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Understanding the Links: PTSD and Substance Use Disorder

Understanding PTSD

Once known as “shell shock,” PTSD is a mental health condition that can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Trauma triggers our bodies to respond to anxiety and stress, releasing coping chemicals. Most people recover naturally over time, but for some, these changes persist, leading to psychological symptoms and difficulties in coping. Some turn to drugs or alcohol to manage their anxiety and stress. People seeking treatment for PTSD are 14x more likely to also be diagnosed with Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

Causes of PTSD

Trauma can stem from various sources, whether a terrifying accident or personal experiences like violence or bullying. Trauma can shake a person’s sense of safety, trust, and self-esteem, causing them to feel guilty or defective.

The Link Between PTSD and SUD

People with PTSD often use substances like alcohol or marijuana to self-medicate their symptoms. However, this approach is counterproductive, as it worsens their condition. Treating both PTSD and SUD together is essential. Therapy helps individuals understand how trauma led them to seek comfort in substances, whether alcohol or another drug.

Identifying PTSD Symptoms

  1. Avoidance: People with PTSD may avoid talking about painful experiences or situations.
  2. Losing Interest: They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.
  3. Negativity: Negative thoughts and pessimism are common.
  4. Lack of Sleep: Sleep problems and restlessness are indicative of ruminating thoughts.
  5. Anger and Irritability: Increased irritability and anger can be signs of trauma-related struggles.

PTSD Treatments 

Treatment for trauma can begin on an outpatient basis if there is stability, but residential treatment centers can offer a supportive environment for reflection and recovery. Combining group and individual therapy helps patients address trauma and regain a sense of safety. Talking about traumatic memories in a safe space can reduce overwhelming symptoms and promote healing.

Residential and Outpatient Treatment

Residential treatment allows individuals to focus solely on their recovery without distractions. Intensive Outpatient Treatment is another option, offering treatment while individuals continue their daily lives, providing accountability and support. Community recovery meetings are crucial in maintaining sobriety and building healthier relationships.

Seek Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with both PTSD and SUD, reach out to Cornerstone of Recovery for dual-diagnosis treatment.
Call us today at 866-572-9474 to get the support you need on your journey to recovery.

This blog delves into the connection between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD). The information comes from an interview with Sara Ridner, LCSW, a Trauma Therapist at Cornerstone of Recovery.

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