Having PTSD is probably one of the most traumatic and emotionally crippling mental disorders any human’s mind can undergo. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition that causes intense anxiety and intense nightmares which can interfere with a person’s daily activities. Many PTSD victims turn to drugs and alcohol in order to numb the pain and somehow move on with their lives. But what is PTSD all about? How can it interfere with a person’s life? Why do people with PTSD turn to drugs? All of that will be answered in this article.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Defined

When we hear people say that they have PTSD, we usually associate them with people in the military who were exposed to the battlefield of war. However, PTSD could happen to anyone and not just people in active duty.

PTSD is a condition where an individual experiences or has experienced extreme stress or anxiety after they have witnessed a traumatic event or was involved in one. This kind of psychological trauma can leave the person feeling out of control and powerless, which can lead to the trauma of the person.

Among the most common causes of this condition includes being in military combat (as mentioned), violently assaulted, sexually assaulted or raped, experienced natural disasters, or abused as a child. People who have PTSD suffer from nightmares and flashbacks that involve the crises that were never fully resolved. It could affect a person’s psyche in the long run and usually causes the victim to suffer even worse symptoms.

Symptoms of PTSD

A person who suffers from PTSD may exhibit some or all of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Nightmares or flashbacks of the trauma
  • Severe anxiety
  • Avoidance of anything related to the trauma
  • Insomnia
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Sudden outbursts

All of these could happen to an individual any time when an individual is often reminded of certain events that took place. Those who fit the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and addiction often experience other serious conditions like depression, chronic pain, attention deficit disorder and other illnesses like high blood pressure, liver diseases and even diabetes.

Why Do People With PTSD Suffer from Addiction?

A lot of times, people with this case turn to drugs and alcohol addiction out of frustration and the feeling of hopelessness. This is also because they want to cope with the situation and trauma but fail in the process. That being said, drinking and doing drugs is a form of coping mechanism for victims of immense trauma. According to studies, 46% of people with severe trauma also fit the bill for a substance abuse disorder and most cases, develop into an addiction. Once the person has a substance disorder, they may exhibit some of the following symptoms:

  • They cannot control their consumption of substance.
  • Withdrawal symptoms happen when the person stops using.
  • They need to use more of their drugs or alcohol to keep the same effects that they have previously experienced.
  • Continually consume drugs and alcohol even though they have difficulty in maintaining a job and relationships.

There are also plenty of cases where the user self-medicates and believes that they are reducing their PTSD symptoms. However, this will only worsen the situation as some withdrawal symptoms are similar to PTSD symptoms as well. This includes sleep disturbances, irritability, feelings of detachment and difficulty in focusing. Once this happens, the person will eventually increase the doses of the drugs they are taking thinking that this could help elevate the symptoms. However, this will only lead to more addiction in the end.

Many also believe that PTSD can be caused by abnormalities in the brain even before they were exposed to traumatic situations. The more exposed the person is to traumatic events, the higher the risk they have on developing PTSD symptoms that are long-lasting. They also believe that a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder usually experience more than one disorder. If the person has both then they can be seen as the following:

  • Has poor social skills
  • Higher rates of suicide attempts
  • Has chronic physical health issues
  • Has more legal and financial problems
  • Increased risk of violence

Treatment Steps

When a person with post-traumatic stress disorder has an addiction (to drugs or alcohol), it is important to treat both disorders in a planned and organized fashion. If the person is addicted to any substance, then they must detoxify first as part of the first step in treating addiction.

PTSD can be a combination of different signs and symptoms. That is why it is important to have medical detox. During this procedure, the patient is admitted to a specialized facility where they can stay for a couple of days. This detox usually provides patient care and supervision for 24 hours in order to provide them with the medical and mental health care that they need. Patients are usually given a combination of pharmacological and supportive care until they are able to reach the stage where they are physically ready. Once they are ready, this is the time when the other disorders are treated.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is designed to help patients learn how to cope and how to manage their stress better. It also teaches them to deal with any potential triggers and also teaches on how to avoid them. CBT also teaches the patient how to boost their self-esteem and refrain from entertaining negative thoughts.

Another good treatment to take is the exposure therapy. This is the kind of treatment where the patient learns how to face their traumas and fears under a trained professional. Medications can help but only for a certain period of time. However, behavioral therapy is often associated with medications so the patient can be taught of the following:

  • How to manage anxiety and depression
  • Have a well-rested sleep

Counseling, group therapy and sessions, educational programs, and support groups can also help people with PTSD. These programs will not only help minimize the relapse but also help enhance their long-term recovery.

Final Thoughts

If you have PTSD and an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is best to seek help right away. Treatment is very much available, all you have to do is turn and acknowledge that you need help in order to be better. Traumas are not pleasant, it is not something you can just shake off. That is why, in order to be well, seeking out professional help is the best thing to do. The nightmares and flashbacks will not go away no matter how many drugs you take or liters of alcohol you consume. Facing your fears is the only way to do this and no one else can win this battle but you.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.