Healing from Trauma: Understanding and Overcoming PTSD at Continuum Outpatient Center

Discover the transformative PTSD treatments at Continuum Outpatient Center for a path to healing and recovery.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop in people who’ve experienced or witnessed a traumatic or life-threatening event. PTSD can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background.

Events that Can Trigger PTSD

The types of events that can trigger PTSD can include:

  • Combat exposure: Military personnel who have been in war zones
  • Sexual or physical assault: Survivors of rape, domestic violence, or other forms of violence
  • Natural disasters: Victims of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc.
  • Accidents: People involved in serious accidents, such as car crashes
  • Terrorist attacks: Survivors of bombings, hostage situations, or other acts of terrorism

How Does PTSD Manifest?

PTSD can manifest in various ways. The symptoms are categorized into four clusters:

  1. Intrusive memories: Flashbacks, nightmares, or distressing thoughts about the traumatic event
  2. Avoidance:  Avoiding reminders of the trauma, including places, people, or activities associated with the event
  3. Negative changes in thinking and mood: Persistent negative emotions, feelings of detachment, difficulty experiencing positive emotions, and negative thoughts about oneself or others
  4. Changes in arousal and reactivity: Being easily startled, feeling tense, having difficulty sleeping, and engaging in self-destructive behaviors

Types of PTSD

There are different types of PTSD based on the specific symptoms or features. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is widely used by mental health professionals, identifies several types of PTSD:

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

While not a specific type of PTSD, ASD is a closely related condition that can occur in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event.

If symptoms persist for at least 24 hours but less than one month, it may be diagnosed as ASD. If symptoms persist beyond one month, a diagnosis of PTSD may be considered.

PTSD with Dissociative Symptoms

Some people with PTSD may experience dissociation, which involves a disconnection between:

  • Thoughts
  • Identity
  • Consciousness
  • Memory
Dissociative symptoms can include depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself) and derealization (feeling detached from the surroundings).

Complex PTSD

This is not officially recognized as a separate diagnosis in the DSM-5. But, it is often used to describe a more severe and chronic form of PTSD that can result from prolonged exposure to trauma, particularly interpersonal trauma such as childhood abuse or neglect.

It is characterized by additional symptoms, including difficulties with:

  • Emotion regulation
  • Self-perception
  • Interpersonal relationships

Uncomplicated PTSD

This is the “classic” form of PTSD, characterized by symptoms such as:

  • Intrusive memories
  • Avoidance of reminders
  • Negative changes in mood and thinking
  • Heightened arousal
It can result from a single traumatic event, such as a car accident, assault, or natural disaster.

Comorbid PTSD

PTSD often coexists with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or substance use disorders. When PTSD occurs alongside one or more of these conditions, it is referred to as comorbid PTSD.

Risk Factors for Developing PTSD

Several factors can contribute to a person’s risk of developing PTSD. It’s important to note that not everyone who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, and the disorder’s development is influenced by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors. 

Some common risk factors include:

Severity and Nature of the Trauma

The more severe and life-threatening the traumatic event, the higher the risk of developing PTSD. Events such as sexual assault, combat exposure, or natural disasters are more likely to lead to PTSD.

Personal History of Trauma

People with a history of previous traumatic experiences, especially in childhood, may be more susceptible to developing PTSD following subsequent traumas.

Lack of Social Support

A lack of supportive relationships and a weak social support system can increase the risk of PTSD. Having a strong support network can be protective against the development of the disorder.

Pre-Existing Mental Health Conditions

People with pre-existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, may be more vulnerable to developing PTSD after a traumatic event.

Family History of Mental Health Conditions

A family history of mental health disorders, including PTSD, may contribute to someone’s susceptibility to the disorder.

Biological Factors

Some studies suggest that there may be genetic factors that influence a person’s response to trauma and their risk of developing PTSD. Variations in certain genes may contribute to the vulnerability.

Neurobiological Factors

Differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas involved in stress response and emotional regulation (e.g., the amygdala and prefrontal cortex), may play a role in the development of PTSD.

Coping Strategies

Ineffective or maladaptive coping strategies, such as avoiding emotions or situations associated with the trauma, can increase the risk of developing PTSD.

Substance Use

The use of drugs or alcohol to cope with stress or trauma can increase the risk of developing PTSD. Substance use may interfere with the natural recovery process and contribute to the persistence of symptoms.

Occupational Factors

Certain occupations, such as military personnel, first responders, and healthcare workers, may be exposed to traumatic events more frequently. This can increase the risk of developing PTSD.

Prevalence of PTSD in the U.S.

The statistics below explore the rate of PTSD in the U.S. and highlight the need for effective treatment:

  • 3.5% of U.S. adults experience PTSD each year.
  • 8% of adolescents ages 13-18 have lifetime PTSD.
  • 1 in 11 people will experience PTSD in their lifetime.

How Can PTSD Lead to Addiction?

PTSD and addiction can be interconnected, and people with PTSD may be at an increased risk of developing substance use disorders. Around 46.4% of those who have PTSD also fulfill the requirements for a substance use disorder.

The relationship between PTSD and addiction is complex, and several factors contribute to the connection:

Self-Medication

People with PTSD may use substances such as drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the distressing symptoms of PTSD. Substances may temporarily numb emotional pain, alleviate anxiety, or help with sleep difficulties. But, this coping mechanism is temporary and can lead to a cycle of dependence.

Avoidance

One of the symptoms of PTSD is avoidance—avoiding reminders of the traumatic event. Substance use can serve as a way to avoid or numb painful memories and emotions associated with the trauma. This avoidance strategy, while providing temporary relief, can contribute to the development of addiction.

Impaired Decision-Making

PTSD can affect cognitive function and decision-making processes. People with PTSD may be more prone to impulsive behaviors, including substance abuse. Impaired judgment can lead to an increased likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, including drug or alcohol misuse.

Increased Tolerance

Over time, as people use substances to cope with PTSD symptoms, they may develop a tolerance, requiring increasing amounts to achieve the same effects. This tolerance can contribute to the development of substance dependence and addiction.

Overlap in Brain Mechanisms

Both PTSD and addiction can affect the brain’s reward and stress systems. There are neurobiological similarities between the two conditions, and substances of abuse can impact the same brain regions that are implicated in stress response and emotional regulation.

Trauma and Childhood Adversity

People with a history of trauma, especially in childhood, are at a higher risk of both PTSD and substance use disorders. Early exposure to trauma can have lasting effects on brain development and increase vulnerability to mental health and addiction issues later in life.

Continuum Outpatient Center’s Approach to PTSD Treatment

At Continuum Outpatient Center, we understand that addressing and overcoming the challenges of PTSD requires a comprehensive and personalized approach. Our Texas-based healing facility is dedicated to providing evidence-based treatments that promote healing and recovery.

Some of our treatment options include:

Psychotherapy (Counseling)

We offer various forms of psychotherapy to help people process and manage traumatic experiences. Our skilled therapists use evidence-based modalities, such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Exposure therapy
These approaches are tailored to meet the unique needs of each patient.

Medication Management

Our team of experienced psychiatrists may recommend medications to alleviate specific symptoms associated with PTSD, such as anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances. We closely monitor medication effectiveness and adjust treatment plans as needed to ensure optimal outcomes.

Group Therapy

Engaging in group therapy provides a supportive environment where those with PTSD can connect with others who share similar experiences. 

Our professionally facilitated group sessions encourage:

  • Open dialogue
  • Mutual support
  • The development of coping strategies

Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques

We incorporate mindfulness-based practices and stress reduction techniques into our treatment approach. These practices empower people to manage stress, regulate emotions, and enhance overall well-being.

Trauma-Informed Care

Our entire team is committed to providing trauma-informed care, recognizing the impact of trauma and tailoring our services accordingly. We create a safe and respectful environment that promotes healing and encourages open communication.

Holistic Approaches

In addition to traditional therapeutic methods, we embrace holistic approaches to address the mind-body connection. Our programs may include activities such as yoga, meditation, and art therapy to complement and enhance the overall treatment experience.

Family Involvement

We understand the importance of family support in the recovery process. Our clinicians work collaboratively with family members to educate, strengthen relationships, and provide tools for effective support.

Embrace Recovery Through Our 12-Week Curriculum

Embark on a transformative journey at Continuum, where our 12-week curriculum is designed to guide you step-by-step toward healing and recovery. Each week focuses on essential themes, empowering you with skills, insights, and resilience for lasting recovery.

Here’s a brief overview of our 12-week PTSD-specific curriculum:

Week 1 – The Four Agreements

In the inaugural week, we introduce The Four Agreements, employing a holistic approach to address the unique challenges of PTSD. This sets a robust foundation of reliability and trust, underpinning your journey toward a future of resilience and well-being.

Week 2 – Brain Works

Week two navigates the intricacies of the mind, unveiling the impact of trauma on brain function. We dedicate time to guide you in comprehending your unique cognitive responses to PTSD triggers, empowering you on your path to lasting well-being.

Week 3 – Human Relationships

Delve into the profound impact of PTSD on interpersonal connections. Learn essential strategies to initiate the healing process and rebuild fractured relationships with friends, family, and loved ones, fostering a path towards restoration and connection.

Week 4 – Trauma and Growth

Week four is dedicated to equipping you with skills to conquer past traumas and their connection to substance use. By providing tools for resilience, we establish a sturdy foundation, fostering long-term success on your recovery journey.

Week 5 – Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Basics

Empower yourself to embrace the present, manage stress healthily, and repair strained relationships through our DBT Basics module. Learn essential skills from dialectical behavior therapy, paving the way for a more mindful and fulfilling life on your journey to recovery.

Week 6 – Emotional IQ

Focus on enhancing emotional intelligence in our “Emotional IQ” module. These skills empower you through teaching skills like:

  • Stress relief
  • Effective communication
  • Empathy
  • Overcoming challenges
  • Conflict resolution
These skills prove invaluable in the early stages of recovery.

Week 7 – Mindfulness

Week seven emphasizes the intricate link between mind and body, enabling you to immerse yourself fully in the present moment, cultivating a state of being where you can remain present without feeling overwhelmed or overly reactive to the surrounding world.

Week 8 – Life Skills

Address how PTSD may overshadow crucial aspects of life. Prioritize equipping yourself with essential tools for a healthy, independent, and thriving life in recovery.

Week 9 – Relapse Prevention

In week nine, identify stressors and triggers that fueled substance use and mental health disorders. Empower yourself to steer clear of triggers or effectively cope with them, ensuring a robust defense against relapse on your journey to sustained recovery.

Week 10 – Balance and Boundaries

Dedicate time to imparting essential skills of setting healthy boundaries and finding balance in your life, crucial for lasting success in your recovery journey.

Week 11 – Self-Care

Recognize the toll that mental health and substance use disorders can take on both body and mind. Emphasize self-care to guide you in reclaiming balance and embarking on a transformative journey towards wellness.

Week 12 – Family Roles

Discover essential skills to initiate the healing process and sustain healthy relationships with family and loved ones, fostering a supportive and nurturing environment on your journey to recovery.

Tailored Schedules for Your PTSD Recovery Journey at Continuum

Discover flexibility in your PTSD healing journey with Continuum Outpatient Center, a premier intensive outpatient program (IOP) for PTSD in San Antonio, Texas.

We understand that flexibility is important in treatment, which is why we offer the following treatment schedules to accommodate your daily responsibilities:

  • Daytime IOP: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • Evening IOP: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Telehealth options: Available for added accessibility.

Choose Continuum Outpatient Center Today

The choice of a treatment center is pivotal in the journey to recovery. At Continuum Outpatient Center, our mission is to guide people toward healing and recovery from PTSD. 

By combining personalized care, evidence-based practices, and a supportive community, we strive to be a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of trauma. Together, we embark on a journey toward renewed well-being and a brighter future.

Take the first step toward healing today. Visit us at 6200 UTSA Blvd., Ste. 102, San Antonio, Texas, 78249, or call us today at (210) 405-5935 to embark on your path to recovery.