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What is PTSD and How are Women Addicts and Alcoholics Affected?

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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Overview

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is referred to as a mental health condition that is caused by a traumatic or terrifying event that a person either experiences firsthand or witnesses. Most of the time, people who experience these types of traumatic events will or can have temporary difficulty coping and adjusting and may turn to drugs and/or alcohol. PTSD and Alcoholism or addiction together are a common dual diagnosis that are treated at mental heal and addiction treatment programs.

Often, PTSD is associated with war veterans that have experienced significant or catastrophic events and are traumatized by them. Women are 85% more likely than men to experience PTSD and will turn to substances to cope with the stress and feelings they are having.

PTSD can happen anywhere or anytime. For women, it is often a rape, assault, abuse from a parent or violent situation that they have had to endure. They feel like they are in constant “defense mode” and need to protect themselves from everyone and everything around them.

For some people, the pain that they experienced during their traumatic event is carried with them for months or years and interferes with their daily lifestyle to the point that they need to get help. They can’t cope or function and have a difficult time because they are constantly reliving the event.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your normal daily tasks.”

Gina Tabrizy, MS, LMFT – New Directions for Women Clinical Supervisor – PTSD

Hi I’m Gina Tabrizy with New Directions for Women. I’m so excited you’re here, and if you love this video please subscribe to our YouTube channel and give it a thumbs up! I’m so excited to talk to you today about a subject that’s a little tough for people to get through but it’s all over the news and our current climate. Let’s talk about PTSD.

If you don’t know what that is, it’s ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’. People associate it with Vietnam War or Korean War vets and big catastrophic events in the world. The problem is is that PTSD can happen at any point at any time throughout the lifespan. It’s any time that there’s been a dangerous or threatening event that you were witness to, participated in, or something happened to you. You need to know that even if it was a long time ago – when you were a little kid or maybe it happened two years ago or just happened five minutes ago -you need to understand that those symptoms affect your physiology: your body, the way you think, the way you feel and the way you operate in the world.

It’s really really important to recognize those symptoms because people can have PTSD for years and they’re not aware that they are still being attacked by these memories, thoughts and physiological changes that happened. For you to understand more clearly someone who has PTSD or if you have that going on for yourself, first of all there is always help and hope, so please don’t ever forget that as you feel things like your heart racing, anxiety, tension in the chest, nausea in the stomach when you get near something or someone that reminds you of that event. Maybe it was an ex who was abusive? Maybe it was an alcoholic parent or maybe it was you in your own alcoholism or drug addiction and you traumatized yourself?

Oftentimes for women we see a prevalence of anxiety. It is really prevalent in women, as well as depression. They’ll take all of those emotions that are unmanageable from these traumatic events, be it rape or assault, or being abandoned in some way or being in a violent home or situation growing up. Women tend to internalize those emotions and so over time, that anxiety then turns into a depression and it goes back and forth.

Another thing that often happens in women is self-harm, which is painful not only for themselves but for those loved ones who are witnessing with them. When you have symptoms like these, it’s attacking the mind, the body, and the spirit. “I feel anxious”, “I have negative thoughts like I hate myself”, “This is my fault”, “what’s wrong with me?” You have physical sensations throughout the body. You have night terrors. You have nightmares and you don’t sleep. You have insomnia. You have thoughts of dread throughout the days. You’re apathetic. You feel like life isn’t worth living. “I’m a terrible person” or “I’m not worth it.”

These are just little bits and pieces of the big picture of what post-traumatic stress feels like for a person. Really, it feels like they’re always in a state of attack and alert. They always feel someone’s coming after them and they always feel that they have to protect themselves. That’s the physiology of PTSD: it’s the fight flight or freeze response that stays on and never turned off when someone has PTSD. It just stays on; they’re constantly feeling like they’re getting emotionally and spiritually bombarded.

It’s very very difficult to manage what is really really common and unfortunate with women is women besides turning to self-harm turn to substances. Women are 85% more likely to have a history of trauma and traumatic events leading up to an addiction. Their disease progress is much more quickly than than men in this particular instance is because of the trauma and the PTSD.

I want you to know is that there is always help for these symptoms. There’s techniques that you can practice on a daily basis. There’s therapy, there’s recovery, there’s 12-step support. You should never do this alone. You don’t have to live in fear. You don’t have to live in terror. You should live your life freely and you can grow and live and have a life full of abundance beyond all of these symptoms. I hope that you’re learning and you’re educating yourself more about this. This is a big topic that we’re tackling in just a few minutes so please keep informing yourself of this.

If you like this please jump on the YouTube page for New Directions for Women and like these videos. We’re gonna be here to support you and offer you help. Anytime that you need that, please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. Thank you.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms associated with PTSD that can be broken up into different categories including: avoidance, intrusive memories, negative changes in thinking, changes in physical and emotional responses. Five out of ten women will or have experienced a significant trauma in their life. Although, women will experience different forms of trauma than men, the symptoms are generally the same. There are some symptoms of PTSD that are more common among women.


Avoiding the situation can enable someone to not have to deal with the traumatic situation. It feels better to not think about or discuss traumatic events that have happened.

Some symptoms of avoidance may be:

  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the event that happened
  • Trying to not think or talk about the traumatic event

Intrusive Memories

Intrusive memories are common because the person is constantly thinking about the event that happened and reliving those moments in their memories. A woman who has experienced violence or rape may have memories of their assaulter that constantly haunt them. Some common symptoms of intrusive thoughts are:

  • Severe emotional distress or reactions to something that reminds you of the event
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event

Negative Changes in Thinking

Traumatic events can cause many changes in our brain, thinking and cognitive awareness. Some of the symptoms can include:

  • Feeling numb emotionally
  • Having a hard time experiencing positive emotions
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
  • Hopelessness about the future

Increased Arousal

An increased arousal and response may be present due to the traumatic event. Some other symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty with sleep
  • Excessive emotions
  • Difficulty showing emotions or affection
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Easily startled or jumpy
  • Increased blood pressure or heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

PTSD Health Affects

If left untreated, PTSD can cause many ill effects on our mind and body. If left untreated or cared for, PTSD can cause:

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Eating disorders
  • Alcoholism
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Abuse to drugs or addiction
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Chronic pain or other disorders

Risk Factors for PTSD

PTSD started to be diagnosed in war veterans due to the trauma they endured during combat fighting and war. Although, the initial diagnosis was with war veterans, PTSD can happen to anyone, including children. Women are much more likely to develop PTSD than men and account for 85% of people diagnosed with PTSD.

“About 50% of women and 60% of men will experience emotional trauma sometime in their lives. But not everyone develops PTSD.” Women are also more likely to develop anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders due to their PTSD. They often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the stress they are feeling on a constant basis.

Factors that increase your risk of PTSD

  • A lack of social support from family or friends
  • Working a job that may expose you to traumatic events (the military or emergency medicine)
  • Having a close family member, such as a parent, with a mental health problem, like PTSD or depression
  • Having other mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, or a substance abuse problem
  • Previous experience with trauma, like childhood abuse

When to Seek Treatment

To diagnose PTSD, you will need to see a doctor or physician to determine the appropriate treatment course. To diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder, your doctor will likely:

  • Conduct a physical exam to look for medical problems that may be causing your symptoms to happen
  • Use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association
  • Perform a psychological evaluation that includes a discussion of your signs and symptoms and the event or events that led up to them


The majority of the women we serve at New Directions for Women have experienced PTSD or have had histories of trauma in their lifetime. We are rigorous about providing trauma informed care at every level, including the intake process.

We developed a screening tool to help you determine whether you might have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that needs professional attention. This screening tool is not designed to make a diagnosis of PTSD, but to be shared with a mental health professional to inform further conversations about diagnosis and treatment. PTSD quiz

PTSD and Suicidal Thoughts

Because PTSD can cause changes in the brain chemistry and behaviors, there may be an increased risk of suicidal thoughts among people who suffer from this condition. There is a higher risk of suicidal thoughts among PTSD sufferers because receptors on the outside the brain cells for those individuals with PTSD are higher than those who had suicidal thinking and compared to mentally healthy individuals. Women frequently will use self-harm to deal with the feelings they are having and may resort to suicide.

“Individuals with mental disorders are at higher risk for suicidal thinking and actions, and currently there is not a treatment to relieve suicidal thinking in PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” noted study author Irina Esterlis. She is an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine in West Haven, Conn.”

Treatment for PTSD

PTSD can cause a lot of problems such as insomnia, lowered self-esteem and painful or unpleasant emotions dealing with the past.

Treatment is used for these goals:

  1. Improve your symptoms
  2. Teach you skills to deal with it
  3. Restore your self-esteem

Types of Therapy

Holistic Care

We believe that there is a connection between the mind, body and spirit, especially when it comes to recovery for women. We provide calm environments for the women in our program to heal in such as our biosound lounge, mindfulness meditation, and acupuncture services. These services help to build internal comfort during the quiet time we are not processing our trauma.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

If you have been avoiding the event and the thoughts around it, prolonged exposure therapy may be able to help. With sessions that consist of around 90 minutes each, the therapist can help the person work through the feelings and confront them in order to heal.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Through EMDR you don’t necessarily talk about the trauma that you experienced, but the feelings that surround it. EMDR therapy has been proven to be successful for women and helps them heal much more quickly than traditional talk therapy. It uses bilateral stimulation to change the meaning of painful events which allows the person to recover from their trauma.

“the goal is to be able to think about something positive while you remember your trauma. It takes about 3 months of weekly sessions.”

Children’s Services

New Directions for Women treats the entire family and the special needs of children. Fetal alcohol syndrome can cause a multitude of problems and health concerns such as learning disabilities, developmental delays and other disorders.

Our program includes services for mommy and me bonding, family, individual and play therapy. Family involvement is essential in treating this disease and it is an integral component of the recovery program.

Treatment at New Directions for Women

New Directions for Women provides successful levels of care to women, children and their families. We meet each woman where they are at in their recovery journey and offer detox, outpatient and residential services. All of our treatment includes daily educational and therapeutic group sessions combined with individual, family and experiential therapies that are designed for each individual in our care.

Contact our caring intake coordinators for more information about our rehab for women in Costa Mesa. We are happy to verify your insurance benefits and answer any questions about treatment.

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