Acute Stress Disorder and Addiction Treatment

Traumatic events can deeply imprint themselves on our psychological makeup and have lasting emotional and repercussions even after the triggering event has passed. In the case of Acute Stress Disorder, trauma creates overwhelming psychological disturbances that  can impair function, affect your most important interpersonal relationship, and profoundly impact your sense of self. Although Acute Stress Disorder is short-lasting, the presence of a co-occurring drug addiction can prolong your suffering and require specialized dual diagnosis treatment to ensure recovery.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance addiction and co-occurring Acute Stress Disorder, we invite you to contact us at any time to learn more about your treatment options.

The Aftershocks of Trauma

One of the greatest concerns following trauma is the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a debilitating psychological condition that can occur following extreme stress. Acute Stress Disorder shares many similarities to PTSD, including reliving the traumatic event, overwhelming anxiety, and extreme emotional distress, all of which can cause significant functional impairment. Acute Stress Disorder, however, has a markedly different onset and duration than PTSD; while PTSD symptoms may arise at any time and are prolonged in nature, Acute Stress Disorder symptoms emerge within one month of the traumatic event and lasts a maximum of four weeks. It is important to note that despite this condensed duration, Acute Stress Disorder can be extraordinarily painful, frightening, and disorienting and have lasting repercussions on your emotional health. If left untreated, Acute Stress Disorder can lead to the development of PTSD.

While Acute Stress Disorder is often caused by direct trauma, such as sexual violence, involvement in a traffic accident, or combat exposure, indirect trauma can also lead to the development of the disorder. Indirect trauma includes witnessing a traumatic event, learning that a loved one has experienced trauma, being exposed to the aftermath of traumatic events, or repeatedly hearing about trauma.

Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder manifests in a variety of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. The central feature of the condition, however, is dissociative symptoms, which may take the form of derealization, depersonalization, dissociative amnesia, or an altered state of awareness in which you lose your sense of connection to reality. Other symptoms include:

  • Recurring memories of the traumatic event
  • Flashbacks or reliving the event
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the trauma
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability and anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and hypervigilance

The symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder can severely disrupt your ability to maintain normal social and professional function and make even simple everyday tasks impossible to complete.

Acute Stress Disorder and Addiction

The horror of trauma combined with the pain of Acute Stress Disorder can leave you feeling frightened, angry, isolated, and desperate for relief. Unfortunately, many people with this condition turn to alcohol and illicit drugs to find an escape from overwhelming distress and come to depend on harmful substances to keep psychological pain at bay. In other cases, you may begin abusing prescription drugs to alleviate anxiety, sleep disturbances, or physical trauma. Even people who have no history of drug use in the past can quickly develop a substance use disorder in the presence of Acute Stress Disorder.

Ultimately, substance abuse only provides you with temporary escape, not lasting relief. In fact, drugs keep you from recovery and prolong your suffering; over time, psychoactive substances modify your brain circuitry and interferes with your mind’s natural ability to heal. As a result, you may find that your original symptoms increase in severity and new ones emerge, pulling you deeper into distress and escalating  your reliance on drugs.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you are experiencing symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder, it is imperative that you seek professional treatment to cope with your current psychological pain as well as prevent the development of PTSD. If your Acute Stress Disorder is accompanied by a co-occurring substance addiction, dual diagnosis treatment offers the best chance at full recovery.

The complex relationship between Acute Stress Disorder and drug addiction requires that both conditions are treated simultaneously to break the cycle of use and suffering. Dual diagnosis treatment incorporates the most effective therapies designed to address the full scope of your needs to ensure that your emotional and behavioral health are restored. Because each person’s situation is unique, it is critical that your treatment plan is tailored to your individual circumstances to create a meaningful, relevant treatment experience that encourages self-growth and personal transformation. The most effective therapeutic modalities for Acute Stress Disorder and addiction include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapies
  • 12-step support groups

Pharmacological treatments may also be used as indicated by your individual situation. A psychiatrist who specializes in dual diagnosis treatment will be able to evaluate your suitability for pharmacological interventions and design a personalized medication plan to alleviate acute symptoms and allow you to more fully engage in the therapeutic process.

The strength of dual diagnosis treatment comes from its ability to provide comprehensive care for your multiple and interrelated needs. Through a personal exploration of both your Acute Stress Disorder and drug addiction, you can come to understand the powerful links between them and begin removing the obstacles standing in the way of your healing.  As such, you are able to not only alleviate painful symptoms but address the roots of those symptoms to create true and sustainable healing.

Often, the prospect of examining trauma can be intimidating and make you feel vulnerable at an already overwhelming and difficult time. As such, it is of utmost importance that the clinicians you work with have the experience and compassion to guide you through the therapeutic process in a way that is safe and comfortable for you. Therapies should be modified to allow you to participate while respecting your boundaries, avoiding triggers, and nurturing your resiliency throughout the recovery process. If you would like your loved ones to participate in your healing, dedicated family programs can provide the structure and support your family needs to move forward together. By establishing trusting and fruitful therapeutic relationships with both clinicians and peers, you can begin to unravel the damage of Acute Stress Disorder and addiction to regain inner tranquility and restore behavioral health.

If you would like more information about drug addiction and Acute Stress Disorder, or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer support and guidance to help you find the help you need to create true and lasting recovery.