How Does Addiction Affect PTSD?

People diagnosed with PTSD are up to 3 times more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. This can make both conditions far more difficult to deal with. Treatments for people who have both a substance abuse disorder and PTSD need to be designed to work with these circumstances. 

Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a complex anxiety disorder caused by trauma. This trauma can vary depending on the individual, but the most common causes include military combat, sexual abuse, and car accidents. Around 8% of Americans suffer from PTSD.

The symptoms of PTSD can vary, but they usually include attitude and behavioral changes. People may become more easily irritated or angered. They may have difficulty sleeping, which leads to fatigue and problems concentrating. Someone with PTSD may feel numb and actively avoid people, places, or activities. They may relive the trauma that caused the disorder, experiencing flashbacks or nightmares. 

Symptoms of Substance Abuse Disorder

A substance abuse disorder or addiction can be a severe and life-destroying condition. Someone who is addicted to a substance may prioritize it above all else, even as the substance impacts their health and their life. 

While some people can function while dealing with a substance abuse disorder, the condition can easily spiral. Common substances that people abuse include alcohol, opioids, and stimulants. 

Someone with a substance abuse disorder will exhibit obvious changes in behavior, such as a lack of motivation and poor work performance, as well as financial issues and changes in spending habits. They may become argumentative or defensive when asked about substance abuse. They may also show physical symptoms, such as sudden weight loss and a decreased appetite. Someone with an addiction could look sick, perhaps with bloodshot eyes or pale skin. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and PTSD are considered co-occurring disorders. Depression and anxiety are also linked with substance abuse. 

Someone with PTSD may attempt to self-medicate so that they can avoid or numb their symptoms. This can lead to substance abuse. It’s been found that people who seek treatment for their PTSD are 14 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder as well.

People who suffer from PTSD are more likely to abuse alcohol than stimulating drugs. This is because alcohol is a depressant and is easy to access. For example, veterans who drink alcohol and who have PTSD are often diagnosed with binge drinking disorder.

One of the highest risk groups for both substance abuse and PTSD is military veterans. Often one of the conditions is discovered while someone is seeking treatment for the other. The emotional stress, mental strain, and physical demands of combat have a heavy impact on both the body and the mind, which is likely why many veterans go on to develop these conditions. If you or a loved one suffers from these co-occurring disorders, then you should contact Findlay Recovery Center for specialized treatment.