PTSD is a serious mental health disorder that requires treatment. Oftentimes, substance abuse disorders accompany PTSD. In this article, you’ll learn the signs and symptoms of PTSD and drug addiction and which treatment options are available to address both conditions so that you can live a healthy, happy life.
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also defined as PTSD, is caused by exposure to a traumatic experience that involved the actual or possibility of death, violence, or serious injury. It is considered to be an anxiety disorder/mental health disorder. A traumatic experience can include abuse, combat, car accidents, and many others.
Exposure to a traumatic event can involve witnessing the event, being the victim of the event, or having someone close to you be the one to have experienced the traumatic event.
The symptoms of PTSD typically fall under four categories – re-living, avoidance, arousal, and reactivity. While they can include flashbacks, there are many other types of symptoms that can occur over time as well:
- Changes in behavior
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Frightening thoughts
- Feeling numb
- Feeling guilty
- Experiencing nightmares
- Feeling like you are reliving the trauma
- Avoiding people and/or activities
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Being easily started
- Feeling tense
- Having bursts of anger
- Experiencing negative thoughts about themselves and the world
PTSD will not go away on its own or get better without treatment.
When Do PTSD Symptoms Begin?
The symptoms of PTSD can sometimes begin months after the traumatic event or even years after. This is primarily due to individuals suppressing emotions and avoiding dealing with any underlying feelings or memories they are experiencing. However, the symptoms will eventually appear over time.
PTSD and Substance Abuse Often Co-Occur
PTSD and drug or alcohol addiction often exist together. When this occurs, it’s known as comorbid PTSD. This is because many people experiencing PTSD attempt to deal with their trauma and symptoms by using drugs or drinking alcohol and eventually develop a substance abuse disorder. They often view this as a way of coping, but it ends up only masking the issues at hand and creating a cycle of addiction.
In one study, almost 50% of participants with PTSD had a substance use disorder.
Additionally, when someone experiences a traumatic event in life, it can cause the brain to produce fewer endorphins. This can lead to individuals abusing drugs or alcohol in order to feel an improvement in their mood, which can eventually lead to a serious addiction.
Symptoms of Drug Abuse
People who have substance use disorders (including alcohol use disorder) often show a variety of symptoms, which can include:
- Having changes in behavior and mood
- Experiencing a lack of motivation to go to work, or perform typical daily responsibilities
- Decreased appetite
- Avoiding situations and people
- And many other systems associated with mental disorders
Who is at Risk of Developing PTSD and Substance Abuse?
Veterans are at the highest risk of developing PTSD.
In addition to those who have experienced military combat and/or are veterans, the following situations are a few examples of what can cause PTSD:
- Natural disasters
- Acts of terrorism
- The death of a loved one or a child
- Sexual assault or physical assault at any age in life
- Accidents and injury
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual-diagnosis treatment is the solution for addressing PTSD and drug or alcohol addiction. There are several evidence-based therapies that are known to be effective at treating PTSD and addiction. These treatments can help build an individual’s self-esteem, improve productivity at work, school, or home, and ultimately provide them with tools for a healthy, happy life that is sober.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one example of a dual diagnosis therapy. In CBT, patients work with a licensed psychotherapist to help modify their thought patterns in order to change their moods and behaviors.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR is one example of treatment. This involves using interactive psychotherapy methods to relieve any psychological stress, as well as exposing the individual to the traumatic memories, which in time lessens the severity of the memories (this is known as prolonged exposure therapy).
Get Treatment for PTSD and Substance Abuse
If you are experiencing PTSD and substance abuse, treatment is available. At Enlight Treatment Center in Ventura County, CA, our team is highly experienced in working with individuals who have co-occurring conditions such as PTSD and drug and alcohol abuse. Through our residential treatment program, evidence-based addiction therapies, and mental health services, we create a personalized treatment plan to help you get your life back.