Approximately eight million Americans currently struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This number is likely to rise as the coronavirus pandemic persists, taking a greater emotional toll on those in quarantine. In recognition of this and to help spread awareness about the impact of trauma, Mountainside treatment center will observe PTSD Awareness Day on June 27.
Trauma symptoms are more prevalent than many realize, with 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experiencing at least one traumatic incident in their lifetime. Common examples include participating in war, experiencing physical or sexual violence, facing childhood abuse or neglect, or even dealing with severe health problems.
Rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are comparatively lower but can have a devastating impact on those who suffer from it. Red flags of PTSD may include flashbacks, hypervigilance, depression, and suicidal thoughts. In addition to these invasive symptoms, PTSD is also challenging in that it can be difficult to diagnose, as many indicators of it can mirror the effects of other mental health conditions.
Even those who have learned to manage their PTSD symptoms now face a new set of challenges due to the global pandemic. Some may be fearful of interacting with others as lockdown ends and reintegration into “normal” life begins. Other trauma triggers in the age of COVID-19 include feeling unsafe in public places or experiencing a loss of control. Additionally, the act of wearing a mask can also exacerbate PTSD symptoms, causing the wearer to feel confined or that they cannot breathe.
“The CDC’s recommendations for social distancing, while vital for public health in the short-term, can have negative, long-term mental health effects for those recovering from PTSD, addiction, and other behavioral health disorders,” says Anthony Nave, LCSW, Senior Manager of Outpatient Services at Mountainside. “It’s important that those who have been adversely impacted by the pandemic feel supported and realize that they are not alone in feeling stressed or experiencing trauma symptoms as we all tread this uncharted territory.” According to a 2017 article in The Canadian Journal of Addiction, a strong correlation exists between PTSD and substance use disorders. The researchers estimate that between 25 and 50 percent of those who suffer from addiction have also been diagnosed with PTSD. Additionally, those with more severe substance use disorders were more likely to have experienced higher levels of trauma.
“For individuals who have PTSD and substance abuse issues, treatment involving trauma-responsive care is essential because it highlights the person’s strengths and provides them with a greater sense of agency,” says Nave. “Often, by investigating trauma in therapy, we can help people better understand the motivations behind their alcohol and drug use. That way, the therapist can work with the client to create a treatment plan that takes into account the coping strategies and therapeutic interventions best suited to the person’s individual needs – ultimately working towards a recovery narrative of post-traumatic growth and resilience.”