Have you ever been scared for your life? Caught in a situation where you felt as if your very existence was threatened? Perhaps you were caught in a close call where your life was in actual danger, but the moment passed and you were able to move beyond the experience.
Facing trauma can fundamentally change the way in which you perceive the world around you. It can increase your personal stress in typically normal situations, forcing you to avoid interacting with family and friends, and even resulting in feelings of severe depression and excessive anxiety.
For those who have experienced a trauma, it’s normal – and necessary – to develop mechanisms to cope with the traumatic event; some of which, however, can prove to be maladaptive in nature.
A common, negative response to an experienced trauma is substance addiction, due to the misconception that substance use can “make you feel better” in the short-term. In reality, using substances to cope with the symptoms of PTSD opens the door to a flood of negative consequences and establishes a negative habit within your being that only exacerbates the problem.
What is PTSD, Exactly?
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that can be traced back to the 1980’s. It was seen in returning soldiers who experienced severe stress and anxiety following the traumas associated with their wartime experiences.
Initially referred to as “shell shock,” the understanding of this disorder has evolved tremendously since that time – incorporating a broader range of trauma-induced stressors, including exposure or threat of death, actual or threatened serious injury, and actual or threatened sexual violence.
In addition, it has been identified that the trauma or stressors can be experienced directly or witnessed by another and have the same long-term traumatic effects.
It is also important to understand that anyone can suffer from PTSD, and roughly 8% of all Americans, or up to 7 million people, will have PTSD during their lifetime.
The key for an experienced trauma to evolve into PTSD is the perception of helplessness in the face of trauma and prior history of trauma (for example, child abuse). The greater the
helplessness, the more likely one is to become trapped in a hyper-arousal cycle and later develop posttraumatic symptoms.1
The Connection Between PTSD and Drug Abuse
Substance abuse is extremely common among people who have experienced a traumatic event. Among people seeking treatment for substance use disorders, it’s estimated that nearly one in three are suffering from symptoms of PTSD.
Rates of alcohol and substance use disorders among those diagnosed with PTSD are also strikingly high. Most often, this occurs as a result of patients self-medicating in order to alleviate symptoms associated with PTSD, including depression, anxiety and panic.
Some pertinent facts indicating the link between PTSD and addiction include:
- 50% of those who suffer from PTSD also struggle with an alcohol use disorder.
- Chemical dependency is often described as an attempt at self-regulation, not so terribly different from other types of trauma-related impulsive behavior.
- Addiction is a result of an attempt to ward off the intrusive memories, smooth out hyper vigilance, and disconnect from anxiety.
- When alcohol or drugs are used to manage PTSD symptoms, the symptoms of the disorder only become more severe.
- As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol and opiates can worsen depression and anxiety and interfere with normal sleep patterns.
Understanding that a fundamental connection between PTSD and addiction exist is the first step to effectively treating the co-occurring disorders.2
PTSD and Addiction Treatment
Historically, the therapeutic approach has been to treat the addiction first, but there has been growing awareness that mental health disorders and addiction impede each other.
That is why identifying a clinically sound and applicable co-occurring treatment program is essential to conquering both PTSD and the co-morbid substance use disorder at the same time.
Focusing on just the traumatic stress, or just the substance use disorder, fails to fully address the extensive symptomatology associated with both, and can leave an addict with a solution to only half the problem.
By committing to working with a treatment facility that can appropriately address both disorders, you will be increasing your chance of not only achieving sustained sobriety, but also avoiding a stress-induced relapse.
Christian-Based Co-Occurring Treatment for PTSD and Drug & Alcohol Addiction at Covenant Hills
Dealing with co-occurring disorders in any form is an extremely difficult task to face, but there is proven, life-changing help for you. You can achieve mental stability, quite your addiction, and learn vital, effective skills to avoid a relapse.
At Covenant Hills, we take a Whole Person Approach to drug and alcohol rehab and mental health disorders. The trauma you experienced and the addiction that may have entered your life has deeply affected your mind, body, and spirit.
Because of this, these vital pieces of your being must be given the support and nurturing they need to fully heal. We work with every aspect of you to ensure complete care and healing. This includes your psychological, emotional, physical, nutritional, and spiritual needs.
1PTSD Alliance. PTSD & Addiction. Accessed November 11, 2018. http://www.ptsdalliance.org/ptsd-and-addiction/.
2Behavioral Health Evolution. Latest Research on Treating PTSD and Addiction. Accessed November 11, 2018. http://www.bhevolution.org/public/perspectices_201203.page.