The Relationship Between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) takes a heavy emotional toll on the people affected by this condition. Its characteristics include severe anxiety, panic attacks and vivid flashbacks that disrupt daily life. Many PTSD sufferers use alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism to try to minimize these symptoms and regain a sense of control.
When substance abuse develops alongside a mental illness such as PTSD, treatment experts refer to these combined problems as a dual diagnosis. These co-occurring disorders are complex, and require a comprehensive approach to address them so people can go on to make a full recovery.
What Is PTSD?
In recognition of national PTSD Awareness Month in June, many people may be striving to gain a better understanding of this psychological disorder. It’s more prevalent than you may realize – the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 8 million Americans currently live with this condition.
Though you may associate PTSD exclusively with people who have experienced military combat, the truth is that anyone at any age can develop this problem after experiencing a hazardous, disturbing or frightening event such as sexual assault, a natural disaster, a robbery or a car accident. Some ordeals, like the sudden death of a loved one, can also result in post-traumatic stress.
The hallmarks of this disorder include nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of things related to the event, acute anxiety, insomnia and angry or aggressive behavior. These symptoms can occur at any time, especially when something happens to trigger the traumatic memory.
PTSD and Addiction
Because PTSD symptoms are so upsetting, many people begin drinking or using drugs to numb their emotions and deal with the intense stress that accompanies their mental condition. However, drug and alcohol abuse can intensify the symptoms of PTSD and make the disorder even more severe.
The relaxation and euphoria these substances can create are only temporary. As users build their tolerance, they’ll feel the need to use higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect. Eventually, this will lead to a dependence on drugs or alcohol to feel “normal.” Once the cycle of addiction takes hold, people will compulsively drink or use drugs, and will continue to do so despite many negative consequences for their health and quality of life.
Seeking Help for a Dual Diagnosis
Though there are effective treatments available for PTSD and co-occurring addiction, many people with these debilitating problems never seek the help they need. Often, those who experience PTSD live with a profound sense of guilt related to the traumatic event. Realizing that they have also developed a substance abuse issue can compound this shame, making it even more of an uphill battle for them to reach out to others.
If you’re living with a dual diagnosis, your priority should be finding a treatment center that can simultaneously address your mental, physical and emotional well-being. If left untreated, PTSD and addiction can take a toll on every aspect of your life. However, not all rehab facilities are equipped to help you heal from co-occurring disorders and regain your health.
At Beach House, we take an integrated, evidence-based approach to dual-diagnosis treatment. Our commitment to clinical excellence, coupled with our compassionate culture, ensures every client can experience programming uniquely tailored to their needs. And, with our industry-leading 7-to-1 client-to-therapist ratio, you can rest assured that we’ll recognize and treat you as an individual throughout your time with us.
Why Begin Your Recovery at Beach House?
Beach House, located in beautiful Florida, provides a secluded haven for people to begin their journey toward sobriety. Our state-of-the-art campus features private, beautifully furnished apartment-style living; an on-site chef and massage therapist; 24-hour staff to ensure ‘round-the-clock safety and comfort; and a full continuum of care all under the same roof. Contact our admissions advisors to learn more about Beach House’s tradition of treatment excellence.