Is My Avoidance Rooted in PTSD?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery September 25, 2023

Is My Avoidance Rooted in PTSD?

The reality of the human condition is that we are affected by that which we experience. This includes both the positive and the negative, and the truth is that even the negative, in small and reasonable doses, can help us evolve and grow strong into adulthood. But what about the people who experience negative events that are beyond the pale in severity and ultimately shape their lives with the narrative of trauma? These are the people who are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and thus, these are the people who are at risk of developing avoidance rooted in PTSD.

The influential contemporary Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” This is often what subconsciously happens with people who struggle with PTSD. No, they don’t personally purposefully “prefer suffering that is familiar,” but rather, the root/core causes of their PTSD promote this form of suffering against their will. This is where their avoidance rooted in PTSD becomes their cudgel against “people, places, and things,” and ultimately further trauma. The good news is that with a focused, comprehensive recovery plan, one’s avoidance rooted in PTSD can become not only manageable but removable.

What Exactly Is PTSD?

When discussing any form of addiction or mental health issue, it is always good to start with a base knowledge of the illness. This is especially true with PTSD, as the term is often bandied about in the public sphere without close attention to its specificities.

Doctors Mann and Marwaha offer an exceptional description of PTSD in their clinical write-up, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. They write, “Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a syndrome that results from exposure to real or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual assault. Following the traumatic event, PTSD is common and is one of the serious health concerns that is associated with comorbidity, functional impairment, and increased mortality with suicidal ideations and attempts.” It should also be noted that there are other specific traumatic events that are often most associated with PTSD.

These events include active military duty and combat, natural disasters, domestic abuse, and extreme financial strain. Doctors Mann and Marwaha also note how “common” PTSD is currently, but that fact becomes much more digestible when it is butted up against the statistics.

Understanding the Prevalence of PTSD in Today’s Society

PTSD and other forms of trauma-related anxiety disorders are much more common than many people may think. According to the National Center for PTSD, “About 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the U.S. population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives,” and “About 5 out of every 100 adults (or 5%) in the U.S. has PTSD in any given year.” Now, while they do note that most people who experience trauma will ultimately not develop PTSD, their statistics show that, based on population, 20 million people in the U.S. alone will struggle with PTSD at some point in their lives.

However, while these statistics are staggering, they should not be discouraging. They simply represent a mental health void that needs to be filled with proper professional treatment. However, before this treatment can take effect, we have to know the populations that are most in need.

Veterans: Who Is Most Susceptible to PTSD?

When many people think of PTSD, they often correlate it with veterans and active service members. While it is a bit of a foresight, it is a reasonable conclusion because veterans are simply more likely to struggle with PTSD.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “At some point in their life, 7 out of every 100 Veterans (or 7%) will have PTSD.” Now, as previously mentioned, about 6 out of every 100 civilians (or 6%) will experience PTSD in their lifetime. While it may not seem like much, based on a population that is nearly 3.5 million more veterans that will struggle with the disorder, and compared to the overall population of veterans, this statistic looks much higher.

The VA continues, “PTSD is also more common among female Veterans (13 out of 100, or 13%) versus male Veterans (6 out of 100, or 6%),” but “We are learning more about transgender Veterans and those who do not identify as male or female (non-binary).” However, while these statistics are significantly higher, it is important to note that PTSD does not merely affect those who experience such extreme conditions as active combat. Trauma is ultimately very individualized, and thus PTSD can manifest from many facets of a person’s life.

Powerful Positions and Loss: Who Is Most Susceptible to PTSD?

For example, It is not unreasonable for a person of high finance, celebrity, or business position of power to experience PTSD. Why? Because these are high-stress situations and occupations, and with those levels of stress and pressure, any disturbance can be magnified, traumatic, and ultimately, PTSD-causing. 

Also, people who experience the loss of a loved one (especially a sudden loss) are very susceptible to PTSD. The same goes for the loss of a job, loss of financial footing, loss of a home or community due to natural disasters, or the loss of a relationship.

Childhood Trauma: Who Is Most Susceptible to PTSD?

Lastly, it is very critical to note that people who experience trauma in their younger years are much more likely to develop PTSD. This may come from very severe “physical” situations such as domestic abuse or addiction struggles within the home.

But PTSD can also manifest from seemingly “less severe” emotional situations that arise in childhood. These situations may include being bullied at school, being part of a population that is underrecognized (such as individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC), or experiencing financial strain that trickles down from the parents.

Regardless of how PTSD manifests, it still affects the individual in the same intense, uncomfortable, and often detrimental ways. We must always remember that PTSD is personal and powerful. Also, regardless of where PTSD originated for the individual, there are many universal warning signs for the disorder that people can look out for.

What Are Some of the Most Common Symptoms and Warning Signs Associated With PTSD?

As with most mental health and addiction issues, people with PTSD exhibit a broad spectrum of symptoms related to their PTSD. However, there are certain symptoms that tend to be more universal than others, and these symptoms are responsible for the common warning signs that we need to look out for when we suspect a loved one (or ourselves) may be struggling with PTSD.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) offers very specific diagnostic criteria for PTSD. These include:

  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts associated with the specific traumatic event
  • Having nightmares related to the traumatic event (these are often repetitive and reoccurring)
  • Experiencing flashbacks, in which the individual feels as though they are going through the traumatic event again
  • Showing physical symptoms that may include high blood pressure, excessive sweating, weight loss or weight gain, increased heart rate, and unexplained muscle and joint soreness
  • Changes in mood and a lack of self-worth and/or self-confidence
  • Feeling estranged or detached from others
  • Becoming easily startled, showing hypervigilance, and having trouble concentrating
  • Exhibiting persistent avoidance

This last symptom of avoidance can be particularly detrimental. Yet, many people are often unaware that this is avoidance rooted in PTSD.

Is My Avoidance Rooted in PTSD?

According to the DSM-5, persistent avoidance rooted in PTSD is “evidenced by one or both of the following: Avoidance or efforts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts associated with the traumatic event,” and/or “Avoidance or efforts to avoid external reminders such as people, places, activities, conversations, or situations that arouse distressing memories or thoughts related to the traumatic event.” So, “Is my avoidance rooted in PTSD?” The answer is if PTSD is present, then there’s a good chance that any signs of avoidance are related.

Now, is all avoidance related to PTSD? Of course not. In fact, some avoidance is strategic and sometimes even necessary. However, avoidance related to PTSD is anything but strategic. It is often damaging and can actually be dangerous. Thus, avoidance rooted in PTSD must be treated at the cellular level.

Treating Avoidance Rooted in PTSD at the Cellular Level

Now, what does being treated for PTSD at the cellular level actually mean? What it means is that we must get down to the root/core causes that are intrinsically linked to the disorder. 

This not only means getting to the actual traumatic event (which can still be lodged in the sub-conscience) and bringing it to the surface, but it also means addressing all of the associated issues that have manifested alongside that trauma up until the point of treatment.

It is also important to remember that treating PTSD at the cellular level also means recovering at the cellular level. This can only happen via individualized mental health care and a comprehensive recovery plan. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we utilize all that Hawaii’s Big Island has to offer to help make this necessary comprehensive recovery plan a reality.

Treating Avoidance Rooted in PTSD With the Landscape of Hawaii’s Big Island

Hawaii is perhaps best known for its magnificent landscape. It is known for its towering green mountains, live volcanoes, cliffside and white-sand beaches, and some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

However, what many people may not know is that this exquisite landscape can also be used to heal from issues of addiction and mental health, such as PTSD. It can be accomplished via something known as nature immersion therapy.

Understanding Nature Immersion Therapy

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Besides physical health improvements, nature exposure can bring about positive influence upon psychological constructs such as boredom, friendliness, well-being, and liveliness. However, across more than one hundred studies on nature/wildlife exposure, stress mitigation has been shown to be one of the most consistent and important psychological benefits.” The article also mentions benefits such as positive impacts on cognitive functioning and creating natural and human connections.

Now, this connection aspect is critical to addressing avoidance issues. This is because avoidance rooted in PTSD lives in the realm of steering clear of “people, places, and things.” Nature immersion therapy can help individuals steer themselves back in the right direction of connectedness. It is also important to note that the landscape is not the only opportunity for nature therapy on Hawaii’s Big Island. There are also some of the most beautiful coastlines on the Pacific Ocean in the world.

Understanding Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy is essentially the nature immersion therapy of the sea. The same concepts apply, only the details are different, and there is no better place to experience those details than on Hawaii’s Big Island.

For example, at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, clients have the option of addressing their avoidance issues by swimming with tropical fish and aged green sea turtles. They can also connect with the majestic manta rays and swim and feed them by the light of the moon. There are also many options to engage in more physical ways with the ocean.

The Benefits of Surf Therapy

According to the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology, “Surf therapy has [been] found to be associated with significantly lower post-traumatic stress disorder and depressive symptoms (at both the conclusion of therapy and a 30-day follow up), increases in positive affect, and decrease negative affect, anxiety, and depression.” This direct link makes engaging with surf therapy all the more relevant for treating avoidance issues related to PTSD.

Also, just like the unique opportunities afforded to clients by Hawaii’s landscape, the surf therapy options are one-of-a-kind as well. Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have a local break 15 minutes away called Honoli’i. It offers some world-class waves for regular surfing, as well as boogie boarding. 

Our clients can connect with the ocean, connect with themselves, and eventually connect with others that they may have once avoided. Another way to connect to the powerful and giving land of Hawaii’s Big Island is through something known as horticulture therapy.

The Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have a saying; “Food is medicine.” One of the benefits we have of being on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii is that we actually get to grow our “medicine” right here on our luxury 30-acre property. Our clients can get their hands in the soil and actually engage with Mother Earth as they tend to our rows of fruit trees, such as tangerines and longan (a local fruit extremely high in antioxidants), plentiful coconut trees, guava bushes, and pineapple beds. Again, connecting with nature equals connecting with self equals connecting with others.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture has been long used as a therapeutic activity for people with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and depression.” Also, “Horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment… it could help people to reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability… increase self-efficacy, self-esteem, and quality of life,” and “Horticultural therapy could provide a forum for developing group cohesiveness and a sense of belonging.” This sense of belonging is key to addressing avoidance rooted in PTSD at the cellular level.

Healing at the Cellular Level: Our Primary Purpose at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Thich Nhat Hanh also preached the idea of “pausing.” He famously said, “Many of us have been running all our lives. Practice stopping.” This is just one of the concepts that we want to instill in our clients struggling with avoidance rooted in PTSD; they are strong enough to stand tall in the face of adversity.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, our primary purpose is recovery at the cellular level. We do so through the love of the land, the love of the sea, and the love of the culture. All of which is provided to us by the love of Hawaii. We aim to share that love with everyone in need of healing that walks through our center doors.

Confronting thoughts associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be difficult. Therefore, some people try to block out these thoughts by avoiding them altogether. While this may bring temporary relief, it only allows the strength of the symptoms associated with PTSD to grow. Soon, they may turn to substances and avoidance to help cope. A better understanding that avoidance is a core root symptom of PTSD is the first step to healing at the cellular level. Also, spotting the early signs of avoidance and knowing when it is time to seek professional counsel can be critical in treating PTSD before any long-term side effects manifest. For more information on avoidance and PTSD, call Exclusive Hawaii Rehab at (808) 775-0200.