If you feel as if your PTSD and addiction are linked, and your trauma is leading to addiction, chances are you are probably right. The good news is that you are not alone. Time reports that about 50-66 percent of those who suffer from PTSD also battle simultaneous addiction. In addition, around 50% of individuals seeking substance use treatment also suffer from PTSD according to MentalHelp.

Co-Occurring PTSD and Addiction

PTSD, which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is defined as a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault. People who experience PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their trauma that last long after the traumatic event has ended. This can include nightmares, flashbacks, constant reminders and detachment from reality.

The symptoms of PTSD are classified into four categories:

  • Avoidance
  • Re-experiencing
  • Arousal and reactivity
  • Cognition and mood symptoms

The Connection Between PTSD and Addiction

People with PTSD may also experience angry outbursts and having trouble concentrating or sleeping. In order to cope with these intense, disturbing thoughts, people may turn to alcohol to help temporarily relieve them. Others may decide to take the step to get psychiatric help, and could be prescribed anxiety medication to help ease tense nerves and panic attacks.

Anxiety medications are often a great option for people suffering from PTSD, and can help them greatly manage their PTSD symptoms. However, if they begin taking their medication more often than prescribed or start obtaining them in other ways, this can become a slippery slope into addiction. Just as well, having a few drinks out with friends might be nothing out of the ordinary, but if someone is drinking at inappropriate times, alone and everyday, then this is also leading to addiction.

Treatment for Co-Occurring PTSD and Addiction

When PTSD and addiction are co-occurring, it is important to treat both issues at the same time. Treating one without the other will only exacerbate both problems, which makes it so important to open up and be honest with your therapist about all your past traumas. While it may be hard to speak about, it is vital in being able to have a happy, healthy, sober road to recovery.

Often times, PTSD and co-occurring addiction can affect many aspects of someone’s daily life. This can include fractured relationships, shifted priorities, severe depression, isolation, neglecting everyday tasks such as hygiene, and high tolerance to drugs and alcohol. New changes in social circles may also take place, since many concerned friends and family members may pull back in order to protect their own lives. Signs of these changes can include such as running with a “bad crowd”, breaking the law and possible even experiencing jail time. All of these things can worsen anxiety and depression, sending someone with PTSD even deeper into a spiral than they were to begin with. At this point, it is important to recognize that you or your loved one needs help immediately.

What to Expect in Treatment

The first step to recovering from addiction is detoxing upon entry to a treatment facility. Being able to comfortably deal with withdrawal symptoms, often times with the help of medication, will move the patient into therapy more quickly. Once the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, the patient will be working on new coping skills and habits with a therapist. Being able to have new tools in their toolbox to deal with panic attacks or reminders of their trauma is especially important so that they do not turn to substance abuse any longer.

Triggers can happen anywhere at any time, as anyone with PTSD is well aware of. Behavioral therapies will help deal with these everyday situations, and give the patient confidence to carry on in these situations. Group and family counseling is also helpful to help with PTSD and addiction, so that the individual feels they have a solid support system around them. Another part of treatment may be holistic therapy, such as yoga, meditation, equine therapy, acupuncture and more. Having relaxing habits that help not only your body, but your mind as well, can be instrumental in one’s recovery.

About Cliffside Malibu

Experiencing trauma is incredibly difficult, and everyone’s experience can be unique. In order to move forward from PTSD and live a healthy, happy life, having a treatment plan that is unique to you and your needs is vital. We will be with you every step of the way to help work through your trauma, and recognize the signs to look out for in the future when experiencing anxiety related to your trauma.

Upon entry into Cliffside Malibu, each patient is matched with one of these five stages of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. An individualized treatment plan is created based on their current stage of change. This process is in place to ensure that all our patients receive the best treatment path possible for their own specific need. Our goal is to move individuals through their treatment by assessing their readiness for change and formulating stage-matched interventions in order to move them through their respective stage.

It is the policy of Cliffside Malibu to ensure that all individuals who present with chemical dependency issues are assessed for the appropriate level of care. We strive to provide continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment and outpatient services. Services are provided to individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction. Individuals seeking treatment are assessed by qualified staff to ensure program criteria are met and that each individual admitted is placed in the appropriate level of care for treatment. The program is designed and structured for individuals who are in need of a supportive environment in order to maintain Sobriety.

For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit cliffsidemalibu.com