Addiction and PTSD often co-occur due to the complex connection between mental health disorders and substance use disorders. The combination of these co-occurring conditions can be overwhelming, leaving many to question the possibility of a normal life.

Fortunately, several rehab centers in Florida provide dual diagnosis treatment programs tailored to individualized treatment plans that can help you develop the skills you need to recover. These evidence-based therapies help individuals navigate the challenges of co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues, guiding them towards a lasting 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. To cope with the intense emotions, many afflicted by this mental health disorder resort to substance use as a means of escape.

a soldier with co-occurring disorders getting treatment

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 substance use disorders, which happen when people with mental illness turn to substances such as drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Symptoms fall under the following categories:

Mood Symptoms

Individuals with PTSD might experience sudden and intense mood swings, shifting from feeling fine one moment to being irritable, sad, or overwhelmed the next. These mood fluctuations can seem unpredictable, but should not be confused with bipolar disorder. These mood disturbances can strain relationships, impede daily functioning, and reduce the individual’s overall quality of life.

  • 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
concept image for mood swings from addiction and PTSD mental health disorders

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. This increases one’s risk of substance abuse disorders.

first responders suffering from PTSD and mental health issues

Emotional Stress

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emotional stress is a prominent symptom of PTSD. This heightened emotional state can make it challenging for individuals to regulate their feelings, leading to reactions that seem exaggerated or out of context to outsiders. This continuous emotional turmoil can severely hinder an individual’s ability to connect with others, handle everyday stresses, and engage in normal daily activities, making it easy to develop drug and alcohol addiction.

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
co-occurring disorders treatment consultation

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 suffering from co-occurring disorders, PTSD and addiction

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 mental health issue.

According to the U.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 dual diagnosis addiction 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 co-occurring disorder treatment programs for PTSD and addiction:

  • 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
  • Relapse prevention that would assist you to transitioning to normal life

Group of patient in Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center in Florida

Behavioral Health Centers

If you or your loved one is suffering from addiction due to PTSD, we can help you return to normal life through our dual diagnosis treatment program. Behavioral Health Centers will work with you and develop an individualized treatment plan for your co-occurring disorders.

Our residential programs help you detox while teaching you strategies to avoid abusing drugs in the future. Our dual diagnosis treatment center connects 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 such as group therapy, art therapy, dialectical behavior therapy and more.

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 addiction and mental health 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 co-occurring conditions 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 dual diagnosis treatment program, we’re pleased to inform you that we work with most insurance companies and have financing options available.

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Medically reviewed by:

Dr. K. Dodge, PhD, MSPH, MSW

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