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What Is PTSD and How Is It Related to Substance Use Disorder?

Many people have experienced trauma in one way or another. Whether a person lived through a mass shooting, experienced childhood abuse, or spent time in combat or war, PTSD is one outcome. Some people experience the stress of a traumatic event acutely. The emotional pain and other issues resolve, and the person can continue. However, PTSD is also a typical response to trauma. It is typically diagnosed when a person has been experiencing symptoms of stress disorder for over six weeks. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with it.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a normal response to experiencing something that no one should have to experience. While it is a mental health disorder, it is also related to substance use, especially alcohol.

Symptoms of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that is caused by trauma. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and one of many responses a person may have to stress.

People with PTSD have intense and disturbing, intrusive thoughts. They may experience anxiety, anger, or sadness related to the event. Some people with PTSD tend to isolate and detach themselves from others. Depression can quickly take over. They may avoid people, places, and things that remind them of the traumatic event.

PTSD also causes nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic event. It may feel like a person cannot move on from the past, even if they are trying. This is why so many people who experience PTSD also abuse substances.

Substance Use Disorder and Trauma

Alcohol and drugs sometimes temporarily relieve PTSD symptoms, but there is always a cost. People with PTSD will still have a return of symptoms when they are not under the influence.

People with trauma-related disorders often have trouble with relationships. When substances become a problem, a person with PTSD may lose much of their functioning. Work productivity and engaging in family life may grind to a halt as a person begins using substances.

Addiction can also amplify emotions that a person is trying to numb, causing them to use the substance more often. When a person isn’t high, they may be more depressed or angry than when they’re stoned. As time passes, they will need more drugs of choice to get the same result, making them susceptible to overdose.

There is also a danger for people who have substance use disorder. Addicted persons are likelier to be victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other traumatic events, creating a new cycle of trauma.

Getting Help for Substance Use Disorder

You deserve to reclaim your life and find peace. If you or somebody you love struggles with substance use, help is available. Our caring and compassionate staff can help you begin the journey to recovery. Get in touch to learn more about our programs at the US (949) 279-1376 • MX (612) 153-5726.




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Hi! I’m Melissa Stailey, a freelance writer that loves to cook. I live and work in Washington, DC.