PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event. It can manifest in many different ways, among the most common are feelings of guilt, depression, anxiety, flashbacks, irritability and changes in sleep patterns or appetite.
While PTSD can affect anyone regardless of age or gender, people who have previously served in the military are particularly vulnerable. What many people don’t realize is that PTSD can also contribute to the development of substance use disorders.
In this article, we will explore how PTSD and addiction interact, and answer the question “Does PTSD cause addiction?” We will also discuss treatment options for people with both PTSD and a substance use disorder.
Defining PTSD And Addiction
PTSD and addiction are both mental health disorders that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. PTSD is a disorder that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event or series of them.
Some Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Avoidance of triggers
- Intrusive thoughts
Addiction is a disorder characterized by the compulsive use of substances or behaviors despite negative consequences.
Some Symptoms of Addiction include:
- Weight loss/gain
- Sleeping too much/little
- Sudden change in appearance
- Secretive behavior
- Mood swings or depression
PTSD and Addiction Often Co-Occur
Studies have found that about half of people with PTSD also have an addiction. Some research suggests that people with PTSD are more likely to develop an addiction because they self-medicate in an attempt to alleviate symptoms. Most often to overcome anxiety, sleeplessness or depression among other reasons. In some cases the substance use may not be part of an effort to self-medicate symptoms directly, but as a result of other life stressors that make be indirectly exasperated by PTSD.
Other research suggests that people with PTSD are more likely to develop an addiction because they are exposed to trauma-related cues that trigger cravings for substances. PTSD can make it difficult to cope with everyday life. The flashbacks and intrusive thoughts can be overwhelming, and many people feel like they can’t escape their memories. Drugs and alcohol can seem like an escape from the pain, but in reality, they only compound the difficulties.
The Connection Between PTSD And Addiction
People who have both PTSD and a substance use disorder benefit most from dual-diagnosis treatment which can address both conditions. Trauma aware programs which offer evidence-based treatment for PTSD, such as EMDR, can be especially helpful.
PTSD and addiction are often connected in various ways. The most common connection is that addiction occurs when the person with PTSD turns to alcohol or other substances to try and counteract secondary symptoms like anxiety or sleeplessness. People who have PTSD may also turn to drugs or alcohol due to the emergence of upsetting memories that they cannot seem to escape.
For treatment to be truly effective, both conditions must be treated at the same time. Otherwise a very real risk of one disorder reigniting the other exists. Treatment for addiction often includes behavioral and medical therapies, which can help you change your patterns of substance use. Treatment for PTSD includes psychotherapy and counseling and sometimes includes exposure therapy, which can help you confront your fears and learn to manage your symptoms, such as EMDR therapy.
Treating PTSD And Addiction
If you’re struggling with both PTSD and addiction, it’s important to seek help from a treatment program that can address both issues simultaneously. If both conditions are not treated together, the likelihood of relapse or a recurrence of PTSD symptoms is much higher. While there are many effective treatments for addiction, including 12-step programs and medication-assisted treatment, there are also specific therapies that can be helpful for PTSD.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most commonly used treatments for PTSD. CBT can help you to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be causing or worsening your symptoms. Exposure therapy is another type of treatment that can be very effective for PTSD. This therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to the things that trigger your PTSD symptoms in a safe and controlled environment.
Addiction is often treated in part with talk therapy methodologies, such as CBT or DBT. When in a treatment center like Plum Creek Recovery Ranch, treatment will also consist of wrap-around services that treat the whole individual in numerous different ways.
These include both individual and group therapy and instilling effective, healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety in place of drugs or alcohol. Both addiction and PTSD are often treated, in part, with medications. Anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants can be effective treatments, in conjunction with therapy, for both conditions. At Plum Creek Recovery Ranch our goal is much more than simply alleviating present symptoms. We aim to help every client reach a state where they are able to continue to progress in their recovery long after they leave our care.
If you’re struggling with both PTSD and addiction, it’s important to seek the right care. With appropriate help, you can overcome your challenges and live a healthy and fulfilling life.
Get Effective Treatment For PTSD And Addiction Today
PTSD is a condition that can cause intense physical and psychological symptoms, many of which can lead to addiction. It is important to be aware of the connection between PTSD and addiction in order to provide appropriate treatment for those who are living with both conditions.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and has been diagnosed with PTSD, call Plum Creek Recovery Ranch at (512) 488-1128 and we can help get you the treatment you need.