What You Should Know About PTSD in the Children of Alcholics…Guest post by Karen Peizer…

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I am pleased to introduce the first submission from Josh Anderson of Guest Post U., written by Karen Pelzar specifically for www.livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com.   

I have written often about the relationship of alcohol and PTSD, especially how children are affected.  I came from a highly dysfunctional home where alcohol was at the center of the treatment culture of our family.  We were not qualified to determine how to treat the pain resulting from my father’s severe trauma from WWII and the Korean War.  Dad tried to function as a typical adult and father, but the emotional baggage from war stuck like bad genes in life after war.  Alcohol was the chosen self medication for those who managed to get through the day with professional duties and responsibilities that helped separate them from the 24/7 emotional pain of the horror of war in their past.  But at night and on days off, alcohol was the avenue of relief.  But alcohol clearly made matters far worse for most, including my own father.  The excessive use of alcohol by parents for any reason affects children in most negative ways as it did in our family for all of our years growing up.  It was ugly to say the least. 

The following article written by  Karen Pelzer helps to explain and build awareness around the effects of excessive use of alcohol around children…  I am so pleased to join Guest Post U. as a partner in educating parents and children to become more aware and prepared to address coping and living with PTSD using alternative treatment solutions.  I am grateful and honored that Guest Post U. selected www.livingwithptsd-sparkles.blogspot.com as a partner.

Steve Sparks
Author
Reconciliation: A Son’s Story

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Written by Karen Pelzer http://gulfcoastdrugrehab.com 
Post-traumatic stress disorder connotes a severe, and sometimes remittent, anxiety disorder that occurs subsequent to jarring psychological trauma. As many as five million children in the US could be affected with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although childhood PTSD is related to abuse in 70% of childhood PTSD cases, some children develop the syndrome when exposed to long-term trauma, such as an alcoholic parent. The diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder usually arises after a threat to one’s physical safety or psychological well being, and PTSD can oftentimes be characterized as threatening one’s ability to cope with trauma.

Etiology and Concomitant Disorders
Post-traumatic stress disorder is noted for having other troubling calling cards: hypervigilance; high arousal levels; social or occupational impairment; and, increased risk of self-medication via substance abuse. Recent studies indicate that over 1/3rd of PTSD victims develop a dependence on an illicit substance at some point in their recovery. (1) Studies also show that women report slightly lower rates of drug dependence while fighting post-traumatic stress disorder. Men with PTSD, unfortunately, have been shown to abuse alcohol at around twice the average expected rate: the rate for alcohol abuse among males with PTSD is approximately 52% whereas the population average for males is closer to 25%.(2) Among children, only a minority of the 15-45% of children who experience trauma develop post-tramatic stress disorder.

Self-Medication and Susceptibility Theory
The self-medication theory posits that people with mental illness, such as PTSD, will abuse substances to alleviate the symptoms of said mental illness. Oftentimes, PTSD sufferers will flock towards a less stigmatized drug like alcohol to sidestep the perceived shame of treatment. The susceptibility theory, however, presents a hypothesis at odds with conventional wisdom: susceptibility theory says that there is something unique about alcohol or other drugs that triggers an individual susceptible to PTSD to develop full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder. Current research empirically supports both theories, so what can be done to rectify the situation?

Prevention or Amelioration?
Research demonstrates that early intervention may help PTSD from developing in the first place. Early and continued access to cognitive-behavioral therapy and destigmatization of PTSD itself via support groups have both shown promise. In addition to the foregoing strategies, early intervention may be facilitated via coupling neuroscience with clinical psychology. (3) Preliminary studies demonstrate that quicker response times alongside smaller overall hippocampal size may be linked to developing PTSD. Of course, the presence of quicker response times and smaller hippocampal volume needs to be tied to previous history of extreme stress and an inability to cope with that stress. Perhaps the best course of action, though, with suspected PTSD is simply psychological debriefing, which assesses the patient’s PTSD risk right after a stressful event.

PTSD: Modern Name, Old Concept
Although post-traumatic stress disorder is relatively new diagnostically, the idea of stress, and long-term problems related to that stress, is an old story. That said, modern research on PTSD offers many solutions and early detection strategies. Post-traumatic stress disorder is definitely more prevalent among adults, but approximately five million children in the United States live with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Works Consulted

  1. http://ptsd.about.com/od/relatedconditions/a/drugalcohol.htm
  2. Kessler, R.C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C.B. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 1048-1060
  3. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159109003821
  4. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/ptsd-children-adolescents.asp

Karen Pelzer writes about parenting, counseling, addiction and health at http://gulfcoastdrugrehab.com.


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