Military Service, PTSD and Addiction

By The Fix staff 07/09/18

Veterans are an underserved population with high rates of the co-occurring disorders of addiction and mental health conditions.

Man with serious expression on his face, wearing U.S. Army uniform.
A diagnosis may come with the stigma of being considered “weak,” which discourages veterans from seeking the help they need.

Most service men and women experience emotional and mental struggles as they go through the process of reintegrating into the civilian lifestyle. In addition to any post-combat trauma, veterans also experience extreme levels of stress when transitioning home associated with being stripped of their job titles, status, positions, authority or ranking which creates shifts in their personal identity that complicate integration into civilian life. These struggles combined with the emotional ups and downs of being back home are unique to individuals who have served in the military.

This transition can create overwhelming feelings of loss of identity and purpose, leading to extreme discomfort when trying to engage in daily life. This transitional phase commonly produces emotional, mental and physical symptoms that qualify veterans for a diagnosis of PTSD.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not a diagnosis solely reserved for combat related events. Trauma is defined by personal experience and perspective and can affect anyone at any time. Some of the symptoms associated with PTSD are insomnia, hypervigilance, lack of appetite, paranoia delusions and night terrors. Those struggling with PTSD typically have trouble performing normal, everyday activities—like going to work, school, shopping, participating in family or social events, connecting with children or being intimate with a partner.

How are PTSD and Addiction Linked?

For many veterans, the consequences of loss of identity and a dramatic role or life change can lead to them to seek relief from the associated symptoms and their discomfort. Substance abuse is often a result of self-medicating in an effort to feel better or as a coping mechanism to alleviate the pain. This is where addiction may arise for those struggling with PTSD. Whether it’s picking up addictive substances for the first time or relapse for individuals already in recovery.

Veterans are an underserved population with high rates of the co-occurring disorders of addiction and mental health issues, often associated with PTSD. Along with the symptoms of dual diagnosis comes the stigma of being considered “weak,” which ultimately discourages veterans from seeking the help they so desperately need.

Within the veteran community, the VA provides the assistance and services needed for substance abuse recovery and mental health issues. However, because of the large demand for services, there is an extensive waiting period which delays treatment. A well-rounded and informed treatment facility like MFI has the resources and experience to work with this population, helping them to reintegrate into a healthy, daily routine. By providing continued one-on-one support with trained counselors, consultations with a primary care physician and psychiatrist, medication management and onsite therapy, veterans have regular and ongoing access to these health professionals who are available four days a week.

With co-occurring PTSD and addiction, a thorough treatment plan should include individual psychotherapy, group therapy (which specifically addresses substance abuse as well as PTSD), 12 Step groups which help to establish a healthy support network and psychiatry to properly assess and address whether medication may help. Additionally, discharge planning is vital, as most individuals thrive in a structured environment and then struggle when returning home, to work, school, family or marital discord.

In What Specific Ways Does MFI Address These Unique Challenges?

The first step in addressing PTSD and addiction is a thorough and personalized evaluation. At MFI, the experienced staff aims to identify any mental health diagnoses or possible substance-induced psychosis. Once a diagnosis is established, an individualized treatment plan is created that specifically addresses the symptoms that the client is experiencing, substance abuse issues and mental health. It can also address healthy communication styles, family issues and socio-economic stresses.

Within the first three weeks of treatment, every client participates in detox and is seen by our on-site psychiatrist, medical professionals and a therapist. Our treatment facility allows clients to engage in programming from 9 AM until 3 PM daily, with on-site staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, most mental health and medical professionals are available by phone.

While many treatment facilities do not provide resources for the combined issues of mental health and substance abuse, MFI addresses all issues, and each individual is assessed by a psychiatrist, assigned a primary counselor as well as a therapist and integrated into daily group therapy and 12 step meetings. Additionally, in order to support the long-term success, sobriety and happiness of every client, family therapy and couples counseling are scheduled each Saturday to help heal relationships and foster healthy growth.

MFI provides affordable substance abuse and addiction treatment based on scientific methods and the 12-steps. They have a network of inpatient, outpatient, intensive outpatient and detox facilities throughout the state of California. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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