PTSD? Are You Self-Medicating?

Struggling with PTSD can be debilitating. Anyone who does will probably agree.

It can become so stressful that people start drinking or drugging to self-medicate. In fact, research states that about 33% of people who reach out for help for addiction problems also struggle with

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

That’s 1 out of every 3 people. And, of the veteran population, about 2 out of 10 that struggle with PTSD also struggle with substance abuse disorder.
The connection between the two disorders is large. Good news is that research shows that integrated treatment programs that provide adequate care for both disorders are helping men and women get their lives back.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health disorder that happens as a result of someone experiencing or witnessing something that is traumatic. It could be physical or sexual abuse, war, rape, a natural disaster, accident, illness, and more. It can also occur from ongoing chronic stress, especially if it occurs during childhood.

The stress that is encountered during the traumatic event puts the sympathetic nervous system into a state of “fight, flight, or freeze”. Usually, the parasympathetic system can calm the body down once the threat is removed. However, this isn’t always the case for various reasons.

Experts state that of those that experience traumatic situations, about 8% will not be able to fully recover. They will go on to experience symptoms of PTSD. It’s not always understood why some people develop the disorder, while others don’t. Those than experience recurring trauma have a much greater chance at developing PTSD.

If you suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you may find yourself struggling with intense anxiety related to some sort of trauma in the past. Maybe you grew up in a severely dysfunctional home where abuse was present.

Or perhaps you were in an accident or suffered trauma from being inactive combat in a war.

Regardless of the reason for the PTSD diagnosis, severe anxiety can be debilitating. To try to relieve some of that anxiety, some people turn to alcohol or drugs. You may have been tempted to do this or are currently using substances to try to cope.

There are real dangers in doing so, as you can become dependent on or addicted to these substances. This can eventually cause even more issues in your life.

Treatment For Dual Diagnoses

Addiction to alcohol or drugs is sometimes thought to be an attempt to self-regulate. In other words, it may feel better to try to numb out or dodge painful memories by drinking or taking drugs. But only for a time. Using booze or drugs as an attempt to manage your PTSD symptoms may put your central nervous system on overload, causing even more distress mentally and physically.

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD and a substance use disorder, know that there are some great treatments available for both. You don’t have to continue spiralling trying to keep your anxiety under control or self-medicating inner pain.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are some differences between having higher levels of anxiety than normal and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To get the most out of treatment, think about having an assessment done by a mental health professional or addiction specialist.

If you’re struggling with PTSD, you may be experiencing various symptoms, including:

  • Flashbacks of the traumatic situation
  • Nightmares
  • Intense anxiety
  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Isolation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Inability to enjoy things
  • Racing thoughts
  • Depression

If you identify with some of these characteristics, you may be suffering from PTSD. As such, life may feel overwhelming at times. In fact, you may feel so overwhelmed at times that you drink alcohol or take drugs as an attempt to cope with the symptoms.

The problem with this is that substances are not a long-term solution for PTSD. You can easily become addicted to alcohol or various drugs, which can cause you even more problems. Experts assert that drinking to try to cope with symptoms of PTSD may in fact make the symptoms worse.

For example, let’s say you’re struggling with intense anxiety and come home after work and have a few drinks every evening. You may think that you are effectively coping with the anxiety, but you may actually be bringing on more anxiety.

Alcohol is a toxic chemical that adds stress to your physical body. Overly drinking can certainly affect your mental health. So if you’re drinking to try to cope, you’re not actually helping your symptoms, but making them worse.

Dual Diagnosis Treats Both Issues

When you have the diagnosis of alcoholism or substance use disorder and PTSD, you should seek treatment in a facility that offers dual diagnoses treatment. There you’ll be able to receive expert help for both disorders. This will help you recover much faster than if you were just receiving treatment for one disorder.

At a treatment centre, you will be able to have professionals address the substance use disorder and any underlying mental health issues. This will allow you to move forward in life in a positive manner, making changes that ultimately bring you more peace and joy.

If you only treat the addiction but do not treat the underlying issues, you may find yourself repeatedly falling back into drinking or drugging.

Alcohol Rehab and PTSD—Reach Out for Help Today

Sometimes it is difficult to recognize PTSD in you or a loved one. If you feel you are struggling with PTSD symptoms, seek a mental health expert that can do an assessment. The sooner those symptoms can be addressed through therapy – and medications, if need be – the less inner pain you will have to contend with.

PTSD can be a debilitating disorder. Coupling that with addiction and it can be quite dangerous. If you or a loved one is struggling, please reach out for help today. You do not have to struggle through this on your own.

You deserve a life that you love and sometimes getting to that point means reaching out to the experts for help. Give us a call today and let us help you start your recovery journey.


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