One of the main underlying causes of addiction and suicidal thought is trauma. Trauma is experienced as a wound, either physical or psychological in nature, from an inordinately severe, stressful event. Much of what we have learned over the years about psychological trauma we have learned from studies of individuals who have survived child abuse, women who have been raped, and torture victims. However, as veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, we have found that the process for all individuals of getting and dealing with PTSD is similar.
Symptoms Of PTSD
PTSD, or other related forms of trauma, develops when an individual is involved in a situation s/he does not have the capacity or skill to deal with. It’s straightforward to suggest that children were not meant to be sexually abused and that PTSD can be a result of that abuse. It’s also just as straightforward to say that in war, individuals are forced to make horrific choices and participate in unconscionable activities. PTSD can develop in that case too. It does so when a person is unsafe and feels helpless. Child abuse, kidnapping, terrorist attacks, war – each can trigger the development of trauma or PTSD.
Everyone responds to trauma similarly. It is normal to feel numb, helpless, frustrated, and/or jumpy after a traumatic experience. However, the healthy response to these events is that the individual feels less and less of these adverse reactions in a relatively short period of time. PTSD is what develops when an individual gets stuck in the symptoms and they begin to worsen instead of getting better.
While it is unwise to self-diagnose PTSD or any disorder, PTSD comes with a number of symptoms. These include but are not limited to:
1. Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event
2. Mentally re-experiencing the event
3. Increased anxiety when thinking or talking about the event
4. Emotional numbness
6. Irritability and/or angry outbursts
7. Lapses in concentration or focus
10. Guilt, shame, or self-blame
11. Physical pain
12. Substance abuse
13. Suicidal ideation
Additional Information On PTSD
Substance abuse is often found along with PTSD. Substance abuse, particularly of alcohol and pain killers or marijuana, is an overt attempt to deal with the anxiety and emotional pain of PTSD. Without help, this self-medicating effort can become a full-blown addiction. Suicidal ideation begins when a person either refuses (generally for moral or religious reasons) to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol or when substance abuse no longer keeps a lid on PTSD symptoms. However, in most cases, if the underlying cause of the PTSD is dealt with, the need to use and abuse substances and the suicidal thoughts, generally fall away.
Though working through PTSD is not an easy experience, there are therapies that can provide significant relief rather quickly. A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and positive psychology to work through the traumatic experience along with a host of complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and meditation, to help change the neurobiology of the individual, provide a sound and effective solution for working through PTSD and getting your life back.
Additional information from Cliffside Malibu on PTSD and trauma recovery:
- Dr. Scharff presents a donation check for $25,000 to the VFW
- Dr. Scharff discusses “Cliffside Malibu’s Support of Military Vets Suffering with PTSD/ Addiction/Suicide (Bloomdaddy Radio)
- “Veterans with addiction, PTSD, or suicidal thoughts: The latest science and how you can help” – VFW Convention Workshop
- Cliffside Malibu’s Dr. Constance Scharff discusses PTSD on ‘National Defense Radio Show’ [click here for Part II]
- ‘Be Courteous with Fireworks’ Signs for Combat Vets: Do They Help?
- Can We Stop Our Veterans From Killing Themselves?
- Female Veterans Killing Themselves in Unprecedented Numbers
- This Summer We Owe Our Veterans An Honest Look at PTSD, Addiction, and Suicide
- A Helping Hand for Military Veterans
- PTSD 101: Stress, Trauma, and Recovery
- Treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Father’s Day and America’s Veterans
2015 Trauma And Recovery Events
116th VFW Nat’l Conference (July 20, 2015/Pittsburgh): Dr. Constance Scharff, Cliffside Malibu‘s Director of Addiction Research, presented a Patriotic Sponsorship donation for $25,000 from Cliffside Malibu to the VFW’s Commander-in-Chief John W. Stroud in front of 8,000 military personnel during the 116th VFW’s national conference keynote ceremonies on July 20, 2015. Later in the afternoon, Dr. Scharff presented Cliffside’s cutting edge research to attendees on the topic, “Veterans with addiction, PTSD, or suicidal thoughts: The latest science and how you can help.” Cliffside Malibu also donated 5,000 copies of their award-winning, bestseller, Ending Addiction for Good, to all VFW and Ladies Auxiliary registered members attending the conference.
Dr. Constance Scharff, Cliffside Malibu‘s Director of Research, presented a Patriotic Sponsorship donation for $25,000 from Cliffside Malibu to the VFW’s Commander-in-Chief John W. Stroud to help support veterans suffering from PTSD, addiction and suicidal inclinations in front of 8,000 military personnel during the VFW’s national conference keynote ceremonies on July 20, 2015.
2015 Trauma And Recovery Events
On National Flag Day (Sunday, June 14, 2015), Dick Van Dyke presented a donation on to the American Legion at HollywoodPost43, led by Commander Don Schilling, in Los Angeles, California. Cliffside Malibu supports the Legion’s efforts to help veterans suffering from PTSD, addiction, suicidal ideation and other related mental health issues. The donation was received by Past National Commander William Detweiler, who is the chairman of the PTSD/TBI National Committee for The American Legion.
American Legion PTSD/TBI Symposium (Sept 25-27 2015): Dr. Scharff will discuss the neuroscience of mental health treatment and the use of complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies for addiction, PTSD, and other mental health issues. This presentation is part of The American Legion’s prestigious PTSD/TBI symposium, an annual event comprised leading medical experts in the field as well as—for the first time—a representative from the NFL (last year’s info here). Tentative location: Washington DC