Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that may develop after an event that results in psychological trauma, such as a threat of death, a threat to physical, sexual, or psychological integrity, a near-death experience, etc.
The trauma preceding PTSD overwhelms the person's ability to cope in a normal manner.
Diagnostic symptoms include re-experiencing the original trauma through flashbacks or nightmares; avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma; difficulty falling or staying asleep; anger; and hypervigilance. symptoms would last more than one month and would cause significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
PTSD is believed to be caused by either physical trauma or psychological trauma, and frequently a combination of both. Possible sources of trauma include experiencing or witnessing childhood or adult physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
In addition, experiencing or witnessing an event perceived as life-threatening such as physical assault, adult experiences of sexual assault, accidents, drug addiction, illnesses, medical complications, or employment in occupations exposed to war (such as soldiers) or disaster (such as emergency service workers).
Treatment for PTSD
Treatment for PTSD usually involves psychotherapy, especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Relaxation therapy is also helpful to reduce and cope with residual anxiety.
A variety of medications have been applied to the disorder, including mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and anti-psychotics.
Many PTSD medications list possible dependence (addiction) as one of the side effects.
Many of the medications prescribed for PTSD have the potential for creating a secondary condition of substance abuse or substance dependence. Some long-term users of PTSD medications report that they felt compelled to take other prescription drugs and even illegal drugs to enhance the waning effects of their medication over time. Other users reported a transition to illegal drugs with similar effects when the PTSD was withdrawn.
Dual Diagnosis/Co-Occurring Disorder
PTSD often occurs together with substance abuse and substance dependence disorders. Often the substance use is the result of an attempt to "self-medicate" but just as often substance dependence is the primary disorder with PTSD being secondary. In either case, both disorders must be treated simultaneously to achieve an effective outcome.