Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a psychological condition caused by living through emotionally and mentally scarring experiences. PTSD is a debilitating disorder, impairing the lives of trauma survivors by forcing them to live in fear as they perpetually re-experience traumatic events.


A traumatic event is an experience in which an overwhelming violation takes place.  In many cases, it is a physical violation (sexual or physical assault) that constitutes the traumatic experience.  However, verbal and emotional abuse (including neglect) can also violate an individual in a way that often results in trauma.  PTSD can result from the violation of an individual’s sense of love and safety, or their understanding of the world.  In cases where the trauma is rooted in the witnessing of a violent or destructive act, it is a person’s emotional self that becomes traumatized.

PTSD was first understood in the context of war veterans, whose physical experiences were numerous and incredibly violent.  However, the physical experiences were not the only traumatizing ones.  Witnessing the deaths of close friends and peers in such multitude was undoubtedly an emotionally traumatic experience.  In these cases, as with many that originate in very different circumstances, the violation at the root of trauma is both physical and emotional.


Most PTSD symptoms relate to the phenomenon of re-experience, in which trauma survivors are brought vividly back to the scene of traumatic events.  This phenomenon is generally referred to as a “flashback.”  For those who suffer from PTSD, flashbacks can be brought on by any number of triggering situations – any experience that might call to mind the original traumatic event is a potential trigger. This means physical experiences, emotions, sounds, smells, locations and countless other aspects of every day life are constant threats to those who experience PSTD symptoms. The phenomenon of re-experience also occurs in the context of dreams.  Individuals with PTSD often experience recurring nightmares about past traumatic events.

Stemming from these re-experiences is another one of the key PTSD symptoms – dissociative tendencies.  Because the mind is wired for self-preservation, it has the capacity to distance itself from reality in traumatic situations. For many trauma survivors, dissociation is the mind’s default state.  In order to avoid living in a constant state of re-experiencing past trauma, the mind numbs itself to potentially triggering stimuli. As previously discussed, flashbacks can be triggered by a wide variety of things, which means that individuals who experience dissociative tendencies spend a large portion of their lives in a disconnected, zoned-out state.


In order to stifle PTSD symptoms, many victims of trauma end up resorting to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication.  These substances function in a similar way to mental dissociation, but both coping mechanisms are ineffective in the long run, leaving core issues buried inside and unresolved.  With substance abuse, there is the added negative consequence of becoming addicted, both physically and mentally.  It is a well-known fact that drugs are physically addictive, but the psychological aspect of addiction is less widely understood.  Especially for a victim of trauma who learns to depend on drugs and alcohol as a way to quiet PTSD symptoms, these substances are incredibly addictive psychologically.


PTSD symptoms are detrimental to the prospect of leading a normal life, which makes treatment incredibly important. Because of the nature of exploring past trauma, treatment for PTSD must be done delicately, and at a pace that suits the individual being treated.

In the initial phase of treatment, medication can help ease PTSD patients’ nerves, and help them cope with flashbacks and intense emotions when they arise, which is an inevitable part of the recovery process.  Effective PTSD treatment programs begin with an extensive individual evaluation, which helps counselors formulate a specialized treatment plan that is ideally suited to each individual. This evaluation will also help determine whether or not the patient is a candidate for medication.

Before any real emotional or psychological work can be done, it is imperative that patients come to feel comfortable in the treatment environment.  Because trauma is rooted in the feeling of violation, the healing process is contingent upon the patient feeling safe, secure and supported. PTSD treatment should, therefore, take place in an intimate setting, where clients come to know each other well and are able to support one another.

For female trauma victims, a gender-specific treatment facility makes it infinitely easier to cultivate this crucial sense of security.  Especially considering the fact that many of these women’s traumatic experiences centered around violation by men, keeping the recovery environment women-only is essential.  Getting to know other women and realizing that others are facing the same challenges that they face is also an empowering aspect of treatment.  By supporting one another in the exploration of their trauma, patients strengthen their own recovery.


For those women who find themselves burdened by PTSD symptoms as well as alcohol or drug dependency, a specialized dual-diagnosis treatment program is the best resource available. Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women treats women who struggle with both PTSD and alcoholism or drug addiction.  In order for either of these conditions to mend themselves, the other must be addressed. If a woman attempts to resolve past trauma while continuing to abuse substances, she will find that she is unable to process the emotions and memories that she must work through in order to move forward.  Conversely, if an alcohol or drug addicted woman attempts to quit drinking and using without working through residual trauma, she will find that her emotional and mental turmoil drive her back to substance abuse.

At Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella, these issues and others, such as sex and love addiction, are addressed based on the client’s needs. Safe Harbor is a loving community of women that grow together in sobriety. If you, or someone you know, are suffering from the grips of PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, or any of the aforementioned mental health disorders, call us today at 877-660-7623. We are here to help.


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