitation sessions.
- PTSD-Specific Addiction Treatment is Ideal
Treatment centers that focus on the treatment of PTSD-related addiction are the best option for a sufferer of PTSD. These treatments will focus on the cause of the addiction, working to limit symptoms of PTSD and reducing the need to self-medicate. Simultaneously, they will work to treat existing addiction and prevent relapse by teaching PTSD management. Your therapist or medical professional may prescribe a service dog for you.
Common practices in these specialized treatments might include rapid trauma resolution therapy, medication therapy, and family-based therapies to help repair and strengthen personal relationships. The service dogs can provide comfort and serve as a calming influence while the individual with PTSD undergoes these treatments and therapies.
Addiction as a result of PTSD is all too common. Self-medication to numb the effects of a trauma is a natural response for anyone. However, these harmful forms of self-medication will aggravate the illness in the long run while damaging other aspects of your life. Getting treatment for PTSD is the first step to recovering from addiction. Without first treating the cause, you can never expect to recover fully from substance abuse. A combined treatment for both addiction and PTSD is ideal. However, a soothing form of therapy that teaches coping also can be beneficial. Service dog are a great way to continue treatment from home, as they can provide round-the-clock help and support in a way therapies cannot. You may want to consider combining several forms of therapy, depending on your circumstances. The most important thing at this point is recognizing the danger of addiction and taking steps to treat it.
Guest writer Michelle Peterson is a proud recovering addict. She is fighting to eliminate the stigma against those who suffer from or have suffered from substance abuse and addiction. She created RecoveryPride.org to spread messages of hope and help to those in recovery, those wishing to be in recovery, and their loved ones. When she isn’t building the site, she enjoys running and crafting.
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