PTSD and Addiction in a Nutshell
Are PTSD and Addiction Linked?
People who have psychiatric conditions, like PTSD, are more prone than others to form addiction. When this happens, it is identified as “co-occurring disorders” because substance use disorder and another disorder present simultaneously. From war vets to people with sexual assault in their past, PTSD often leads to addiction.
This is mostly because the symptoms of PTSD can be very challenging to cope with. Alcohol or drugs seem to provide temporary relief from some of these symptoms.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It occurs after someone experiences a scary, dangerous, or shocking event—something “traumatic.” They will then experience certain reactions and symptoms that affect their ability to function in life or that last longer than a month after the event.
Common events that may cause PTSD are violent assault, military combat, natural disasters, sexual abuse, and child abuse.
To qualify as PTSD, someone has to experience a certain amount of different kinds of symptoms, one re-‘experiencing’ symptom, one ‘avoidance’ symptom, two ‘cognitive and mood’ symptoms, and two ‘arousal and reactivity’ symptoms.
Re-experiencing: flashbacks, bad dreams, frightening thoughts
Avoidance: keeping away from places, events, objects that may remind them of the event
Cognition & Mood: difficulty recalling essential features of the event, negative thoughts about self or the world, distorted feelings like guilt of blame, loss of interest in enjoyable activities.
Arousal & Reactivity: startled easily, feeling tense or on-edge, difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger
Treating PTSD & Addiction
In addiction treatment, such as rehab, clients are initially assessed and PTSD or other co-occurring disorders that may be present are identified. The client’s treatment plan must include treatment for both disorders to be effective.
Treatment for PTSD is usually psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, but may also include medication. There are two common psychotherapy approaches, exposure therapy and cognitive reconstruction, though expressive therapy can also be helpful. Most medications used for PTSD are antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds.
When identifying triggers to drink or use drugs in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly used in addiction treatment, PTSD triggers must also be considered and addressed. Incorporating long-term care for PTSD symptoms is a requirement for addiction treatment and relapse prevention in these cases.
What if I have PTSD
or an Addiction?
If you have experienced traumatic events or believe you may have PTSD, consider seeing a therapist. They can help you work through things properly so that your symptoms can subside and do not affect your every day life. If you have been turning to drugs or alcohol to feel better, you are not alone.
Many people do this, but there is a better way to get through. In fact, using drugs or alcohol to avoid thinking of trauma, invasive memories, flashbacks, or feelings around trauma is counterproductive. This will only prolong your symptoms in the long run. Call (520) 288-8484 to hear about healthier options for coping and how to end addiction.