Suffering from addiction and PTSD at the same time can make you wonder if you’re ever going to be able to live a normal life. The good news is that working with a treatment provider can help you develop the skills you need to make a complete recovery.  

What Causes PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is most associated with military service trauma, but you could experience other traumatic events that trigger this condition. A painful injury, sexual abuse or a period of intense psychological trauma can all be underlying causes of PTSD. People with this condition often turn to substance use to numb and escape the pain.  

PTSD Symptoms

If you’ve experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, lingering memories may cause anxiety, behavioral changes and flashbacks of the event. Some people may experience co-occurring PTSD, which happens when they turn to substances such as drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Symptoms fall under the following categories: 

Mood Symptoms

Changes in mood can manifest in the following ways: 

  • You have difficulty recalling the traumatic experience or begin having frequent memory loss whenever something reminds you of the event
  • Your relationships are impacted because you have difficulty trusting and connecting with other people
  • You stop enjoying activities, events or interactions with people that you once participated in happily
  • You have a constant cynical worldview
  • You feel like giving up on life
  • You feel “numb” or as if you can’t experience emotions at all

Reactivity Symptoms

Reactivity is manifested when you experience symptoms due to environments or activities that remind you of your trauma. People displaying these symptoms rarely talk about the past event and begin to avoid anything that reminds them of it. This could be places, people, sounds or sights. As more things begin to trigger your anxiety, you may find you become more confined and isolated due to the need to stay where you feel safe. 

Emotional Stress

Symptoms of emotional stress can include the following:

  • You find it difficult to fall asleep or experience a full night’s sleep
  • You experience bouts of guilt, shame, anger or depression
  • You can’t concentrate on things such as work or household tasks
  • You’re frightened very easily and find it difficult to relax
  • You frequently have night terrors and nightmares that keep you up at night
  • You have thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • You’re irritable and aggressive for no clear reason

Flashbacks or Avoidance

Some people experience flashbacks, which are memories that resurface from the events. They may be triggered by things that remind you of what happened or come to you randomly. People with these PTSD symptoms try to avoid anything that might trigger the next flashback. You might develop a substance use disorder as you seek ways to forget about what you’ve experienced. 

Sad young man sitting on the floor looking through the window

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse

People who have untreated mental disorders are more likely to acquire a substance abuse disorder. This is called a co-occurring condition, and you might require addiction treatment in addition to therapy and medication to treat the underlying post-traumatic stress disorder. According to theU.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, three out of four people who’ve experienced trauma in their past turn to drinking. If your PTSD diagnosis is due to a single or repeated act of violence, you’re more likely to have an alcohol or drug addiction. 

Those who are seeking addiction treatment because they’re experiencing PTSD may need help addressing the traumatic event and addiction separately, as PTSD and addiction are often connected. A treatment program may help you develop strategies to overcome drug and alcohol abuse while working with a mental health professional to treat your anxiety disorder. 

Recovering From Drug Abuse

Patients with a focus solely on clinical psychology without drug abuse treatment may have poorer treatment outcomes. Even if you’ve addressed the underlying causes of your mental health condition, you may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms from substance use and find it difficult to manage your substance abuse disorder without assistance.  

Here are some treatment options used to treat PTSD with co-occurring substance use: 

  • Detox treatment to address the physical dependence that accompanies a substance use disorder
  • Family therapy that helps your loved ones understand the condition and provide the support you need
  • Exposure therapy that helps you cope when you encounter people, environments or other triggers that cause anxiety attacks or flashbacks
  • Prolonged exposure therapy conducted with the guidance of a treatment provider to help you develop a tolerance to triggers
  • Substance abuse treatment to help you manage your withdrawal from drugs or alcohol anddevelop coping skills that keep you from returning to those substances
  • Joining support groups that help you relate with other people who are experiencing addiction issues or coping with trauma

Behavioral Health Centers

If you’re suffering from an addiction due to PTSD, we can help you return to a normal life. Our residential programs help you detox while teaching you strategies to avoid abusing drugs in the future. Our treatment facilities connect you with a team of caring mental health professionals that understand what you’re going through and can use effective treatment practices tailored to your specific needs.

During a four-week stay, you’ll have access to meals prepared by a chef, massage therapists, neurobehavioral therapy and plenty of physical and mental activities. We can help you manage both of your conditions by connecting you with supporting therapists during and following your stay at our center. This gives you what you need to prevent relapse following treatment.

Every resident is assigned a dedicated case manager who addresses their needs both during and after their stay. By the time you’ve completed the program, you’ll be connected with a private therapist and aftercare program so you receive ongoing care. If you’re worried about how to pay for your treatment, we’re pleased to inform you that we work with most insurance companies and have financing options available.

Contact us today to learn more. Give us a call at 772-774-3872.

Medically reviewed by:

Dr. K. Dodge, PhD, MSPH, MSW

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