PTSD and Addiction
Brigitte May 18, 2017 No Comments

In treatment, it is common to see PTSD and addiction go hand-in-hand. PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, which usually occurs after a person goes through a traumatic situation. Trauma is relative and completely depends on the person; there is no cookie-cutter definition of trauma. Regardless of the cause, it is essential that PTSD gets treated directly as a part of any addiction recovery plan.

How PTSD and Addiction are Linked

Trauma can happen as a result of a number of things. Common causes of trauma and PTSD include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Illness
  • Rape and assault
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • A traumatic accident or injury
  • Being a witness to a traumatic event
  • Divorce or abandonment

As you can see, there is a huge variety in what causes trauma and PTSD, and this isn’t even a full list. PTSD is circumstantial and varies from person to person. When you go through any kind of situation that is emotionally taxing, it is important to know the symptoms of PTSD and get treated if you are showing any signs. Leaving PTSD untreated can lead to a number of different problems, including addiction.

Common signs of PTSD

Signs of PTSD come in many different forms. They can be emotional, behavioral, or physical. Here is what to look out for.

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hostility and unfriendliness towards loved ones
  • Self-destructive behavior like using drugs/alcohol or physically hurting yourself
  • Having flashbacks you can’t control
  • Developing new or worsening anxiety or depression
  • Feeling lonely and refusing to partake in activities you used to love
  • Having profound guilt over a situation despite the fact that you had no control over it
  • Having nightmares and being unable to sleep
  • Feeling a lack of motivation
  • Poor performance at work or school

If you went through any kind of trauma it is essential to talk to a professional no matter what. Left untreated, you can begin to experience one or many of these symptoms, and way too often, people end up self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to take those symptoms away. It is an incredibly unhealthy cycle that becomes difficult to stop the further in a person gets.

PTSD and addiction are so closely linked that many treatment centers, including Willow Place for Women, treat trauma and PTSD as an integral part of addiction treatment and recovery. The cause of PTSD must be explored in depth because suppressing emotions about a traumatic event is exactly what causes many people to rely on drugs or alcohol. In this case, addiction is a symptom of an underlying cause – the cause being PTSD. When PTSD is treated, the addiction becomes easier to overcome.

Treating PTSD and Addiction

When you first come to treatment, the doctors and therapists will do a thorough evaluation to determine a baseline for your treatment. This includes a physical and mental evaluation to rule out any underlying medical conditions and also to determine if you are suffering from any kind of PTSD or a mood disorder. If it is determined that you are, this is called a dual diagnosis and will be treated as a part of your addiction treatment plan.

Facing trauma from the past can be incredibly painful, but it is a necessary step towards healing. The best way to face trauma is while you are in treatment because you will have 24/7 support from your doctors, therapists, and peers. You will be able to talk through your feelings, and you won’t have the temptation to run out and get your hands on drugs or alcohol to help numb the pain. Numbing your feelings will only serve to delay the inevitable. When you ignore your feelings, they will eventually boil over, causing a complete mental breakdown. Using drugs and alcohol only makes that worse.

In treatment, doctors and therapists will help you to learn healthy ways to cope with your PTSD. There are a plethora of methods that can make living with past trauma better. The key is in realizing that your past doesn’t need to define your present and that you can deal with events of the past so that they don’t affect your everyday life. For help from a treatment program that addresses both PTSD and addiction, call Willow Place for Women at 1-888-651-4212.

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