PTSD and Addiction
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a mental health disorder that is currently affecting 8% of Americans. These statistics, provided by PTSD United, indicate that at any given time, 2.4 million Americans are suffering from severe effects of trauma. But that is simply the number of people who are experiencing PTSD right now.
On average, 44.7 million people will experience PTSD at some point during their lives.
PTSD is a disorder that occurs in people who have experienced a traumatic event. Trauma can be caused by events such as rape, war, divorce, abuse, illness, torture, bereavement, etc.
While many people are able to heal from the initial symptoms caused by their traumas, those suffering from PTSD experience debilitating symptoms long after the trauma occurs.
Because PTSD is marked by severe anxiety, insomnia, flashbacks, and other unnerving symptoms, many of those suffering turn to substances to self-medicate.
The Link Between PTSD and Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
It’s estimated that anywhere from 50% to 66% of those suffering from PTSD are also suffering from a substance use disorder. While this is an issue that affects a wide range of people, it is especially prevalent in our veteran community. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
- Approximately 27% of Veterans diganosed with PTSD in VA care also have a Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
- Almost 33% of Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also have PTSD
- More than 25% of Veterans with PTSD also have SUD
Categories and Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
According to PTSD United, 70% of adults have experienced a traumatic event during their lifetime. 20% of these people will go on to develop PTSD.
It is important to note that it’s normal to experience distress after a traumatic event, but if any the following symptoms persist for longer than three months or dramatically disrupt your life, you may being experiencing PTSD.
Mental Health Professionals use a categorical system to diagnose PTSD. Symptoms may fall under any of the following four categories:
1. Intrusive Memories
- Flashbacks – reliving the traumatic event
- Nightmares about the traumatic event
- Recurring memories about the traumatic event
- Severe distress when reminded of the traumatic event
2. Avoidance Symptoms
- Avoiding talking or thinking about the traumatic event
- Avoiding places, people, or things that are reminders of the traumatic event
3. Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Feeling tense
- Experiencing angry outbursts
4. Cognition and Mood Symptoms
- Difficulty remember details about the traumatic event
- Negative thoughts about oneself
- Loss of interest in activities
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for PTSD
Recognizing the comorbidity of PTSD and addiction is crucial for recovery. While the use of drugs and alcohol may temporarily numb the pain and distress associated with PTSD, using substances to relieve its symptoms may ultimately magnify them. By using addiction to avoid healing from trauma, PTSD is likely to last much longer.
The chronic stress associated with PTSD has the potential to interfere with a person’s impulse control, memory, and learning functions, while addiction directly affects decision making and increases the likelihood of risky behaviors.
When these two disorders co-occur, it is a necessity that both are treated individually as they tend to exacerbate one another.
At Alo House, we understand the importance of Dual Diagnosis and Co-occurring Disorder Treatment.
We know that by treating all present mental health disorders simultaneously, we are able to provide proper addiction treatment.
We Offer Therapies Designed to Help Those Suffering From PTSD Such as:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Interpersonal Mindfulness Based Self-Regulation
- Equine Assisted Therapy
By evaluating our clients’ needs beyond their addiction, we are able to provide them with an effective treatment model, giving them the tools they need for a successful recovery.