The Correlation Between PTSD and Substance Abuse: How to Recognize When You Need Help

Last Updated: Sep 21st 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, affects people all over the world. Individuals of varying races, from diverse communities, and with different pasts and walks of life are currently facing the effects of PTSD in their lives.

PTSD is, unfortunately, a commonly seen disorder in our communities. People who have experienced traumatic and life-altering events in their lives are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Children who have been emotionally abused, women and men who have served in the military, people who have been physically or sexually assaulted, and many other individuals know all too well how trauma can impact daily life.

Sadly, many individuals who are dealing with the effects of trauma develop PTSD and, eventually, find themselves suffering from substance abuse and addiction.

PTSD and substance abuse often co-occur, changing the lives of those who are dealing with them.

Perhaps this is the case in your own life. Maybe you’ve been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and have become dependent on drugs or alcohol. If so, just know that you aren’t alone. In fact, over 50% of those who are dealing with PTSD are also suffering from addiction.

You don’t need to face these issues alone. Through professional therapy and addiction treatment, you can overcome the effects of PTSD and substance abuse for good!

Maybe you’re a little unsure about whether or not you need to go to treatment. Many people find it difficult to recognize when it’s time to reach out for help. But, it’s good to learn more about what you’re experiencing and how it’s actually impacting your life. This will help you to make the best decision regarding treatment.

About PTSD and Substance Abuse

Needless to say, PTSD and substance use disorder are both very serious. People who suffer from either of these disorders often have trouble leading normal lives.

The symptoms of PTSD can cause life to become very challenging. Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by many different elements. The causes vary from person to person.

But, regardless of the many people who struggle with the effects of this particular disorder have difficulty managing and controlling their emotions and feelings. It can be hard to live with the recurring memories of the past.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by things like flashbacks, nightmares, and vivid memories centered around the traumatic event(s) the person experienced. So, it can be difficult to thrive in the present when the mind is constantly struggling with thoughts of the past.

Substance abuse disorder, like PTSD, is often the result of many different factors. After people use drugs or alcohol excessively for a while, they may begin to abuse the substances. Eventually, this can lead to addiction.

Many times, people who drink or use drugs excessively do so in an attempt to cope with the negative effects of stress, physical pain, emotional disturbance, mental illness, and much more. Since the effects of drugs and alcohol wear off after a while, people continue to use them in order to escape from reality.

Sadly, this method of coping is extremely harmful and, in many cases, even deadly. So, it’s important to get professional treatment for dealing with substance abuse.

How are PTSD and Addiction Connected to Each Other?

So, how does a person end up dealing with both substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder? Well, there are several reasons why these two disorders frequently co-occur in people’s lives.

Often, individuals who are living with PTSD suffer from its effects on a regular basis. This disorder often impacts people’s day-to-day lives. It affects people’s ability to interact and connect with others. And it causes symptoms such as:

  • Isolation
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Loneliness
  • Guilt or shame
  • Trouble focusing
  • Feelings of fear
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Sleep disturbances

People may take medication to help treat some of the symptoms of PTSD. But, sometimes, these symptoms can become extremely overwhelming. Unfortunately, many people struggle to deal with these effects in a healthy way. So, they turn to drug and alcohol use.

As a result, many individuals develop substance abuse and addiction problems. So, in addition to PTSD, they also begin dealing with the harmful effects of excessive substance use.

Do I Need to Get Professional Treatment?

As we mentioned earlier, it’s not always easy to recognize the need for professional treatment in your life. Many people have a difficult time realizing what’s happening in their lives when addiction or any other disorder is in the mix.

Some individuals struggle to understand the symptoms they’re experiencing. It can all be very challenging to work through. So, if you are currently a little uncertain about what’s going on in your life, be sure to be patient with yourself.

But, it’s also important to avoid trying to get through this alone. There is help for you through treatment and therapy. Whether you need to go through residential treatment for substance abuse or therapy to help you deal with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, you can find freedom!

1st Step Behavioral Health Can Provide Treatment for You!

Not only can treatment help people to overcome substance dependence and addiction, but it can also help individuals to deal with and work through co-occurring disorders, including PTSD.

When a person is suffering from multiple disorders, such as alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder, this is called “dual diagnosis”. If an individual has a dual diagnosis, it’s important to go through a professional treatment program that will deal with each of the disorders he or she is dealing with.

Here at 1st Step Behavioral Health, we work to help people find peace through freedom from addiction. But, we also understand that many of our clients are also dealing with other issues in their lives. Some of these other struggles may actually contribute to addiction. So, it’s important to also deal with those problems in addition to substance abuse.

Through our dual diagnosis treatment program, we work to help our clients overcome substance abuse and addiction as well as co-occurring disorders. So, if you or someone you care about is suffering from addiction and PTSD, just reach out to us here at 1st Step Behavioral Health.

Call us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you or your loved one: (866) 319-6126

References:

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/related/substance_abuse_vet.asp

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.