PTSD and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. Finding treatment that addresses both disorders is important for recovery success
Mental illnesses, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction, often come in pairs. When someone suffers from more than one mental illness it is referred to as a Dual Diagnosis. Dual Diagnosis patients are treated differently than other patients, since both illnesses must be dealt with simultaneously.
Dual Diagnosis patients receive treatment in outpatient or inpatient facilities depending on insurance benefits, symptoms and level of care required. When seeking treatment for a Dual Diagnosis, it is important to focus on those facilities that specialize in this type of care. The right care at the right time can help people struggling with a Dual Diagnosis live a normal life.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Defined
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an extreme response to feelings of extreme danger brought on by a traumatic experience, even when the person is no longer in danger. PTSD often happens as a result of exposure to combat, assault, sexual assault and abuse, a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or flood, or child abuse.
Scientists are currently working to discover specific causes of PTSD. Genetic studies, including how fear memories are created, are helping to refine existing treatments or create new ones that will reduce the symptoms of the disorder.
Not everyone who is exposed to trauma will develop PTSD. Certain individuals seem more prone to the disorder. These individuals include:
- People with a history of mental illness
- Those who have seen someone hurt or killed
- Those who have felt extreme fear or helplessness
- Having little or no social support after trauma
- Dealing with extra stress, such as the loss of a loved one, pain or injury or the loss of a home or job
The symptoms of PTSD include some or all of the following:
- Flashbacks of the event
- Bad dreams
- Frightening thoughts
- Staying away from places, people or events that remind you of the trauma
- Feeling strong guilt, depression or worry
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Easily startled
- Having trouble sleeping or having angry outbursts
Children often have additional symptoms that may indicate PTSD. These include bedwetting, unusual clinginess to parents, losing the ability to talk or acting out the traumatic event during playtime.
Anxiety Disorder Defined
There are several additional anxiety disorders that can accompany PTSD. Having more than one of these disorders at a time, or having an anxiety disorder with PTSD, results in a Dual Diagnosis.
Other anxiety disorders include the following (taken from The National Institute of Mental Health):
- Panic Attacks – Panic attacks are characterized by sudden attacks of terror, accompanied by a pounding heart, sweatiness, weakness, faintness or dizziness. People with panic disorder my flush or feel chilled. Their hands may tingle or feel numb, and they may experience nausea, chest pains or the sensation of smothering.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – People with OCD have persistent, upsetting thoughts and use rituals to control the anxieties that these thoughts produce.
- Social Anxiety Disorder – Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, happens when people are overly anxious or nervous in everyday social situations.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder – GAD is diagnosed when people go through their day with exaggerated worry or tension even when there is nothing to produce such a response.
Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Disorders
Dual Diagnosis disorders require simultaneous treatment in order to be successful. Many of those who struggle with mental illness also struggle with addiction. Finding treatment that addresses all of these issues is important for true recovery. Dual Diagnosis treatment often involves a combination of medications, psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Along with these types of therapies, addressing any physical concerns caused by or related to mental health is also a part of the process.
Finding treatment that recognizes the mind-body connection is important. In addition to various individual and group therapies, programs that offer nutrition counseling, physical activity, meditation and spiritual guidance options can also be helpful. For many Dual Diagnosis patients, receiving treatment in an inpatient facility is recommended. This allows those who are struggling to fully focus on treatment and healing.
Your facility’s intake counselor will help you understand your insurance coverage and the treatment options that are available to you. Recognizing you have a problem and reaching out for help is the first step on the path to a new life.