Hidden Tears Project Q & A with The Recovery Village

“Your Most Pressing Questions About PTSD and Addiction, Answered: 

“Coping with any traumatic event is complicated, but it can feel nearly impossible when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is present. The flashbacks, intense anxiety, overwhelming anger and negative thoughts that come with this condition can impact nearly every aspect of a person’s life. In many cases, PTSD can be so severe that those affected turn to drugs and alcohol to cope, and may develop substance use disorders.

“While grappling with PTSD and addiction can feel like an uphill battle, the good news is that professional treatment options that heal are available. With treatment centers located across the country, The Recovery Village specializes in comprehensive treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions, including PTSD.

“Because we know that coming to terms with and understanding the complexities of PTSD can be difficult, The Recovery Village partnered with the Hidden Tears Project to answer some of the most common questions about PTSD, addiction and sexual assault. “

Q: What is the difference between having PTSD and remembering a terrible experience? 

A: Recalling any difficult experience can cause a considerable amount of emotional distress. Whether you consciously begin to mull over a past event or see, hear or remember something that reminds you of it, these memories are bound to conjure up uncomfortable feelings.

However, for someone with PTSD, the memories of a terrible experience aren’t simply emotionally painful — often, they significantly impair a person’s normal functioning. Those struggling with PTSD struggle with a number of involuntary “re-experiencing” symptoms, which can include vivid flashbacks, nightmares and all-consuming thoughts. In many cases, these symptoms are so severe that those affected will go to great lengths to avoid any people, places, events or objects that remind them of their traumatic experience.

Q: What kind of experiences does the brain struggle to process, and why? 

A: Typically, the brain has the most trouble processing traumatic experiences. While a broad range of events can be considered traumatic, those that the brain has the most difficult time processing tend to be extremely dangerous, personally life-threatening, or life-threatening for someone else involved.

Some examples of such events include:

  • Serious accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Military combat situations
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault

However, experiencing a traumatic event doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will develop PTSD. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine estimates that while 89.7 percent of people are exposed to a traumatic event, only 8.3 percent of people go on to develop PTSD.

The reasons why some people develop PTSD after trauma and others don’t remains unclear. However, there are some factors that are known to increase an individual’s risk of developing PTSD, including:

  • Lack of social support
  • Multiple traumatic experiences
  • Past history of mental health conditions
  • Past history of abuse, especially in early childhood
  • Additional life stresses after a traumatic event, including the loss of one’s home or job, or the death of a loved one
  • Traumatic events that involve rape or sexual assault

Q: What’s the connection between experiencing a trauma and developing an addiction? 

A: The symptoms that come with PTSD can take an enormous physical and emotional toll on a person. When someone experiences such consistently high levels of stress, they may reach a point where they’re willing to do anything to feel relief. Many people with PTSD who become addicted to drugs or alcohol start using these substances as an escape from the symptoms of their condition. While this can provide temporary solace, drug and alcohol consumption tends to worsen PTSD symptoms over time.

Q: Is PTSD on the rise, or are we just getting better at identifying it? 

A: It’s hard to say. It’s difficult to estimate how many people struggled with PTSD in the past with any certainty, because many cases went unreported, and the diagnostic criteria for PTSD have changed significantly over time. In recent years, much of the stigma surrounding mental illness in general, and PTSD in particular, has lifted, and overall public understanding of mental health has improved. This has made it easier for more people to recognize that they have PTSD and seek treatment, which inevitably means higher rates of PTSD diagnoses.

Q: Statistics suggest that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men (an estimated 10 percent of women versus 5 percent of men). What might explain this discrepancy?

A: While women are slightly less likely to experience trauma than men, they are more likely to experience certain kinds of trauma that put them at a higher risk of PTSD — namely, sexual assault. According to the National Center for PTSD, about one in three women will experience a sexual assault in her lifetime.

This increased risk of sexual assault is thought to be the primary driver of this discrepancy. In general, sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than other types of traumatic events. This gap in female and male PTSD rates might also have to do with the way that men and women are socialized. In general, women may be more likely to blame themselves for their traumatic experiences than men, which makes it more difficult to cope with and process trauma and can lead to PTSD.

Q: Has the #MeToo movement had any impact on the number of people seeking professional help for assault or abuse? 

A: Yes. Since the #MeToo movement began in October 2017, thousands of women have come forward and sought help for past and present sexual assault and abuse. The number of calls to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network rose 25 percent in November of that same year, and another 30 percent in December. In January of 2018, Reuters reported record numbers of calls to U.S. sexual assault hotlines.

Q: How might one go about contacting your organization for help?

A: The Recovery Village has representatives available to discuss treatment options for addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions, including PTSD, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While the most direct way to get in touch with one of these representatives is by phone at 844-377-3451, people can also reach out by filling out an online form.

Q: What resources are available to those without medical insurance?

A: The Recovery Village is committed to helping people get the care they need, even if that means they don’t undergo treatment at one of our centers. If a client does not have medical insurance or the ability to privately pay for treatment, our intake coordinators can connect them to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This organization provides assistance through confidential helplines and treatment locators, as well as free, online resources for mental health and addiction.

Q: How might media companies, like the Hidden Tears Project, and rehabilitation facilities, like The Recovery Village, best work together to promote positive social change?

A: When it comes to PTSD and mental health, the key to promoting positive social change is to raise awareness while providing reputable treatment options to people struggling. That’s why partnerships like the one The Recovery Village has with the Hidden Tears Project are so important. By joining forces, we help increase the knowledge and compassion surrounding PTSD, and connect people grappling with the condition to concrete solutions.

To learn more about The Recovery Village, click here