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PTSD Awareness Day – June 27th

Back in 2010, Senator Kent Conrad spearheaded a campaign to create an official form of recognition of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through a “day of awareness.” Senator Conrad was passionate about the creation of an awareness day as a tribute to North Dakota National Guard serviceman, Staff Sergeant Joe Biel, who took his own life in 2007 following two tours in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Biel’s birthday was June 27th, thus its selection as National PTSD Awareness Day. In 2014, the entire month of June was designated as National PTSD Awareness month.

The designation of an official month and day of awareness is intended to encourage discussion of PTSD – its causes, symptoms, and treatments. While PTSD is largely spoken about in reference to military service members and veterans who have witnessed traumatic scenarios while serving, PTSD can develop in any individual who has experienced a “very stressful, frightening or distressing event, or after a prolonged traumatic experience,” according to the UK National Health Service (NHS). The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) reports that PTSD affects about 7-8 people out of 100 in their lifetime.

TIME found that about 50-66% of those suffering from PTSD also battle addiction, with the reverse also being true. Clinical Psychology reports that people with PTSD are between two and four times more likely to also battle addiction than those who do not suffer from the disorder. As a resource from American Addiction Centers states, “substance abuse, addiction and PTSD have a complex relationship that can complicate treatment modalities.”

Substances like drugs and alcohol can increase a person’s dopamine, adrenaline and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels, providing a temporary escape from difficult emotions like those linked with PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that relying on substances as a coping mechanism for PTSD symptoms delays treatment of the disorder and can exacerbate or extend symptom experiences. Those with co-occurring medical conditions addiction and PTSD are known as SUD-PTSD. This co-occurrence has been found to increase the likelihood of a relapse.

SUD-PTSD individuals relying on alcohol as a coping mechanism reported symptomatology at a higher rate than those using other substances for the same purpose. Findings from the same study suggested clinicians should test for PTSD amongst those with SUD and should monitor for PTSD and other psychological symptoms throughout treatment as the development of these symptoms could be an indicator for substance abuse relapse.

If you feel that you are suffering from PTSD, take heed of the purpose behind PTSD Awareness Day (and month) and take a step forward by finding a safe space to begin discussing the disorder. PTSD, like other mental illnesses can create a dangerous cycle, in which one symptom triggers another and exacerbates existing problems. Therefore, to safely and effectively treat the combination of factors occurring in SUD-PTSD individuals, it’s important to find a treatment program that addresses co-occurring disorders.

If you or someone you love is struggling from addiction, call us today at 1-877-MyRehab and we can help you on the path to recovery.

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