One of the most emotionally draining mental disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder causes intense anxiety, intrusive memories and nightmarish flashbacks that interfere with daily life. Many individuals with PTSD resort to drugs or alcohol as a way to numb the pain or to be in control in their lives.
Chronic substance abuse results to co-existence of a serious psychiatric disorder and an addictive disorder. Recovering from this Dual Diagnosis requires a combination of careful exploration of the causes of PTSD and treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.
What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is a condition in which an individual experiences huge stress or anxiety after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. This leaves the individual feeling powerless. The common causes of the condition include combat, violent assault, natural disasters, sexual assault, and childhood abuse.
Sexual abuse is most common causes of PTSD and addiction to women while Combat is the common reason for PTSD in men. Also, Vietnam veterans seeking treatment for PTSD, the range of 60 and 80 percent requires treatment for substance abuse.
Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of things related to the event, severe anxiety, sleeplessness, aggressive behavior and angry outbursts. These symptoms can strike the sufferer any time, most commonly when he or she is reminded of the events.
PTSD patients who meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and substance abuse often experience other serious disorders, such as depression, attention deficit disorder, chronic pain, and chronic illness such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or liver disease.
The PTSD only becomes more severe when alcohol and drugs are used to manage the PTSD symptoms. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can aggravate depression, anxiety, and interfere with normal sleep patterns. Someone with PTSD is more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, such as driving under the influence, or to engage in an argument with someone else especially when under the influence of alcohol.
PTSD and substance abuse often lead to legal problems, imprisonment, poverty, broken homes and unemployment. Receiving the right treatment for this Dual Diagnosis may make the difference between whether or not the sufferer is able to lead a fulfilling life.
PTSD and Addiction
PTSD can be extremely upsetting. The great amount of stress on the individual may unable him to cope. They then turn to substance abuse as means of escape. Endorphin withdrawal plays a part in the use of alcohol or drugs to control PTSD. When a sufferer experiences a traumatic event, the brain produces endorphins. This reduces the pain and create a sense of well-being — as a way of managing the stress at the moment. When the event is over, the body experiences an endorphin withdrawal. The same symptoms as withdrawal from substance such as anxiety, depression, emotional distress, physical pain, and increased cravings for alcohol or drugs.
Many PTSD turns to alcohol because it replaces the feelings brought on by the naturally produced brain’s endorphins. But the positive effects of alcohol are only short-term. The individual who increase alcohol intake can only become chemically dependent on the drug. They ask for more to produce those numbing effects. Eventually, cravings can turn into addiction abusing the drug in spite of its devastating effects. As the effects of the subsiding endorphins, the sufferer needs more alcohol to getaway the nightmares and flashbacks of PTSD.
Healing from a Dual Diagnosis of PTSD and an addictive disorder demands support from psychiatric professionals, family members and peers. People who are battling PTSD and a substance use disorder may be unwilling to seek recovery. Many of those PTSD sufferers live with strong guilt and shame caused by the traumatic event. Addictive behavior may add to their guilt, making it even harder to reach out to others.
Related: 6 Ways to Help a Friend with PTSD