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PTSD and Addiction Disorders

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

According to a report issued by the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, those with a PTSD diagnosis are three times more likely to experience substance abuse problems. The National Center for PTSD indicates that, at some point in their lives, up to eight out of every one hundred people might experience PTSD. PTSD and addiction disorders are common co-occurring disorders, and they have similar signs and symptoms. They each involve treatment within a dual diagnosis program in Orange County.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is an acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder. Due to the higher than normal stress levels those with PTSD experience, they have a higher chance for addictive behaviors without proper PTSD treatment programs. Challenges from both problems amplify when PTSD and addiction disorders combine.

Some signs of PTSD might include the following:

  • Changes in behavior or attitude
  • Experiencing sleep disturbances
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Avoiding activities, people, or places
  • Having nightmares
  • Experiencing flashbacks or reliving the trauma

Due to the many complexities of the relationship between PTSD and addiction disorders, that might complicate normal addiction treatments. An individual suffering from PTSD might have issues with everyday functions, health, and relationships. However, when PTSD and addiction disorders combine, that exacerbates the issues individuals are facing.

Self-Medicating and Substance Abuse

Because those who have PTSD experience overwhelming feelings, they might turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. However, self-medicating with over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal drugs or alcohol only offers temporary relief from symptoms. For example, as soon as the effects of the substances wear off, that could leave individuals feeling worse. As a result, they’ll feel the urge to self-medicate again. Professional substance abuse treatment programs can break this cycle.

Why people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope include:

  • If PTSD causes a sleep dysfunction, they use it to fall asleep
  • The avoidance of traumatic dreams or memories
  • For forgetting about their problems
  • To deal with PTSD’s mood disturbances
  • As a way of numbing their extreme emotions

Over time, the use of those substances to find relief transform into addiction. Combining PTSD and addiction disorders makes their symptoms more painful and severe. Because PTSD causes anxiety, mixing substances with those symptoms wreak havoc on a person’s body. As a result, their feelings of anxiety and depression worsen.

Some signs of substance abuse include the following:

  • Changes in appearance, including bloodshot eyes
  • Financial issues, including a change in spending habits
  • Noticeable attitude and behavioral changes
  • Poor work or school performance and a lack of motivation
  • Weight loss and a decrease in appetite

Co-Occurring PTSD and Addiction Disorders

In regards to co-occurring disorders, the National Center for PTSD indicates that nearly two-thirds of those surviving abuse or a violent and traumatic event report having drinking problems. The brain produces fewer endorphins, which are responsible for helping us feel happy, following a traumatic experience. As a result, those who have PTSD might turn to drugs or alcohol to increase their endorphin levels. As a result, they might start depending on these substances to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and irritability. Depending on addictive substances will start to affect your career, relationships, and physical health.

Final Thoughts on PTSD and Addiction Disorders

Do you have questions about PTSD and addiction disorders? If you, a family member, or a friend suffer from the combination of these disorders, now is the time to reach out for help. Contact Renaissance Recovery by calling [Direct] to learn more about these commonly co-occurring disorders, why there are risks, and how we can help. Dual diagnosis treatment will get to the root causes of both disorders, so you can live the life you deserve.

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Pat C

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Courtney S

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country