PTSD and Trauma

People often compartmentalize their trauma or fail to recognize how untreated trauma has affected their mental health. Stigmas surrounding trauma and mental health may cause people to avoid seeking treatment for traumas caused by verbal abuse, neglect, or everyday stressors. However, any emotionally distressing event can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may contribute to the development of substance use disorder (SUD) and other mental health issues. Getting treatment early for PTSD and trauma reduces the risk of developing secondary disorders.

SUD and trauma-related mental health issues have multiple overlapping risk factors. Many women diagnosed with SUD have co-occurring PTSD. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “For the best outcomes, mood disorders identified during assessment such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD should be addressed in conjunction with substance use treatment.” Avery Lane uses evidence-based and alternative holistic therapies to help women recover from co-occurring PTSD and trauma.

PTSD and Trauma

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is a mood disorder generally caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Trauma affects everyone differently. Two people can go through the same experience and have very different responses. Researchers are still unsure why some people are more prone to developing PTSD. However, there may be a genetic component, and gender appears to play a role. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD. According to Neurobiology of Stress, “[U]nderlying genetic differences may contribute to variability of PTSD prevalence in males and females.”

Substance misuse increases the risk of developing PTSD and trauma-related mental health issues. Some other common risk factors for developing PTSD include:

  • Living or working in a war zone
  • Childhood abuse or neglect
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Domestic abuse
  • Surviving a natural disaster
  • Experiencing a severe illness or injury

PTSD has a wide range of symptoms existing along a spectrum. How the disorder manifests for each person depends on multiple factors, including the severity of symptoms and whether the person has a support system. Individuals with less social support or fewer coping mechanisms may struggle to cope with trauma. In some cases, people misuse substances to self-medicate untreated trauma symptoms.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma includes any event, experience, thought, or belief that causes mild to severe distress. Often, the symptoms interfere with many areas of a person’s life. Some women struggle with untreated symptoms for years because they do not realize the effects are caused by trauma. Anyone can develop trauma.

Trauma is personal, and everyone experiences it differently. What one person finds traumatic to someone else may not be traumatic for someone else. Trauma includes grief and loss (e.g., loss of a loved one, loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of a pet, etc.). Everyone deserves support for their trauma, no matter what causes it. Trauma can be all-encompassing for anyone experiencing it, regardless of whether it was caused by a significant traumatic event or something else — the effects of trauma impact everyone equally. Many people with SUD and mental health disorders have some form of untreated trauma the care team can help them process.

How Do PTSD and Trauma Affect the Brain?

Childhood trauma affects the body and causes significant changes to the physical structure and growth of the brain. Trauma in adulthood may also affect cognition and neurological health. According to Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, “Brain areas implicated in the stress response include the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Traumatic stress can be associated with lasting changes in these brain areas.”

The effect of trauma on the brain is not always easy to identify or quantify. Everyone has a unique experience, and no two cases are the same. However, a few common signs of cognitive changes caused by trauma include:

  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating during everyday activities or learning new skills
  • Some people have trouble making decisions
  • Difficulty preparing or sticking with plans
  • Hyperarousal
  • Flashbacks or other dissociative events

Trauma affects how memories are stored, especially memories surrounding the traumatic event. People with PTSD and other trauma-related issues may struggle to retain new skills or information. According to the Journal of Traumatic Stress, “[I]ndividuals with PTSD have been shown to demonstrate poorer performance on tasks assessing executive functioning, episodic memory, and working memory.” Healthy coping skills decrease stress and make it easier for the mind and body to function effectively. Programs at Avery Lane provide women with skill development and trauma recovery services.

The Dangers of Untreated Trauma

Not addressing the impact and side effects of trauma can have serious repercussions. Many people with a history of trauma are unaware of how it has affected their everyday lives. Some people may go decades without being diagnosed with PTSD, living with the symptoms and feeling overwhelmed without knowing why. Substance misuse is a common maladaptive coping mechanism for individuals with untreated PTSD or other trauma-related mental health issues.

Untreated trauma has the potential to significantly impact individuals and their families by doing the following:

  • Increasing risk-taking behaviors
  • Reducing self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy
  • Causing disruptive behaviors during social interactions
  • Decreasing quality of life and ability to function

The side effects and symptoms of trauma look different for everyone. Some people may have difficulty functioning day-to-day, while others may only notice a flare-up of symptoms during highly stressful moments. No matter how PTSD and trauma manifest, women benefit from attending professional mental health and recovery programs.

Identifying the Signs of Untreated Trauma and PTSD

Many women do not realize they have untreated PTSD and trauma. Recognizing the symptoms helps women know when to reach out for help.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of untreated PTSD and trauma include:

  • Denial of the traumatic event
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme and frequent mood swings
  • Specific or general fear
  • Guilt and shame
  • Physical symptoms, including muscle tension, body aches, headaches, nausea, or racing heart
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Social isolation and feeling disconnected from others
  • Feeling hopeless

Symptoms of untreated PTSD may be mild or severe. Everyone’s experience is unique.

How Can Avery Lane Help?

Everyone deserves to feel valued, respected and heard. Avery Lane is a treatment center created by women in recovery for women in recovery. The dedicated care team has years of experience helping women overcome their trauma and build healthy, sober lives. Treatment programs offer personalized services, including complementary and alternative medicine. Each client directs their recovery by collaborating closely with the clinical team. The clinicians are trained to provide trauma-informed care to reduce the risk of re-traumatization.

Some of the services offered include:

  • Trauma therapy
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Case management
  • Extended support and alumni services
  • Primary or secondary mental health treatment

The clinical team works with each client to ensure they feel comfortable maintaining positive mental health while managing the symptoms of PTSD and trauma. Avery Lane ensures clients are provided with the skills and tools to live a full and functional life outside of treatment.

Women diagnosed with substance use disorder may have co-occurring trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Professional mental health and addiction recovery services reduce the symptoms and side effects of untreated trauma or PTSD. Call Avery Lane today at (800) 270-2406 to learn more.

Contact Avery Lane Admissions Today

Summer Lan Franco
MA, MFT-t, Primary Therapist

Summer Lan Franco loves working with people to facilitate recovery from substance use disorders, disordered eating, mental health issues and complex trauma. She earned her BS in Nutrition and Food Science from California State University Chico and MS in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of California. She has worked in community-based and private practice settings. Her approach is personable and sincere. Summer believes in helping people rediscover their true selves by uncovering barriers that stand in the way. Her warmth and earnest interest in others’ wellbeing are always present in the work she does with people seeking help. She has experience with trauma recovery, substance abuse recovery, codependency, family issues, disordered eating, treatment for anxiety and depression, and working with personality disorders.

Alaina Dunér
Office Manager, Sound Healing Group Facilitator, Reiki Master

Alaina Dunér is a Sonoma County native. She studied sociology and outdoor adventure programming for two years at Loyola University of New Orleans and Warren Wilson College. In 2016 Alaina was on a recreational skydive and had a crash landing that resulted in her fracturing multiple vertebrae in her spine. Since her accident, Alaina has emersed herself in understanding the nuances and complexities of health and spirituality. She is passionate about supporting clients through Reiki and Sound. Since taking a pause from university, Alaina has become a certified Reiki Master Teacher in the Tibetan Usui system, an Ayurvedic yoga instructor, a health coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and a trauma informed sound facilitator. At the end of 2022 Alaina will attend Southern Utah University to complete her bachelor’s in aerospace and aviation with an emphasis on rotary flight.

Sunnie Skillman
Energy Worker

Sunnie has worked within the field of Energy Psychology for over 20 years and has been trained in a number of healing modalities, including EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Access Consciousness. She has been using the tools of Access Consciousness for 23 years, teaching classes and working with clients using various hands-on energy body work techniques. She specializes working with clients who have symptoms of PTSD and assisting in clearing where trauma is stored in the body.
Sunnie brings her personal experience with trauma healing as well as her kind and
caring energy to support the ladies interested in working with other healing modalities
at Avery Lane.

Nicole Collins,
AMFT, Primary Therapist

Nicole Collins entered the field of healing after receiving her BA from Colorado State University
in Human Services, which led her to work in domestic violence. Following her beliefs and
passion in the body-mind-spirit connection and the Intelligence of the Self-healing power, she
got her MS from Touro University in Vallejo. She believes that addiction, alcoholism,
depression, the things that push against your joy, calm, serenity, and sense of security, are
powerful and baffling. Still, there is something unique inside of you that is ready to push back
against it all. The fear, anxiety, depression, and trauma that press against your head and chest
are real, but they should not define you. She feels her role is to help you find the resources
within to overcome the challenges and suffering that life may bring. She specializes in trauma,
substance abuse, LGBTQIA+ community, matters of belonging, helping individuals heal in their
relationships within themselves. In your work together, she will meet you where you are and
support you in reacquainting you, with all parts of yourself, including your inherent wisdom.

Erin Miller, RADT
Recovery Counselor

Erin is a Registered Alcohol Drug Technician, Certified Recovery Coach, and Certified Clinical
Trauma Specialist-A (Trauma and Addiction). She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in
Psychology and Addiction Studies at Aspen University. Through her personal experience with
alcohol addiction and recovery, Erin was inspired to support others on their recovery journeys.
She brings kindness, compassion, and encouragement to her work at Avery Lane. Erin lives in
Sonoma County with her husband and their two adventurous children.

Laurel LeMohn
Recovery Counselor

is a Mendocino County native. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sonoma State University in 2014 and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University. She has been a Recovery Counselor at Avery Lane since October, 2021, and works from a trauma-informed, psychodynamic, and humanistic lens. She has had a desire towards helping others since she was young and looks forward to working with you as you transition your life into one where you are thriving and proud to be living.