Among the biggest barriers to addiction recovery are undiagnosed mental health disorders. Until these are identified and properly treated, people who struggle with addiction are at constant risk of relapse. With substance use disorder, co-occurring mental health disorders or comorbidities often cause people to seek out and use drugs or alcohol as a means for relieving their own discomfort.
Millions of people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and yet many have yet to have their conditions diagnosed. PTSD is a natural, survival-related response to having witnessed or experienced a traumatic and potentially life-threatening event. PTSD can be the result of:
- Sexual abuse or sexual assault
- Physical assault
- Natural disasters
- Domestic violence – whether experienced firsthand or witnessed
There are also many other possible causes of PTSD. What each person recognizes as trauma, and how individual traumas are responded to can vary. However, when traumatic events have a lasting impact on a person’s well-being, problems with insomnia, anxiety disorders, frustration, and depression can ensue.
PTSD is commonly characterized by sudden changes in thinking and mood, avoidance of trauma-inducing environments or interactions, nightmares, and hyper-vigilance. The signs and symptoms of PTSD can differ significantly between women and men.
Research suggests that women have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with PTSD than men. However, the current belief is that this difference is likely due in large part to the way in which PTSD symptoms present in men.
The tendency of male symptoms to contrast with the criteria for diagnosing PTSD may mean that it isn’t always being recognized. For males struggling with substance use disorder, attending addiction treatment at a center that’s familiar with the signs of PTSD in men is often essential for getting the right support. When PTSD is identified and properly managed, the need to use substances as a means for coping abates.
At Recovery Bay Center, we have extensive experience in dealing with men and PTSD. Our mental health support services take a mindful approach to addressing comorbidities, and our staff is well aware of the different ways in which PTSD symptoms present.
Why the Signs of PTSD in Men Are Different
One of the biggest differences between PTSD and men and PTSD in women is the way in which types of trauma are responded to. Women have a higher likelihood of experiencing emotional numbness, and they are more likely to engage in various forms of avoidance. Women with PTSD have statistically higher levels of anxiety and depression.
Conversely, men tend to respond to trauma with frustration and anger. They may have a hard time controlling their tempers, and they may regularly lash out when they feel threatened or put in situations in which they lack a complete sense of control. More importantly, men have a significantly higher likelihood of responding to PTSD by using drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms.
Identifying and Addressing the Physical Signs of PTSD in Men
Living with PTSD as a man doesn’t just cause significant amounts of social discomfort, anger, and general distress. Given their tendency to lash out at others when feeling overwhelmed or unable to control their circumstance, many male PTSD sufferers often deal with tremendous guilt. They may experience feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and general low self-esteem. With addiction, feeling unworthy of happiness and of good general health can be just as much of a barrier to recovery as PTSD itself.
Men who live with PTSD are also more likely to exhibit physical symptoms as a result of this mental health issue than women. Dealing with PTSD without professional treatment can result in:
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Vascular disease
- Chronic fatigue
For both men and women, the long-term effects of traumatic stress and chronic anxiety can be both psychological and physical. However, for men, elevated cortisol levels or excess stress hormones can result in disproportionate fat storage at the mid-section. PTSD can also lead to elevated blood pressure and other physical symptoms that may be less obvious in women.
Dealing With PTSD in Addiction Treatment
PTSD can be especially difficult for men to deal with given that many men have a hard time admitting to trauma, and admitting to their inability to contend with it. Although PTSD is classified as a disorder, it is both an incredibly common and natural response to terrifying events.
At Recovery Bay Center, our goal is to teach men new and healthier ways of coping with their pain so that PTSD does not sideline them in their efforts to become sober and stay that way. With proper treatment, PTSD sufferers can reclaim control over their lives, and discover strategies for establishing and maintaining healthy and mutually-satisfying social connections.
Our services for PTSD sufferers include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), trauma therapy, and group therapy among others. With CBT, patients can learn how to identify and control negative and anxiety-inducing thoughts before these have an opportunity to spiral out of control. While participating in this therapy, men can also learn to distinguish between logical or rational thoughts, and irrational thinking. CBT reveals the connection between emotions, thought patterns, and decision-making.
As patients become increasingly able to redirect negative thinking, their ability to control their decisions and make positive, life-affirming ones invariably increase. Thus, receiving PTSD treatment along with treatment for substance use disorder can be incredibly empowering.
Is PTSD Therapy Right for You?
PTSD treatment is recommended for any man who’s experienced traumatic events and has tried and failed in addiction recovery before. This remains true, even if you’ve never been diagnosed with PTSD. Given that the signs of PTSD can vary greatly between men and women, professionals who are not prepared to recognize these differences may have overlooked other evidence of this disorder.
Absent of the need to self-medicate, men with PTSD tend to have an infinitely easier time in recovery, and in maintaining their sobriety post-treatment. Best of all, their life qualities increase, and their day-to-day interactions with others and the world around them become far more fulfilling. If you’ve been struggling with past trauma and have been using substances as a crutch, we can help. Call us today at 833-991-2955.