One quarter of children and adolescents in the U.S. experience a traumatic event before they turn 16, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). When that traumatic event results in victimization, whether through physical, emotional or sexual abuse or the witnessing of another’s trauma, such as in the case of domestic violence, the child is at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder, which in turn increases the risk of being victimized again. In this article we will dicuss duel diagnosis for victimized teens. Getting help for a substance abuse problem that results from being victimized is absolutely essential for improving a teenager’s chances of healing from both the trauma and the resulting substance abuse or addiction. If your teen suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and abuses or is addicted to drugs or alcohol, a dual-diagnosis treatment program is essential for successful long-term recovery.
Why Victimization Increases the Risk of Substance Abuse
Victimization, or being the victim of a violent crime or abuse, can lead to substance abuse for a number of reasons, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime. Teenage victims of childhood or adolescent trauma may use drugs or alcohol to:
- Dull the emotional trauma and the psychological problems resulting from the victimization.
- Alleviate stress or feelings of shame, helplessness, self-hatred or fear.
- Ease the emotional pain that results when others expect the victim to just “get over it,” and make it easier for the victim to feel positive emotions.
- Suppress the anger that results from being the victim of abuse or other trauma.
- Suppress feelings of guilt and personal responsibility for the abuse or crime.
Even when an adolescent doesn’t specifically remember the details of the victimization and has no distinctive understanding of what caused him or her to feel a certain way, the event has a profound effect on subsequent development.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, commonly occurs after being the victim of or witness to a traumatic event. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), childhood trauma–including physical, emotional or sexual abuse or being threatened with violence–is a major factor in future drug abuse. NIDA points to research which shows that as many as two-thirds of all people in drug treatment have PTSD as a result of childhood victimization. Up to 59 percent of female drug abusers suffer from PTSD, and between 55 and 99 percent of women in drug treatment have a history of physical or sexual abuse, most of which occurred before the age of 18.
Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur immediately after a trauma, or it can occur weeks, months or even years later. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of PTSD include:
- Intrusive memories of the event.
- Flashbacks that feel like the event is happening again.
- Avoidance behaviors regarding people or events that serve as reminders of the trauma.
- Negativity that permeates one’s mood and causes the inability to experience positive emotions.
- Feelings of self-hatred.
- Social withdrawal and emotional numbness.
- Loss of memory surrounding the trauma and events that occurred around the same time.
- Uncontrollable anger.
- Being easily frightened or startled.
- The inability to develop or maintain close relationships.
- Turning to drugs or alcohol to alleviate symptoms of PTSD.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that requires treatment. When a mental illness occurs with drug abuse or addiction, it’s known as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Co-occurring disorders require dual diagnosis treatment.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
If your child suffers from PTSD or another mental illness and also has a substance abuse disorder, each condition requires separate treatment, but the treatments for each must be integrated so that one is addressed with the other in mind. Both PTSD and the addiction are highly treatable, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration cites far better outcomes when they’re treated together.
There is Hope
Without appropriate treatment, both the PTSD and the addiction will likely grow worse. But your child doesn’t have to continue suffering from past victimization or from addiction. Through a high quality dual diagnosis treatment program offering a holistic approach to treatment that addresses issues of the body, mind and spirit, your teenager can work through complex issues and develop coping skills and strategies that will lead to a vastly improved quality of life and a much brighter and healthier way of viewing the world. To learn more about dual diagnosis and how we can help, give us a call at 877-466-0620.