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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Addiction and Treatment

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that results from experiencing something that causes extreme emotional distress. Commonly, sufferers become alcohol or substance abusers as a means to cope with the overwhelming feelings that accompany PTSD.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of PTSD usually begin shortly after a traumatic but can also occur years later. Further, as many as 8 out of every 100 people will develop some form of PTSD during their lifetime. 

What is Trauma?

It’s important to talk about how we define trauma. It’s commonly known that people who have been victims of a violent crime or fought in war have experienced trauma. But the definition of trauma is not so cut and dry. The death of a loved one, a car accident, a job loss, and many other non-violent situations can also cause PTSD. Consider COVID-19. Were we not all traumatized in the short or long term? 

With so many stigmas around mental illness, society must learn to listen to every story and not judge the diagnosis of PTSD based on the nature of the original trauma. Disabling symptoms of PTSD are the same, regardless of the nature of the trauma or danger involved.

Symptoms of PTSD

We all respond to trauma differently. The spectrum of symptoms is wide but can be summarized briefly to include:

  • Re-living the original experience at least through flashbacks or dreams
  • Avoidance of people or places that are connected to the original trauma
  • Reactionary symptoms, like being easily startled, anxious, angry or on edge
  • Difficulty remembering the traumatic event
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Depression 
  • Dissociation

PTSD can interfere strongly with how someone reacts to the world around them, but it is a treatable psychiatric condition. Medication, therapy, self-care, and nutrition all can help patients work through their trauma and find happiness on the other side of trauma. 

If you or someone you love is suffering, getting help is so important. Moving through trauma is not easy work but freeing oneself is an empowering gift that every PTSD survivor deserves.  

PTSD in Teens

Children who are victims of child abuse, emotional abuse, bullying, sexual abuse or who have witnessed violence or death are not as equipped to deal with the emotional fallout as adults. Addressing a PTSD crisis early can help a teen recover before they turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. 

Navigating the world as a teen is hard enough and no two teens will experience PTSD the same way. If a teen has experienced trauma, they need family support and treatment team that can help them navigate their way through. Breakthrough Recovery Outreach specializes in treating teens so that they can enter adulthood with the coping skills needed to live a happy and successful life. 

The Link between PTSD and Addiction

Studies show that people suffering from PTSD are more susceptible to also having a co-occurring diagnosis of substance or alcohol abuse. The emotional toll this takes on a sufferer cannot be overstated. The pain can easily lead someone to try to dull their symptoms and feelings through the use of alcohol or drugs. The desire to temporarily feel less pain can easily result in an addiction that requires treatment. 

It’s important to note that sometimes, addiction can be the catalyst that brings a PTSD sufferer into a treatment program that can address and treat both issues. In researching this topic, many articles spoke of the dual diagnosis of PTSD and addiction. Few mentioned the fact that for some sufferers of PTSD, getting treatment for their addiction was the first step in their journey to freedom. 

Perhaps the authors of those articles simply haven’t experienced that miracle. But as the author of this article and a survivor of PTSD and an addict in recovery, I feel compelled to share this fact:

I went to Breakthrough Recovery Outreach for the treatment of my addiction. I didn’t even know I had PTSD. Eighteen months later, I left free of drugs and the lifelong symptoms of PSTD that I hadn’t realized were the root cause of my addiction. 

PTSD and Hope

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and addiction can be treated at the same time and sufferers do recover. Sometimes we are ashamed to speak about our past trauma and it is important to remember that none of us are what happened to us. We are what we choose to become. And choosing to become a survivor lays the groundwork for a life free from the constraints of disabling fear.