PTSD and Addiction

Stress affects everyone from time to time. Most people experience stress when dealing with difficult situations. Some people feel it before performing in front of an audience. Others experience before taking a test or preparing to give a presentation. Essentially, stress is no stranger to anyone. However, some people suffer from stress disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And, unfortunately, many individuals suffer from PTSD and addiction at the same time.

When substance use disorders and PTSD co-occur, the effects can be life-altering. In some cases, the two disorders can affect one another. Addiction may intensify the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Or PTSD symptoms may increase the effects of alcoholism or drug use disorder.

In the event that an individual develops co-occurring disorders of PTSD and substance abuse, professional treatment can help. Not only is treatment helpful, but it may also prove to be necessary.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Definition, Statistics, and Causes

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that sometimes affects people who have experienced a traumatic event. When a person goes through a terrifying crisis or witnesses a traumatic event, PTSD may develop. 

ptsd and addictionSome of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder include the following:

  • Nightmares
  • Severe, extreme anxiety
  • Frightening and unpleasant thoughts
  • Flashbacks (“reliving” the traumatic event)
  • Uncontrollable thoughts about the incident(s)

PTSD Statistics

Although this disorder does not affect everyone who experiences trauma, it can certainly have an impact on those who encounter major traumatic events. In fact, the National Center for PTSD reports some astounding statistics on the matter.

About 60% of men and 50% of women experience a traumatic event at least once in their lives. The National Center for PTSD also reports that, in the U.S., approximately 7 or 8 out of every 100 individuals will have PTSD.

About 10% of women (10 of every 100) develop PTSD at some point in life. Approximately 4% of men (4 of every 100) develop post-traumatic stress disorder at some time in life.

Causes and Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Often, individuals associate PTSD with veterans. After all, war zones and the difficult experiences that occur in combat are typically quite traumatic. Those who have exposure to these life-altering circumstances are certainly likely to experience some sort of trauma at some point. 

However, although many military men and women experience post-traumatic stress disorder, there are other causes of this disorder, as well. Some of the other common causes of the development of PTSD include the following:

  • Car accident
  • Natural disasters
  • Sexual abuse/assault
  • Physical abuse/assault
  • Grief (i.e. Loss of a loved one)
  • Witnessing the hurt or death of another person
  • Childhood trauma (abuse, violence, parental divorce, etc.)

Genetics may also be a contributing factor to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, gender can be a factor, as women are more likely than men to develop PTSD. (Again, women are not necessarily more likely to experience trauma. But, they are often more likely yo develop post-traumatic stress disorder.)

Individuals who experience trauma and receive little or no emotional support afterward are likely to suffer from PTSD. Additional stress can add to the likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, job loss, family problems, financial issues, and other life changes can contribute to the effects of PTSD.

An Overview of the Effects of PTSD

Often, those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder exhibit certain behaviors. They experience specific changes in their minds and bodies, as well. Some of the effects of PTSD include the following:

Distortion of Beliefs: People suffering from PTSD may begin to feel that they are to blame for the traumatic event. Or they may begin to lose trust in others who had nothing to do with the situation. For instance, a child’s parent may have abused him or her. As a result, the child may believe that all parents are harmful or all adults are untrustworthy.

Avoidance: Individuals may avoid people, places, and things that remind them of their traumatic experiences. They may also choose to keep busy in an effort to avoid thinking or talking about the situation.

Nightmares and Flashbacks: PTSD often causes people to “relive” traumatic experiences. Some individuals have nightmares and difficulty sleeping. They may also have flashbacks in which they vividly remember and replay negative experiences in their minds. 

Lack of Interest: Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder may lose interest in activities they once liked. They may lose the motivation to engage in once enjoyable hobbies or pastimes.

Cognitive Challenges: Individuals living with PTSD may have trouble focusing or concentrating. They may be unable to properly remember the details of traumatic events. 

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse (addiction) is a disorder characterized by an inability to control substance use. Those who suffer from addiction use drugs or alcohol in ways that are not considered healthy. Some individuals use illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin, developing addictions to these substances. Others may use prescription drugs or alcohol more than professionals or experts recommend as a healthy amount. 

When a person suffers from substance abuse, he or she experiences major changes in the brain structure. After using drugs and/or alcohol excessively, a person’s brain functionality changes. Substance abuse affects an individual’s neurotransmitters, altering bodily functions in many negative ways.

There are various types of addiction. Individuals may suffer from severe cases while others may have less severe addictions. However, in every case, it is critical for individuals to receive treatment and work toward recovery.

Types of Addiction

Prescription Drug Abuse

As mentioned before, some individuals suffer from prescription drug abuse. Tolerance levels may increase, leaving individuals unaffected by normal doses and prone to use more of the drug. In such cases, individuals use a medication more frequently than is recommended by a doctor. Or, they use higher doses of medicine than prescribed.

After using prescription drugs excessively, individuals may begin to depend on these substances. They may begin to feel as though they cannot operate “normally” without using medication. This is due to the fact that the brain and body learn to depend on the effects of substances people use in excess.

Illicit Drug Use

Heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and many other illicit substances often make their way into individuals’ lives. These drugs are not only illicit, but they can be life-altering. In many cases, these substances even prove to be life-threatening

Illicit drugs are usually sold on the street by dealers who sometimes lace or cut drugs with other substances. So individuals who buy these drugs may think they are buying heroin or cocaine when they are actually purchasing a mixture of substances. This can be extremely dangerous as it may lead to overdose and even death.

But, these drugs often cause euphoric effects, luring users to continue engaging in drug use. Unfortunately, with continuous use, individuals can begin to depend on these harmful drugs. Eventually, they may develop an addiction to these substances.

Alcohol Abuse

Although alcohol is a legal and widely accepted substance, the use of it can be quite problematic for many people. Some individuals grow to depend on this substance, drinking alcohol in excess. This can cause major issues since alcohol abuse negatively impacts physical, emotional, and mental health.

Often, those who suffer from alcoholism find themselves dealing with legal trouble, such as DUIs. Alcohol abuse can also cause individuals to become violent or irritable. It can create issues between spouses, harm parent-child relationships, limit work/school productivity, and more.

Dual Diagnosis: PTSD and Substance Abuse

In many instances, people begin to suffer from both PTSD and substance abuse. When a person suffers from the effects of PTSD and addiction, it means that he or she has a dual diagnosis. These co-occurring disorders can lead to serious and severe challenges in an individual’s life.

Sometimes, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder turn to drugs or alcohol for relief from symptoms. For instance, an individual may use alcohol to help them sleep at night and combat intrusive or uncontrollable thoughts. Or, a person may use an illicit substance to get “high” and avoid nervousness or anxiety.

As a result of this self-medication, individuals may develop co-occurring disorders. When struggling with PTSD and addiction at the same time, people need to seek treatment that will address both of these disorders simultaneously. This is where a dual diagnosis treatment program comes can be helpful, even essential.

Treatment for PTSD and Addiction

Professional addiction treatment centers that offer dual diagnosis programs are best for those suffering from co-occurring disorders. This is because such programs address both disorders simultaneously, rather than focusing on only one of them. Such an approach would likely prove to be more harmful than helpful for those struggling with PTSD and substance abuse.

While in dual diagnosis treatment, individuals can expect to receive the best help for their needs. Those in treatment can first go through a detox program, cleansing their bodies from toxins from drugs and alcohol. They can also enter rehab programs such as outpatient treatment, inpatient (residential) treatment, partial hospitalization programs, or intensive outpatient programs. Additionally, individuals can benefit from various types of therapy. 

Therapy for Dual Diagnosis Patients

Psychotherapy can help bring healing to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also beneficial in addiction treatment. So individuals suffering from PTSD and addiction can certainly find healing and peace through this therapeutic approach.

One type of therapy that may help those suffering from PTSD and substance abuse is cognitive restructuring. Essentially, this therapeutic approach works to help individuals address their thoughts about the traumatic experience. Sometimes those who suffer from PTSD struggle to remember events as they truly happened. Or, they may have harmful or negative thoughts about themselves in relation to the event. People might feel guilty or ashamed because of what occurred in their lives. Cognitive restructuring works to “restructure” these thought patterns and help bring healing.

Both group therapy and individual therapy sessions can prove to be helpful for those in recovery. Learning from the experiences of others can be necessary for the recovery process. Also, having one-on-one opportunities with therapists may be essential during this journey.

Treatment for PTSD and Addiction at Silver Linings Recovery Center

If you are suffering from PTSD and substance abuse, there is no time like the present to seek help. No doubt, you sometimes feel alone in your struggle. You may feel afraid that there is no hope for you. Helplessness, unfortunately, affects many people who suffer from co-occurring disorders. But, please know that you are not alone and there certainly is hope for you!

Here at Silver Linings Recovery Center, our team is ready to help you find freedom and peace. Our dedicated and trained professional staff members understand the importance of treating co-occurring disorders. We know that each patient at our facility has unique needs and we work to address each need properly. 

Your dual diagnosis of PTSD and addiction does not have to be the end of your story. Allow us to help you start a new chapter in your life. You can begin your journey to recovery today! All it takes is a phone call to our addiction treatment center. With one action, you can begin the best journey of your life, one that leads to recovery and healing. 

Now is the time to reach out for help. Please contact Silver Linings today and one of our compassionate team members will be happy to help you! We can’t wait to assist you as you walk in a new direction toward a life that is free from addiction!


Call us to speak with a drug and alcohol addiction treatment expert, and get on the path to rehabilitation today.

FREE No Obligation Call .... GET HELP NOW

Silver Linings Recovery Center is open, accepting new clients, and is here to support our recovery community during this pandemic. If you have ANY questions feel free to give us a call at (844) 546-4644 and one of our directors will work with you or your loved one the care you need.