Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Explained

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that develops when a person is exposed to a traumatic or shocking event or high level of stress that creates changes in the brain. The “fight or flight” response is triggered and experienced for over a month, interfering with day-to-day life with stress symptoms, flashbacks, anxiety, hypervigilance, and other uncomfortable or frightening psychological and physical symptoms.

Subtle Signs of PTSD

Not everybody is like the war veteran you see in movies, screaming about “Charlie” and crawling on the floor after hearing a firework. There are several more common reactions, signs, and symptoms that people with PTSD may experience that include:

  • avoidance symptoms – staying away from things that remind them of the trauma
  • physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart
  • flashbacks and bad dreams
  • acute stress or having a stress reaction to reminders of the event
  • being easily startled
  • arousal and reactivity, like feeling tense or having angry outbursts
  • emotional dysregulation, with mood swings
  • cognitive and mood symptoms like having trouble remembering the event or feeling distorted feelings of guilt or negativity

PTSD In Military Personnel and Veterans

Military personnel and veterans are much more likely to develop post-traumatic stress than civilians due to exposure to risk factors like exposure to violence, war, combat, torture, pain, traumatic stress, sexual assault, and witnessing or hearing about violence and death.

Veterans with PTSD often have difficulties in assimilating back into civilian life with their families and friends, feeling isolated and alone, with many turning to substance abuse to try and drown out the symptoms of their mental health conditions.

Other Causes of PTSD

Other common reasons people develop PTSD include experiencing traumatic experiences like:

  • a physical health scare, like being diagnosed with breast cancer or being admitted into intensive care
  • a sexual assault
  • being in a serious accident
  • domestic violence
  • prolonged exposure to stress, pain, or fear
  • seeing or hearing about a violent act or death
  • childbirth experiences
  • an unexpected death of a loved one
  • children and teens living through child abuse
  • a natural disaster

The Importance of Treating PTSD and Addiction Together

Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders are huge risk factors for developing a substance abuse, because many people will find themselves turning to drug and alcohol abuse to help them numb feelings of pain, fear, and intense emotions, while trying to forget the traumatic experience or ignore a PTSD symptom.

There is also a risk in people with drug and alcohol addiction in taking risks and living an unsafe lifestyle (for example, driving drunk, practicing unsafe sex, or getting into an illegal or violent situation), creating opportunities to become re-traumatized, worsening their mental health issues. Evidence also shows that those people in recovery who have co-occurring mental health and stress disorders may have a harder time avoiding relapse when their PTSD or mental disorder is triggered.

For these reasons, treating both issues at the same time in an integrated dual diagnosis program in a safe and professional, trauma-informed setting, will not only help the patient feel better overall, but will also improve their life and make recovery and relapse prevention easier in the future.

Mental Health and Addiction Treatment at TruPath

At TruPath, we belong to a nationwide network of treatment centers that provide the full continuum of addiction and mental health care. We have treatments in our dual diagnosis programs that treat PTSD alongside drug or alcohol addiction, with options that include:

  • Behavioral therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy)
  • Comprehensive medical care
  • Individual therapy and group therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Experiential therapy
  • Relapse prevention
  • Case management services
  • Holistic treatments including yoga and meditation

The treatment of PTSD and addiction together requires an integrated plan that encompasses physical health care, therapy targeted for getting mental illness under control, behavioral treatments,

At TruPath, our dual diagnosis program combines care for substance abuse issues with mental health services, including therapy, psychiatric medications, and holistic alcohol or drug treatments for:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD
  • Depression
  • Codependency
  • Personality disorder
  • Eating disorder
  • Anger management
  • Grief and loss

Our team of health professionals will ensure you always feel safe and listened-to in our integrated treatment programs as you heal your body, mind and spirit through our whole-patient approach to care. We infuse our core values into everything we do, with integrity, empowerment, personal growth, education and teamwork at the forefront of all care.  

Call TruPath today if you are experiencing symptoms of substance abuse issues with or without post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our team can get you the help you need so you can live your life normally, with long-term connections to sober homes, aftercare, 12-step groups, and outpatient treatments, allowing you to be connected to support and care for as long as you need.

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