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PTSD & Addiction: What’s the Link?

Surviving trauma is hard and often requires a set of coping skills that most of us just don’t have. Whether your trauma is deep in your history or happened just a few months ago, you may never have talked about the events that occured. Holding it all in can be a heavy burden and eventually that burden may become too heavy. When the pain becomes too much it’s not uncommon to turn to alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb the pain. And while that might work for a while, eventually the trauma will bubble back up to the top. At Aspire Treatment, we know that addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We understand there is a relationship between PTSD and addiction. 

An in-Depth Explanation of PTSD

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a disorder that develops in some individuals who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Many people who experience trauma will experience some short-term PTSD symptoms and some will develop chronic PTSD. PTSD can occur as a result of many events, including:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Witnessing another person being hurt or killed 
  • Seeing a dead body
  • Living through dangerous events such as war
  • Being injured
  • Experiencing horror, helplessness, or extreme fear
  • Losing a loved one unexpectedly

PTSD can occur within months of the trauma or years later. So while not every trauma will lead to PTSD, it’s essential to understand the symptoms.  PTSD symptoms are classified as re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, cognition/mood symptoms, and arousal/reactivity symptoms. 

Re-experiencing symptoms are things like flashbacks and bad dreams. Avoidance symptoms are things like avoiding seeing or talking about places, events, or things that remind you of the trauma. Cognition/mood symptoms include not remembering key facts about the traumatic event, negative or distorted feelings, or loss of interest in activities. Arousal/reactivity symptoms include being easily startled, feeling “on edge”, experiencing difficulty sleeping, and having outbursts of anger.  While only a doctor can diagnose PTSD, the diagnosis is based on having a combination of these symptoms.

How PTSD Is Linked to Addiction

Researchers have found a strong connection between PTSD and addiction. In fact, they have found that approximately forty percent of civilians and veterans will experience PTSD and addiction simultaneously. Sadly this connection also increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Most researchers believe that PTSD and addiction are so connected because of self-medication. Whether by design or not, many who have PTSD do not seek professional help. This is especially true if the messages you have received from family, friends, or even coworkers clearly tell you to remain silent. Instead, those suffering from PTSD self-medicate with alcohol and drugs as a way to cope. Self-medication might work for a time, but it won’t work forever. Self-medicating is not a perfect science. Over time, the amount of drugs and alcohol that are needed increases. Plus, the drug and alcohol use will catch up with you. 

How Aspire Treatment Solutions Helps With PTSD and Addiction

Aspire Treatment Solutions has various programs to help you work through your past trauma while you break your addiction. We understand that your PTSD and addiction have become intertwined and we’ll partner with you to work through both. 

Our multifaceted programs ranging from partial hospitalization to outpatient counseling will help you build tools for today and the future.  We’re here to help you build a foundation for long-term recovery with a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan. We know that each person’s recovery journey is unique, and we’re committed to helping you craft a recovery path that works for you.  Connect with us today to see how we can best support your success in recovery! 

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