Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Woman explains trauma symptoms to her patient

Trauma Signs and Symptoms

Trauma has profound effects on a person’s well-being. If it isn’t treated, the effects of trauma can last a lifetime and affect every area of a person’s life.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as a response to events you perceive as “physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening.” Moreover, trauma causes “lasting adverse effects” that make it difficult to function, or impact your “mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”

Sixty-one percent of men and 51% of women report experiencing a traumatic event at some point in their lives. Sometimes trauma produces signs and symptoms that only last a few days or weeks. Other times it may last longer and turn into something called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Events that may result in emotional and psychological trauma include:

  • War
  • Sexual assault
  • Natural disasters
  • Serious car accidents
  • Domestic violence
  • Health crises

Whether trauma is severe or mild or results in PTSD or not, it’s important to have support after experiencing it. Treatment for trauma will help you process what happened to you in a safe environment. It will then teach you healthy ways of coping with your trauma symptoms.

Symptoms of Trauma

Symptoms and signs of trauma are broken into four categories: intrusion symptoms, avoidance symptoms, negative changes in mood, and changes in arousal and reactivity. Here are examples of trauma symptoms in each of the categories.

Intrusion Symptoms

Intrusion symptoms refer to how you might remember or re-experience the traumatic event. These symptoms cause the traumatic memory to “intrude” upon you during regular life. That’s why they are called intrusion symptoms. Some possible ways include:

Recurrent, involuntary and intrusive memories that are particularly distressing
Nightmares or upsetting dreams that relate to the traumatic event
Dissociative reactions, such as flashbacks. This involves disconnecting from what’s around you and feeling like the event is happening all over again.
Intense or prolonged distress when exposed to reminders of the trauma, such as a specific date
Distinct physical reactions (rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, etc.) when exposed to reminders of the trauma

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance symptoms include any effort you make to avoid re-experiencing or remembering the traumatic event such as:

  • Avoiding activities, places or physical reminders
  • Avoiding people, conversations or other interpersonal situations

Negative Changes in Mood

A negative shift in thoughts and mood that began—or worsened—after the traumatic event include the following:

  • Low emotional state, such as fear, guilt, shame or sadness
  • Decreased interest in activities that once brought joy
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Emotional numbing
  • Persistent inability to express positive emotion, such as happiness, love or joy

Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity

The traumatic event can cause changes in your emotional reactions. Many trauma symptoms may also resemble symptoms of anxiety and depression. These may look like:

  • Irritability and/or angry outbursts
  • Mood swings
  • Hypervigilance, or feeling as if danger is always lurking
  • An exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disturbances in sleep
  • Panic attacks

Complex Trauma

There is also a type of trauma called complex trauma. Complex trauma results when people experience severe traumatic events over a prolonged period of time. It often results from childhood traumas. Examples include childhood sexual abuse or severe neglect. In the case of complex trauma, symptoms may include:

  • DissociationAmnesia, or difficulty remembering the time around the traumatic events
  • Extreme difficulty controlling emotions like anger or anxiety
  • Decreased ability to empathize with others. In children this may cause conduct disorder. If the trauma isn’t treated, it may progress to antisocial personality disorder in adulthood.

Short-Term Trauma Symptoms vs. PTSD Symptoms

It’s possible for someone to experience something traumatizing and not develop PTSD. They might still have intense symptoms that resemble PTSD. However, in normal reactions to stress, these symptoms will stop after a few weeks. This could be diagnosed as acute stress reaction (or acute stress disorder). Full-blown PTSD will last longer than a month and seriously affect your daily life.

Symptoms of acute stress reaction and PTSD overlap. The only difference lies in how long they last. However, short-term trauma is more associated with dissociative symptoms. These include:

  • Difficulty feeling pleasure
  • Extreme emotional disconnection
  • Temporary amnesia
  • Depersonalization (feeling you are watching yourself from outside your body)
  • Derealization (feeling the world around you is unreal)

Aside from this key difference, any of the symptoms listed above in the four categories may present in either short-term trauma or PTSD.

Dual Diagnosis of Addiction & PTSD

Dealing with untreated trauma is hard. Your loved ones may be fed up with your mood swings, and you may find life spiraling out of control. Unfortunately, one common coping strategy is drinking or substance abuse. If you find yourself falling into this dangerous pattern (or if you see a loved one increase their drinking habits or suspect them of using drugs, including prescription drugs, after a traumatic event), get immediate help.

If you have developed an addiction in addition to PTSD, you have what is called a dual diagnosis. This means you have two conditions that need simultaneous treatment. Addictions and PTSD can spiral and feed off each other in dangerous ways, but there are healthier and safer coping strategies that a trained professional can teach you. You can recover from both addiction and PTSD at the right treatment facility.

What Is the First Step to Treating Trauma?

There are many types of treatment available for trauma. They include forms of therapy, medications and activities like yoga and meditation. To decide which is best for you, you may first want to meet with a behavioral health therapist or doctor. They’ll assess your symptoms and determine whether you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Making a PTSD diagnosis involves looking at how many trauma symptoms from each category you experience. Health professionals will look at how long they have lasted. They’ll also assess the degree to which they affect functioning in your day-to-day life.

A PTSD diagnosis will help in determining the level of care you need for treatment. Even if you don’t meet criteria, you should still seek help in processing your trauma and alleviating your trauma symptoms.

What Does Treatment for Trauma Look Like?

You don’t have to live in this state of stress forever. Trauma recovery is possible. The most well-researched and common treatments for trauma are described below. Again, your doctor or therapist will help you determine which evidence-based treatment may be best for you.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Most forms of talk therapy for trauma are types of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. In CBT you’ll learn how your thoughts influence your feelings, which in turn influence your actions. Through therapy you’ll learn to take control of thoughts and reactions you have to your trauma. This results in healthier actions and behaviors. You’ll also learn to re-conceptualize the trauma, reducing feelings of guilt and shame.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a treatment that helps you face traumatic memories and target the feelings and cognitions associated with them. Unlike some other forms of therapy, you don’t necessarily have to talk about your trauma. Your therapist will ask you to concentrate on the trauma you experienced. Meanwhile, they do something repetitive like flashing a light or moving their hand. This process allows you to remember traumas without the intense feelings of distress. When the feelings of distress are gone, you’re better able to use positive coping skills.

Medications

Medications can be helpful for managing the effects of trauma. They usually aren’t enough on their own and should be used in conjunction with therapy. Antidepressants like fluoxetine or sertraline help decrease feelings of anxiety and stress. Prazosin is a medication that can help with insomnia and nightmares.

Trauma Treatment at Lucida

Lucida treatment center offers the above treatments in a welcoming and trauma-informed setting. We also offer alternative treatments like yoga, fitness and psychodrama. Our clinicians and medical staff is trained in the effects and symptoms of trauma. Our admissions process begins with a biopsychosocial assessment. This determines what you will work on while attending our inpatient mental health treatment program.

Give us a call today at 844-874-8503 for a free assessment.

Bipolar Symptoms in Women

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder affecting both women and men. It is characterized by alternating periods of depression and mania. However, bipolar disorder in women often looks different than in men—both in terms of symptoms and when it often shows up. For example, women are particularly vulnerable to bipolar episodes certain times of the month and after giving birth.

Likewise, there are different forms of bipolar disorder, and some forms show up in women more than men. Bipolar I disorder is roughly equally present in men as women. However, multiple studies show that women are more likely to develop bipolar II disorder.

Differences in bipolar symptoms in women and men call for modified approaches. It’s also important to be aware of these differences so that you can notice the signs of bipolar disorder in yourself or in a loved one. If you have only ever seen the disorder in a man, you might not recognize it in a woman.

But first, let’s take a look at the different types of bipolar disorder.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I disorder: In bipolar I disorder, you experience one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes (symptoms of both mania and depression). One episode lasts at least seven days. Typically, you will also experience periods of depression with symptoms lasting at least two weeks. It is common for episodes to be so severe that a mental health professional will recommend inpatient bipolar treatment. That may mean you stay in a hospital for a time, allowing you to receive round-the-clock care.

Bipolar II disorder: This is characterized by a pattern of one or more major depressive episodes and at least one hypomanic episode. A hypomanic episode is less severe than full-blown mania. Mental health professionals sometimes misdiagnose this condition as major depression. This is especially a risk if they do not witness a hypomanic episode and you do not report hypomanic symptoms.

Cyclothymic disorder: This is a milder type of bipolar disorder, defined by chronic periods of hypomanic or depressive symptoms. If you’re an adult, then the episodes generally last least two years. For children and adolescents, however, they will last for one year. The severity of cyclothymic disorder may change over time.

Bipolar Signs & Symptoms in Women

Therapist explaining bipolar symptoms in womenAs a woman, you may experience bipolar disorder differently from men in a number of ways. In general, women experience:

  • Later onset than men. This means that you are more likely to develop bipolar disorder at a later age than men.
  • Higher incidence of depressive episodes.
  • Higher likelihood of experiencing simultaneous symptoms of mania and depression (mixed episodes or mixed mania).
  • Greater comorbidity of physical conditions. This means you are more likely to experience a health condition alongside your bipolar disorder. For instance, as a woman with bipolar disorder, you are more likely to also suffer from thyroid disease.
  • Greater comorbidity of other mental illnesses, including eating disorders and anxiety.
  • More likely to experience rapid cycling. This is characterized by four or more episodes of depression or mania in a year. In fact, you could experience such fast mood swings between mania and depression that you sometimes experience both states in a single day. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder also appears to be more resistant to treatment.
  • More likely to seek help for treatment of bipolar disorder.
  • More likely to receive an incorrect diagnosis of depression.

Bipolar Signs & Symptoms in Men

In contrast, men with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience:

  • Earlier onset than women
  • More severe symptoms than women
  • Higher incidence of manic episodes and mixed episodes
  • More prone to aggressive behavior during manic episodes
  • More common comorbid alcohol and drug abuse
  • Less likely to seek support

Suicide Risk in Women with Bipolar Disorder

In a study published in PLOS One, researchers found differences in suicide risk in men and women with bipolar disorder. For instance, a strong predictor of suicide risk in men was substance abuse. The predictors of suicide risk in women, in contrast, were different. They included:

  • Having many mixed episodes
  • Bipolar symptoms starting earlier in life
  • Having a co-occurring personality disorder, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Problems in one’s social life

Women with bipolar disorder attempt suicide more often than their male counterparts. They also attempt to take their own lives two to three times more often than men in the general population.

Post-Partum Bipolar Disorder

Childbirth can trigger bipolar symptoms in women. When this occurs, it is known as postpartum bipolar disorder. For example, a study published in the journal JAMA found that childbirth increased the risk of a severe bipolar episode. Researchers from the same study noted that fathers did not experience the same risk.

Experts aren’t exactly sure why pregnancy increases the risk of postpartum episodes in women. Possible causes may include hormonal changes, problems with sleep and other life changes that happen as a result of pregnancy. At an intuitive level, there’s no question that there’s hardly a more demanding life change in a woman’s life than becoming a mother.

As a new mother, you might wonder what’s going on with your thoughts. What’s normal to new motherhood? And what is a sign of a postpartum mental health disorder? Moreover, most of the advocacy and awareness efforts have focused on postpartum depression or, to a lesser degree, postpartum anxiety. Postpartum bipolar disorder might not be on your radar.

Symptoms of Postpartum

Postpartum depression and bipolar disorder can look very similar. During a depressive episode of bipolar disorder, you may wonder if you’re experiencing postpartum depression. But postpartum bipolar disorder is different from other postpartum disorders, such as postpartum depression or anxiety. With postpartum bipolar disorder, a new mother will experience extreme up-swings. This mania or hypomania, as discussed earlier, includes symptoms not present in depression, such as:

  • Euphoria
  • Grandiose self-image
  • High irritability
  • Agitation
  • Decreased need to sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsive and destructive behavior

Postpartum bipolar disorder is also distinct from postpartum anxiety. The latter is an anxiety disorder, which means fear, panic and anxiety are the center of the problem. If you have postpartum bipolar disorder, you may not experience the following symptoms of postpartum anxiety:

  • Constant worrying that your baby is in danger
  • Imagining your baby coming to harm
  • Concerns about your baby’s safety affecting your daily life
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shakiness
  • Feeling faint
  • Muscle tension
  • Excess sweating
  • Needing to go to the toilet more often
  • Avoidance of situations that make you anxious

It’s important to remember that symptoms of postpartum bipolar disorder do not always start straight after birth. Sometimes the symptoms of postpartum bipolar disorder develop in the weeks and months after delivery. This can make a diagnosis for you difficult. You may not immediately make the connection between these later symptoms and your birth.

Treatment for Postpartum

Many women with postpartum mood disorders do not seek treatment. It’s hard to prioritize yourself after having a baby, and it can feel selfish. You may not want others to know that you’re struggling as a new mother, or you may feel guilty for some of the darker feelings you have during depressed episodes. However, having a postpartum mood disorder doesn’t make you a bad mom—even if your mind has started thinking about ways of hurting your child.

If you feel that your moods are alternating between extreme highs and lows after childbirth, get help. If you’re considering hurting yourself or your child, you can’t wait. There’s no shame. Your body, your hormones and your life have all changed drastically. Choosing to get help is what makes you a good mom.

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder (or any other postpartum mental health disorder) may be the first step to taking the best care of both you and your baby.

The Role of the Menstrual Cycle in Bipolar Symptoms

Living with bipolar disorder should be enough, but women with bipolar disorder often face the additional challenge of increased struggles with their moods as part of their premenstrual symptoms (PMS). Researchers believe estrogen plays a role in bipolar disorder in women. This is because the menstrual cycle, which results in a drop in estrogen, often leads to a worsening of bipolar symptoms in the premenstrual period. However, the link between menstruation and bipolar disorder is much weaker than it is for childbirth.

Some scientists speculate that the hormonal changes that take place during menstruation may lessen the effects of lithium. Lithium is a common medication that patients take to reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

The drop in estrogen during menopause also means that middle-aged women are more likely to experience depressive episodes as part of bipolar disorder.

Treatment for Women with Bipolar Disorder

Differences in bipolar symptoms between women and men mean that one size doesn’t fit all. Treatment plans will need to match the unique experiences and symptoms of women. For example, close attention needs to be paid to pregnant women. This is due to the fact that some medication for bipolar disorder present risks to the unborn child. Also, if you’re a woman who has recently given birth, especially if you have a history of bipolar disorder, your doctor should monitor your moods carefully.

Most importantly, understand that a mental disorder is a health disorder. Getting help is for mental health is no more shameful than getting help for a physical health disorder. If you are swinging between manic or depressed episodes, get help now. Today, therapy and medication are very successful at treating bipolar disorder.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

When Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Go Hand in Hand

It’s called a dual diagnosis, and it means having a substance use disorder as well as a mental illness. If you struggle with substance abuse, you should be screened for mental health. If you have a mental health issue, you should be cautious about drinking and using drugs. The two go hand in hand, and to have one with the other is not uncommon. It means that you need to address both issues in order to be well and healthy.
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