According to the National Center for PTSD, seven out of 100 people will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. People who are diagnosed with this mental health disorder are three times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

The higher-than-normal stress levels associated with PTSD symptoms can make it more likely for a person to turn to substance abuse. When PTSD and addiction are coupled, challenges from both disorders are amplified.

Addiction and PTSD have a very complex relationship that can often complicate treatment. Someone suffering from just PTSD can have problems with relationships, health, and everyday functions. When PTSD and addiction are combined, the challenges are exacerbated, and a dual diagnosis treatment is necessary.

What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that develops when someone experiences a traumatic or life-threatening event. This condition can form after exposure to trauma or witnessing a traumatic event that threatens or harms someone else.

When someone has PTSD, it may feel like he or she will never get his or her life back. PTSD affects a person’s daily lifestyle and can be extremely damaging to overall health and well being.

PTSD can develop at any age. Several factors increase the chance that someone will develop PTSD.

Factors that increase the risk for PTSD include:

  • experiencing dangerous events and traumas
  • getting hurt
  • childhood trauma
  • age
  • gender
  • having little or no social support after a traumatic event
  • a history of mental illness or substance abuse

People respond to stress and trauma differently. Some people who experience traumatic events may only have temporary difficulties. These people can re-adjust to the world around them with time and good self-care.

Others often struggle after a traumatic event and have problems recovering their former happiness and outlook. If PTSD-like symptoms last for extended periods or interfere with your day-to-day life, you may have PTSD and should to seek treatment immediately.

It is important to recognize common PTSD symptoms and what to do if you experience them.

Common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include:

  • Avoidance: You actively try to avoid thinking about, talking about, or visiting anywhere that reminds you of the traumatic event.
  • Negativity: You begin to have negative thoughts about yourself and other people, or feel detached from friends and family. This detachment can cause a rift in close relationships and a lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Intrusive Memories: You have recurrent, unwanted, and distressing memories of the traumatic event. This could be from flashbacks, nightmares, or a reaction to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.
  • Physical And Emotional Reactions: You are on guard and easily frightened or startled. These symptoms translate into trouble sleeping, focusing, and irritability when joining in activities.

Over time, these symptoms can vary in intensity. Symptoms of PTSD can flare up years after the initial traumatic event. If PTSD symptoms continue without help, self-destructive behavior such as drinking and substance abuse may form.

Causes Of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is not a genetic or a habit developing disorder. PTSD is caused when a person experiences a traumatic event that mentally harms him or her and creates anxiety.

Some of the most common causes of PTSD are:

  • natural disasters
  • military combat
  • violent assault
  • sexual assault
  • childhood abuse

Abusing Substances To Self-Medicate

A lot of people struggling with PTSD turn to substances as a way to numb their overwhelming feelings. Many people drink copious amounts of alcohol to search for a way to “feel good” and numb their minds. Unfortunately, the positive effects of alcohol are only temporary.

When the good feelings from drugs or alcohol wear off, the person is left feeling worse and wanting another dose to replace the negative emotions. Eventually, the use of substances as relief from PTSD symptoms will transform into addiction.

The combination of PTSD and drug or alcohol abuse makes symptoms of the disorder more severe and painful. Mixing alcohol or drugs with the anxiety caused by PTSD will cause havoc on the body and worsen feelings of both depression and anxiety.

Additionally, PTSD and substance abuse may trigger new feelings of rage and/or helplessness. Adding substances changes the way the brain works, and mood and other functions can be negatively affected.

Co-Occurring Disorders: PTSD And Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction is relatively common among individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder. Nearly half of the individuals seeking substance abuse treatment meet the criteria for PTSD.

Those with both PTSD and substance abuse problems have more difficulties with treatment outcomes compared to those who do not have co-occurring disorders. Early diagnosis and intervention can be beneficial to treat both PTSD and addiction.

Many people with co-occurring disorders will need to participate in a dual diagnosis treatment program to successfully overcome and manage their conditions.

Finding A Treatment Program For PTSD And Substance Addiction

Once diagnosed, there are several treatment options for PTSD and addiction. At Vertava Health, inpatient and residential treatment programs provide personalized treatment plans for patients to achieve successful addiction and mental health recovery.

Patients who have co-occurring disorders receive a dual diagnosis treatment plan that is designed to treat both addiction and PTSD. At Vertava Health, the first step of a dual diagnosis treatment program is to focus on helping a person stop using drugs or alcohol.

Once the person has successfully quit all substances, he or she will then move on to formal dual diagnosis treatment. Vertava Health offers integrated treatment plans that involve behavioral therapy, medication, and other treatment services based on a person’s diagnosis.

Treatment services offered at Vertava Health include:

  • medically-assisted detox programs
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • group counseling
  • family counseling
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • experiential and adventure therapy
  • trauma therapy
  • aftercare support

To learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, contact one of our Vertava Health’ treatment specialists today.