Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and addiction often occur together following a serious trauma. PTSD can be a difficult disorder on its own, but sufferers may self-medicate to hide their feelings of fear, anxiety and stress. This usually leads to a path of drug or alcohol addiction.
PTSD is a mental health condition that can be caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. While it used to be mostly related to military combat, there are several other events that can trigger PTSD including accidents and injuries, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, sexual or physical assault, and the death of a loved one.
What Causes PTSD to Occur?
- First, you encounter some type of stress and your body’s fight or flight response kicks in and cortisol is released.
- Next, the event is over and then the body returns to its normal function.
- When PTSD occurs, it’s because the body does not return to its normal behavior and instead feels like it is always primed to react.
Symptoms of PTSD
- Avoidance: You may stay away from people, places and things that are reminders of the traumatic event.
- Hyperarousal: You could have difficulty sleeping, feel like you are on edge, have angry outbursts, show aggressive behavior or are easily startled.
- Re-experience: This includes flashbacks, nightmares, and other frightening thoughts.
- Mood symptoms: This could be a negative self-image, distorted feelings of guilt, memory problems and a loss of interest in activities you once liked.
Why PTSD Sufferers Turn to Drugs or Alcohol?
Of those who suffer from PTSD, more than half also battle a simultaneous addiction. Drugs and alcohol are not just a way to self-medicate the pain of re-living their trauma. There is also a chemical reason behind their addiction.
The Chemistry Behind the Condition
After the traumatic event, the brain produces endorphins to help create a sense of well-being. When these endorphins eventually fade, the sufferer may turn to drugs and alcohol to recreate that feeling. When it gives only a temporary fix, a pattern of addiction can start. Eventually the substance use will actually make the PTSD even worse.
Treating Both is the Key to Recovery
If both conditions are occurring together, a proper dual diagnosis is needed for successful treatment. Another key to recovery is understanding which trauma symptoms are being self-treated with drugs and alcohol. Treating trauma resolution alongside the addiction is part of Footprints treatment program. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction due to a past trauma, contact us today to get started on the path to recovery.