HOW ARE PTSD AND ADDICTION RELATED?
After experiencing a traumatic event, the symptoms don’t just go away and often linger for months or even years. The brain struggles to process the high levels of fear, grief, stress and panic caused by trauma and sends out distress signals that lead to extreme emotional, physical and psychological responses. In this way, trauma changes the brain itself, impacting memory, mood, concentration and emotional regulation and more. To cope with these symptoms, many individuals turn to drugs or alcohol, which offer a brief respite from the pain and frustration they feel. Almost half (46.4 percent) of those with PTSD also have a substance use disorder, and in most cases, addiction developed after the exposure to trauma. While drugs or alcohol might offer temporary relief from the symptoms of PTSD, it often worsens the situation as the problems of addiction set in. Financial difficulties, health problems, social isolation and a decreased ability to cope can exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD and make it harder to treat.
When PTSD and addiction occur together, it’s known as a dual diagnosis. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to recognize when someone is suffering from both PTSD and addiction because the symptoms often overlap. Outbursts of anger, feeling jittery or anxious, isolating from friends and family, and intense emotional reactions can be mistaken for withdrawal or the effects of certain drugs, so it’s not uncommon for individuals to receive treatment for one disorder and not the other. This drastically reduces treatment outcomes and increases the risk of relapse, making it essential to address both disorders simultaneously to ensure that residents receive the comprehensive care they need to heal.