Trauma is a debilitating thing to experience — mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It can lead to a host of issues throughout life if left untreated, including addiction or even death. It is also a hidden condition. While many people who experience addiction have a trauma as an underlying cause, many do not know it until later. Keep reading to find out if PTSD leads to addiction, the signs and symptoms to look out for, and how PTSD and addiction are both treated.
Does PTSD Lead to Addiction: Understanding PTSD
PTSD, which stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault, according to the American Psychiatric Association. In addition, PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to have PTSD.
Causes for PTSD can include:
- Hostile or negative home life while growing up
- Growing up with a parent who suffered from substance abuse
- Sexual, emotional, or mental abuse
- Surviving a natural disaster, such as a fire or earthquake
- Experiencing combat
- Having a serious accident, such as a car accident or traumatic injury, or witnessing one
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD can be wide-ranging and look different on everybody. Some individuals can experience more severe symptoms than others, while others can be milder. However, there are four categories that the symptoms of PTSD fall into. These include:
- Intrusive thoughts. These can be anything from involuntary memories of the traumatic experience, nightmares, flashbacks, or vivid visions of the traumatic event that feels like it is happening in real-time.
- Avoiding reminders. Going to great lengths to avoid reminders of the traumatic experience in an effort to stop triggering memories is a symptom of PTSD. This can include avoiding certain people, places, conversations, activities, or things and isolating oneself.
- Negative thoughts and feelings. These are different from intrusive thoughts. They include things such as ongoing anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, and trust issues with others.
- Reactive symptoms. Having angry or aggressive outbursts, self-destructive behaviors, insomnia, or trouble concentrating are all reactive symptoms of PTSD.
How PTSD Leads to Addiction
The main reason that PTSD leads to addiction is an effort to numb or self-medicate the symptoms that are being experienced. Having intrusive thoughts can be debilitating, the inability to be outgoing at social functions can be hard, and dealing with ongoing guilt or anxiety can be extremely difficult. Substances provide a temporary escape from these negative feelings.
The important thing to remember is that while substances are a coping mechanism, they are a very negative coping mechanism. This is because substance abuse actually worsens PTSD symptoms by sending the individual into a spiral of more and more substance use in an effort to keep up with numbing their negative symptoms. This spiral quickly leads to tolerance, dependence, addiction, overdose, and death.
Treating PTSD and Addiction
PTSD is exacerbated by addiction, and addiction is exacerbated by PTSD. Simply becoming sober from drugs and alcohol without treating the PTSD will not ensure long-term or successful recovery from drugs and alcohol and vice-versa. As such, both conditions need to be treated at the same time through a process called dual diagnosis.
In dual diagnosis treatment, the individual’s treatment plan is designed to treat both co-occurring disorders at the same time. Working to not only detox the client from drugs and alcohol but to also learn new healthy coping mechanisms and ways to deal with PTSD are essential for long-term recovery.
About Seasons in Malibu
Dealing with a mental health disorder, such as PTSD, can be debilitating to one’s life. It affects how a person acts, how relationships form over a lifetime, and whether or not the individual can live a healthy, happy life. If you or a loved one has experienced a traumatic event and are suffering from the symptoms of PTSD, life doesn’t have to remain this way forever. You can break free from the negative thoughts and suffering relationships and live a happy, healthy life.
Seasons likes to take time in ensuring your diagnosis is accurate. Our Medical Doctors and Clinical Psychologists work very closely together and rely on spending as much time as necessary in order to fully understand you, your symptoms, and how your mental illness has impacted your life.
We understand that not every client is going to feel motivated to participate in traditional western medicine. Although the research provides significant evidence to support the proper use of psychotropic medications, we offer a variety of non-medical interventions and solutions that promote symptom management. Some examples include holistic interventions such as: Acupuncture, Mindfulness, Craniosacral Therapy, Yoga, and Nutrition Plans for Mood Management.
We are interested in creating a shift for the whole system, not just the individual. Mental health does impact those around us and by offering ways to reach them, educate and work with them personally, offering resources and support, the client can feel a much greater sense of relief returning back into their environment.
For more information, visit seasonsmalibu.com