The Connection Between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction


Coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) presents significant challenges due to the recurrence of intrusive memories, nightmares, and emotional distress stemming from a traumatic event. Unfortunately, many individuals with PTSD resort to self-destructive behaviors, such as substance use disorder, as a means of managing their symptoms. According to research, individuals with PTSD are three times more likely to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction compared to those without the disorder. This article highlights the link between PTSD and addiction while also delving into the available treatment options for individuals navigating these challenges.

Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is known to be a mental health disorder that can appear following exposure to a traumatic event or experience. These events can vary widely and include combat exposure, sexual assault or rape, childhood abuse, physical assault, natural disasters, accidents, the loss of a loved one in a traumatic event, and more. The symptoms of PTSD can be caused by various triggers or reminders of the traumatic event, causing individuals to experience recurrent and unwanted memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and severe emotional distress.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The symptoms of PTSD can present themselves in diverse ways and can have a substantial impact on an individual’s daily functioning. Some common symptoms include:

  • Avoidance of conversations or people that remind them of the event
  • Negative thoughts about themselves, others, or the world
  • Hopelessness about the future
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Emotional detachment from loved ones
  • Lack of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Trouble concentrating and sleeping
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

The intensity of these symptoms can deteriorate and may worsen during times of stress or when triggered by reminders of the traumatic event.

Self-destructive Behavior and Substance Abuse

One prevalent symptom associated with PTSD is self-destructive behavior, frequently evidenced through substance abuse. Those affected by PTSD may resort to drugs or alcohol as a means to suppress their emotional anguish, alleviate symptoms, or escape distressing memories. While this form of self-medication may offer temporary relief, it often culminates in a dangerous cycle of addiction and deteriorating mental well-being.

Co-Occurring Disorders: PTSD and Substance Use Disorder

When someone is diagnosed with both PTSD and substance use disorder, it is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. The connection between PTSD and substance abuse is complex, as both disorders can reinforce and exacerbate each other. Substance abuse can provide temporary relief from PTSD symptoms, leading individuals to develop an emotional attachment to drugs or alcohol as a means to feel “normal” or happy.

The frequency of Substance Use Disorder Among Individuals with PTSD

Research indicates a significant occurrence of substance use disorder among individuals with PTSD. In one study, it was found that 46.4% of individuals with PTSD also met the criteria for substance use disorder. Another national survey revealed that 27.9% of women and 51.9% of men with PTSD also had drug addictions. Substance use disorder is also commonly observed in people with other mental health conditions, such as eating depression, eating disorders, and anxiety, as a way to cope with their symptoms.

Recognizing the Signs of Substance Abuse in Individuals with PTSD

It is critical to recognize the signs of substance abuse in individuals with PTSD to provide timely intervention and support. Some signs to watch out for include:

  • Being defensive or argumentative when confronted about their drug or alcohol use
  • Changes in spending habits or financial problems due to substance abuse
  • Noticeable mood swings and changes in behavior
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depressed mood
  • Poor performance at work, home, or school
  • Changes in skin tone or bloodshot eyes

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

When addressing PTSD and substance abuse, a comprehensive treatment approach is necessary. Dual-diagnosis treatment programs specialize in treating individuals with co-occurring disorders. These programs aim to address both the underlying trauma of PTSD and addiction simultaneously, offering integrated and personalized care.

Evidence-Based Therapy Programs for PTSD and Addiction

When addressing PTSD and substance abuse in treatment, evidence-based therapy programs have shown promising results. Techniques like Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are mostly used to help individuals identify and change unhealthy thought patterns, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and manage triggers and cravings. These therapies provide individuals with the tools they need to recover from trauma, manage their symptoms, and achieve long-lasting sobriety.

Seeking Help for PTSD and Substance Abuse

If you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD and substance abuse, it is crucial to seek professional help. Augustine Recovery, a leading addiction facility in St. Augustine, is dedicated to providing comprehensive and personalized care for individuals with co-occurring disorders. Our Men’s Addiction Treatment program addresses the unique needs of men struggling with substance abuse, providing a supportive and tailored approach to recovery. Augustine Recovery guides individuals toward lasting sobriety and healing through evidence-based therapies and a nurturing environment.

Living with PTSD can be incredibly challenging, and people might resort to substance abuse as a means of dealing with their symptoms. However, it is crucial to recognize the harmful cycle that can develop between PTSD and addiction. Seeking professional help and entering a dual-diagnosis treatment program can provide the necessary support and tools for individuals to recover from trauma, manage their symptoms, and achieve lasting sobriety. With its specialized addiction recovery programs in St. Augustine, our addiction treatment center is committed to
guiding others toward a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Additional Information: Augustine Recovery

At Augustine Recovery, we understand the struggles individuals face when dealing with PTSD and substance abuse. Our compassionate and supportive team is dedicated to providing personalized care and evidence-based treatment programs to help individuals achieve lasting recovery. If you or a loved one is seeking addiction recovery, contact Augustine Recovery today at (904) 293-2316 to learn more about our comprehensive programs and begin your journey toward a brighter future.