People are under more stress than ever before. The sheer weight of this pressure has also led to an increase in substance use and mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that occurs when a person has difficulty processing an emotionally disturbing event. PTSD and drug addiction often co-occur in response to serious trauma. Many people who have PTSD end up self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and become addicted. Getting proper co-occurring disorder treatment is crucial to treating both conditions and getting sober.
The Cause and Effect of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a terror-induced condition that happens to people who have experienced a traumatic event that usually includes violent acts. A traumatic event can be a one-time occurrence, such as a car accident. It may also be a repeated event, such as abuse. PTSD is often debilitating and can last for long periods if not treated. Many cases of PTSD have a delayed onset, with symptoms sometimes appearing over six months after the event occurred when the memory triggers them.
With specific traumas such as school shootings and sexual abuse, the survivors of these tragic circumstances struggle with the most severe symptoms. Other causes of PTSD can stem from prolonged abuse, natural disasters, excessive verbal or physical abuse, and witnessing violent acts. Nightmares, withdrawal, insomnia, racing heart, sweating, nausea, and intense anxiety are the main symptoms that can alert a loved one that something is going on with their friend or family member. The possibility of suicidal thoughts can become more prevalent the longer that PTSD lingers.
Unfortunately, one of the ways that people tend to cope with PTSD is by using drugs and alcohol. They believe that doing so allows them to forget the trauma and avoid the painful emotions and panic common with the disorder. People are also more likely to exhibit aggressive and impulsive behaviors due to their PTSD. When left untreated, the condition can impact just about every aspect of a person’s life. Long-term effects of PTSD can lead them to struggle in their day to day activities, resulting in:
- Poor grades at school
- Inability to participate in normal activities due to paralyzing fear
- Decreased concentration and focus
- Lost connections with loved ones
- Riskier behavior
It’s best to find a PTSD or trauma treatment program as soon as possible to ensure long-term recovery for your loved one.
The Connection Between PTSD and Substance Abuse
PTSD changes brain chemistry in much the same way substance abuse and addiction do. Often, these disorders form at the same time and feed off one another. The same trauma that caused PTSD can also trigger a substance use disorder. People with PTSD are more prone to violent outbursts and panic attacks, which can be difficult for family and friends to witness. Feelings of guilt over these outbursts can drive those with PTSD to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Continued use of alcohol or other drugs in this way can, of course, lead down the road to addiction.
Since PTSD impacts the parts of the brain associated with memory and emotions, someone with PTSD might react to a current environment that reminds them of past trauma. The brain responds as though the person is still in the past, triggering fear, anxiety, and stress. A healthy brain can tell the difference between memories and present experiences, but PTSD interferes with this process. Alcohol and drug addiction are also affected by memory. An addicted person’s brain is susceptible to triggers, places, and people associated with drug use that can lead to cravings. PTSD and addiction triggers can weave a trick web and intensify the symptoms of both disorders.
Contact an Addiction Treatment Facility Today About Your Treatment Options
Fortunately, there is a cure for PTSD. Among other mental health treatments, many addiction treatment programs offer trauma therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to reduce the effects of PTSD. DBT evolved as a way of helping individuals who have bipolar disorder. This treatment has become a common way of treating substance use as well. For more information on your therapy options, contact your local addiction treatment center.