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Information About PTSD and Addiction

PTSD and Addiction

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addiction occur together more often than most people realize. PTSD is a debilitating condition that is actually a form of severe anxiety. It frequently interferes with people's daily lives. It can cause them to be afraid to even leave their houses, and it frequently affects them socially.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

According to the AADA:

7.7 Million

People in the United States ages 18 and over with PTSD.


of people who are exposed to violence have been shown to develop PTSD.

This is a much higher percentage than those who are exposed to natural disasters or other events. People who have lived through traumatic events in the past have a much greater risk of PTSD. PTSD can happen to anyone, but it is very common among veterans and children

Fortunately, most of the people who live through traumatic events eventually recover from them. However, for those who don't, their lives can quickly become an inescapable nightmare. When someone has PTSD, it's as though they're forced to relive the event again and again.

It's really not surprising that so many people choose to calm their fears and other symptoms with addictions.

Actually, addiction and PTSD generally occur together. If you are having this experience right now, the question you may be wondering is, why?

At Northpoint Washington, we've worked with many people who suffered from both addiction and PTSD. We understand this co-occurring disorder, and we know how to treat it the right way. It's possible that you might be having some symptoms of PTSD, but you're just not sure. You've never been to a doctor or therapist, and so, your condition is undiagnosed right now. You're looking for answers, and we'd love to provide them for you.

It's important for you to understand as much as you can about PTSD. The following information will provide you with a unique understanding into your condition. It will also provide you with everything you need so you know how to get help.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

"Often it isn't the initiating trauma that creates seemingly insurmountable pain, but the lack of support after." - Anonymous

PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder. It occurs after someone has experienced a traumatic event first-hand. Any type of physical or psychological trauma can lead to PTSD. After experiencing the event, sufferers often feel as though they are completely powerless. They lack control in these situations, which causes an extreme amount of anxiety.

There are a number of different types of situations than can result in a diagnosis of PTSD. These include:

  • Being a victim of a violent assault
  • Being a rape victim
  • Living through child abuse
  • Living through a natural disaster
  • Participating in military combat
  • Being mugged or robbed
  • Being involved in an accident
  • Witnessing violence of any kind

Once someone has been involved in one of the above events, some mental anguish is completely normal. People often suffer from upsetting memories, or they feel on edge. They may find it difficult to sleep at night, or even just relax and watch television. However, in most people, these symptoms start to get better after a few weeks or months have passed.

For someone who has PTSD, their symptoms never get better. They only get worse. They may increase in severity to the point where quality of life is dramatically affected. At this point, it's time to get professional help.

The Signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

It's actually not all that uncommon for people to be unaware that they have PTSD. They may believe that they're just having anxiety, and that it will pass eventually. There are some symptoms of PTSD that you should consider. These are clear indicators that the problem is much more than brief anxiety.

The symptoms of PTSD are actually categorized into four separate categories. They include:

Flashbacks of the traumatic event are typical in someone who has PTSD. These can happen at any time. They are essentially bad memories. However, they can seem just as vivid and real as the day they happened. People who have flashbacks will feel fear and horror just as they did during the event. Flashbacks are generally triggered by something, which can be a situation, a visual cue, or a sound. Some examples of triggers can include:

  • Hearing the sound of a car backfiring. For a veteran, this can sound a lot like gunshots.
  • Witnessing a car accident. This can bring back vivid flashbacks for a car accident victim.
  • Watching a television show about domestic violence. This can trigger painful memories for victims.
  • Being told about a sexual assault. This can bring back memories for a rape victim.
  • Watching a news story about a tornado. This can cause victims to relive the event all over again.

Various situations will trigger memories of a trauma. People with PTSD tend to avoid these situations to better control their flashbacks. Some examples of this might include:

  • Avoiding going to the movies where previews of triggering movies might be shown.
  • Avoiding going to stores because an individual was present during a robbery.
  • Avoiding television shows about natural disasters for those who have been victims.
  • Avoiding driving a car if someone was a car accident victim.
  • Avoiding talking with anyone about the event at all.

It can be very difficult for PTSD victims to express how they feel. Sometimes this comes out in a number of ways, such as:

  • Staying away from close relationships.
  • Isolating oneself from friends or family members.
  • Experiencing fear or shame because of the event.
  • Blaming oneself because of what happened.
  • Experiencing a mental block with some of the events that took place.

Someone who has PTSD may always be on the lookout for danger. This can cause a number of different behaviors, such as:

  • Having quick bursts of anger or irritability.
  • Struggling with getting enough quality sleep at night.
  • Having problems with concentration.
  • Behaving recklessly at times.
  • Thinking about hurting oneself.
  • Becoming startled when coming upon a surprise.
  • Always being nervous for one's safety.

There are some additional symptoms that PTSD sufferers often experience. These might include:

  • Having a hard time controlling their emotions.
  • Experiencing physical symptoms that really have no origin.
  • Exhibiting self-destructive behaviors.
  • Changing their belief systems.
  • Changing personality traits.
  • Having problems with social relationships.

Life can quickly become a roller-coaster ride for someone with PTSD. It's important to note that symptoms don't always occur immediately after the event. There are some people who don't develop symptoms for months or even years later. Still, the seriousness of this condition should never be ignored.

What are the Different Types of PTSD?

PTSD should never be viewed as a "blanket" condition. There are actually several forms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These are:

Like many mental illnesses, bipolar disorder is not a cut-and-dried condition. There are several different types of it. It's important for you to understand which one you may be suffering from. Finding out will help you to understand your situation and why you feel the way you do.

This type of PTSD is characterized by a single traumatic event during adulthood. This event results in bad memories, feelings of unreality and becoming emotionally numb. People who experience it generally recover completely within just a few weeks. Group therapy is very helpful for those with normal stress response PTSD.

This type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder involves continually experiencing the traumatic event. People will avoid anything that stimulates these bad memories. They become emotionally numb and are frequently emotionally aroused. Group therapy and other types of treatment are very beneficial for them.

This type of PTSD is characterized by the presence of more than one psychiatric disorder at a time. People may develop disorders like depression, panic disorders or other types of anxiety disorders. It is very common for PTSD to present alongside drug and alcohol addictions. It is vital for these conditions to be treated at the same time. This tends to result in a better outcome for these individuals.

This disorder is actually among the most rare forms of PTSD. Sufferers will generally have a hard time taking care of themselves. They aren't able to work, and their social relationships suffer greatly. If the trauma that was experienced was a long-endured catastrophe, this can result. Panic reactions, confusion and severe insomnia are typical symptoms of it. Treatment includes medications, psychotherapy and removal from the scene of the traumatic event.

People who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances are likely to develop Complex PTSD. Victims are childhood sexual abuse are excellent examples. Additional diagnoses may accompany this condition as well. For example, borderline personality disorder and dissociative disorders are typical. It's also common for these individuals to have eating disorders and addictions.

As you can see, PTSD can take many different forms. If you're suffering from it, it's important for you to know what type you have. That way, you'll be able to get the proper form of treatment.


It's possible that you have lived through a traumatic event at some point in your life. It may have left you shaken, and you're concerned that you might have PTSD. Maybe you have days when you feel pretty good. Other days aren't as good for you.

The way that you feel can cause you to feel like you're out of control at times. You may not be sure how to get a grip on your emotions. So many people with PTSD feel that way. It might be helpful for you to answer some questions regarding PTSD. Here, you'll find several questions that can help you get some answers regarding your condition.

  • Do you experience repeated, disturbing memories about an experience you've lived through?
  • Do you ever get upset when someone reminds you of a past event?
  • Do you tend to avoid certain activities because they remind you of a stressful experience?
  • Do you feel cut off or isolated from the people you love?
  • Do you ever have angry outbursts for no reason?
  • Do you find yourself feeling irritable on a regular basis?
  • Do you struggle to concentrate on even the most menial and mundane tasks?
  • Have you ever had an experience where it's like you're reliving the traumatic event over again?
  • Do you struggle to make new friends or acquaintances?
  • Have you experienced strange physical symptoms off and on for the past several months?
  • Have you ever tried to harm yourself?
  • Do you hate any kind of surprise?
  • Do certain sounds tend to startle you more than others?
  • Do you avoid activities or situations that directly relate to your trauma?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's possible that you're suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It may actually relieve you to know that you're not going crazy. Your condition is an actual, diagnosable mental illness that can be treated.

For someone who has PTSD, it's important to find the right kind of treatment. Doing so will allow the patient the best possible chance of recovering successfully.

There are a number of different methods that are generally used to treat PTSD in a professional setting. These include:

  • Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy is beneficial because it helps people to change the way they think about the trauma. People often find that they were holding on to some thoughts that weren't true. These cause a great deal of stress, and cognitive therapy addresses them very well.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This is a type of therapy that involves focusing on hand movements. It has been proven that certain eye movements can have a profound effect on how memories are processed. Patients talk about the trauma during this time as well.
  • Exposure Therapy: This involves talking about the event repeatedly until the fear is remarkably diminished. It's important that this is done in a safe place.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy has long been known to be one of the best forms of treatment for PTSD. People with similar backgrounds and experiences are able to share with each other and learn. It's helpful to know you're not alone. Getting support from a group of your peers is vital for your recovery.
  • Family Therapy: For some people, talking about their experiences is completely out of the question. This is especially true during the beginning of treatment. Family therapy can help with this. Oftentimes, family members can fill in the gaps for the therapist. Having as much information as possible only speeds up the recovery process.
  • Medication Therapy: For people whose symptoms are quite severe, medication therapy is often utilized to help. Certain medications can relieve the severe anxiety that goes along with PTSD. They can also help people think more clearly and improve their recovery outcomes.

Medications are often the first treatment method used for people who are suffering with PTSD. There are many different types of medications that can be helpful. These include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Zoloft
  • Antidepressants
  • Tofranil
  • Remeron
  • Effexor
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Marplan
  • Nardil
  • Mood Stabilizers
  • Tegretol
  • Lithium
  • Antipsychotics
  • Risperdal
  • Prazosin
  • Anti-Anxiety Medications
  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Valium

Even though medications are a great option for many people, they need to be used with a word of caution. It is possible for them to lead to addictions, in some cases.

If you are prescribed a medication to help with your PTSD symptoms, follow all of your doctor's instructions. It is still possible to become addicted to certain drugs even if you're careful. However, when you use them for a long period of time, an addiction is much more likely. It's also more likely if you are already addicted to some other type of drug.

Work closely with the doctor who prescribed your medication for you. Never take more of it than you should. Also, never take it in a different way, such as crushing the tablets to get faster results. This will greatly reduce your risk of addiction.

Doctors are not completely sure why some people are diagnosed with PTSD and others aren't. People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are exposed to various events that are considered to be traumatic. These might be war or battle scenes, accidents, natural disasters or any type of violence.

Even so, they believe that there are probably some contributing factors to this condition. They include:

  • How much trauma an individual has faced during his or her life.
  • Whether or not additional stress accumulated after the traumatic event.
  • A genetic predisposition to mental illness.
  • Various inherited features of one's personality, which can make that individual more susceptible.
  • How the brain regulates chemicals and hormones within the body in response to stress.

Anyone can suffer from PTSD, regardless of how old they are. There are a number of risk factors that can make someone much more likely to be diagnosed with it. These include:

  • Experiencing a long-lasting or intense traumatic event.
  • Having a history of trauma, such as childhood physical or sexual abuse.
  • Having a job that increases the risk of being exposed to violent events. For example, first responders and military personnel.
  • Having a pre-existing diagnosis of a mental illness, such as anxiety or depression.
  • Having a pre-existing drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Not having a good support system of friends and family at home.
  • Having a family history of mental health disorders.

It can be frustrating to not know why some people are more susceptible to PTSD than others. However, if it's something you're struggling with, it's important to focus on getting help. This is especially true if you're also battling addiction at the same time.

Research from NCBI shows that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is much more prevalent among substance abusers than originally thought. When screening 423 patients with substance abuse disorders, the results were astounding. As many as 49% of them suffered with PTSD. It was concluded that clinical judgment alone is not enough to properly diagnose these co-occurring disorders.

The connection between PTSD and addiction is very strong. The symptoms of PTSD can be overwhelming. They can cause a tremendous amount of stress on the mind and body. People's lives are frequently negatively affected because of this condition. It's also not something that just goes away, or gets better on its own.

Because of the amount of stress that's placed on someone with PTSD, they naturally try to find ways to cope. Sometimes, this results in going to professional treatment. However, more often than not, it results in substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol often offer an easy means of escape.

There is a physical component to this connection as well. When someone lives through a traumatic event, he or she experiences a surge in endorphins in the brain. These endorphins have an important job. They are tasked with reducing pain and improving well-being and happiness. After the event, there is a type of endorphin withdrawal that takes place. This can often have the same symptoms as drug or alcohol withdrawal.

This is why so many people with PTSD turn to substances. They can recreate that endorphin surge that the individual is missing. What many people don't realize is that the surge is only temporary. Over time, continued use of substances can make the PTSD progressively worse.

People with PTSD can abuse many different substances, depending on the results they're looking for. However, the vast majority of these individuals are yearning for relief from anxiety. For that reason, they may opt for prescription pain medications, marijuana and/or alcohol.

It's not uncommon for people to mix the different types of drugs they use. For example, someone may take their prescription drugs, and then enhance the effects with alcohol. Over time, this becomes much more common as tolerance levels start to build up in the body.

Integrative Addiction Treatment for PTSD and Addiction

It is so hard for people with these co-occurring disorders to reach out for help. If you're struggling as well, you can relate to this. The stress they're under, the shame and the guilt can make it very difficult. Continued substance abuse only serves to enhance these negative feelings. However, it's important to realize that there professionals who are specially trained to offer relief.

Integrative addiction treatment is the best way to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and addiction. As someone who suffers from this, your needs are very specific. There are many rehab centers who are not able to provide you with the support you need.

During integrative addiction treatment (also known as dual diagnosis treatment) your needs for both conditions will be met simultaneously. You'll be provided with a treatment team with extensive experience in helping others with the same condition. If you're in need of detox, counseling and special types of therapy, this can be done in one location.

Most professionals advise against trying to stop using cold turkey. This method rarely works. It's even less likely to work for those suffering from PTSD or other co-occurring disorders.

It is tempting to want to try to stop using on your own before reaching out for help. However, in doing so, you are at a high risk for relapsing. This can create a dangerous addiction cycle, and make it even harder for you to stop using in the future.

Trying to quit using on your own can also lead to an overdose, which can be fatal. It's much safer to get treatment in an accredited facility that can provide you with adequate support.

Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Your Co-Occurring Disorder

If you currently suffer from PTSD and addiction, the most important thing you can do is to get help. However, you should be aware that it's not enough for you to go to rehab on its own. Drug and alcohol rehab will provide you with assistance for your addiction. PTSD, on the other hand, needs to be treated alongside it.

Dual diagnosis treatment was created for those who suffer from co-occurring disorders. These conditions are typical. Most people don't realize that some other issue in their lives is causing their addictions. For you, that issue is PTSD.

By combining PTSD treatment with addiction treatment you'll reap so many benefits. Your treatments will not contradict each other. In fact, you will find that they complement each other very well. If you've never been diagnosed with PTSD before, but you believe the above symptoms fit, you can get help.

Here at Northpoint Washington, our goal is to offer you the integrative addiction treatment you need. We want you to reach your recovery goals. There is so much life for you to live. There's no need for you to spend your life focused on a debilitating condition.

Isn't it time you changed focus and got help for your PTSD and addiction? If you're ready, or if you need more information, please contact us.