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PTSD and Addiction

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that causes significant issues in multiple areas of a person’s life when left untreated. Many people with PTSD self-medicate their symptoms with drugs and alcohol. Therefore, they need dual-diagnosis treatment for both PTSD and addiction.

Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, is here to help those with symptoms of trauma and trauma-related mental health disorders. Our PTSD treatment helps clients learn healthy ways to cope with their symptoms.

The Link Between PTSD and Addiction

According to Alcohol Research and Health, during a traumatic event, a person’s level of endorphins—the brain chemicals that help a person feel good—increases. However, after the event, the endorphins are significantly depleted. In order to compensate, the person might misuse substances, like alcohol or drugs, to artificially stimulate endorphin activity in the brain.

In other words, because PTSD alters a person’s brain chemistry, the person is prone to misusing substances. As they rely on substances to cope with their symptoms, they are more likely to develop a dependency on substances. In other words, the person feels that they need the substance just to feel normal.

As the person continues to misuse substances to cope with their symptoms, they can develop an addiction. This means that they won’t be able to quit using without experiencing withdrawal symptoms and will need professional support. And, if they don’t get dual diagnosis treatment for both PTSD and addiction, they are more likely to relapse without a healthy way to cope with symptoms.

Trauma Types and Most Common Addictions

There are 3 different types of trauma that people experience which could lead to an addiction:

  • Acute trauma follows a single event. For instance, a car accident, physical assault, and witnessing a crime are examples of acute trauma.
  • Chronic trauma occurs regularly or for a prolonged period. Examples of chronic trauma include domestic abuse, neglect, and homelessness.
  • Complex trauma refers to a series of repeated traumatic events. Thus, complex trauma can be a combination of both types of trauma. Oftentimes, complex trauma begins in childhood and lasts for several months or years.

Some of the most common addictions associated with trauma-related mental health disorders include the following:

  • Opioid addiction
  • Alcoholism
  • Marijuana addiction
  • Prescription drug addiction, such as:
    • Benzodiazepine
    • Adderall
    • Painkillers
  • Stimulant drugs
    • Cocaine
    • Methamphetamine

Of these substances, however, alcoholism is among the most prevalent addictions associated with PTSD.

PTSD and Alcoholism

According to the National Center for PTSD, the following statistics apply to PTSD and alcoholism:

  • Up to 75% of survivors of abuse or violence report drinking problems
  • Up to one-third of survivors of traumatic accidents, illnesses, or disasters report drinking problems
  • Alcohol issues are also common for trauma survivors with chronic health problems or trouble managing physical pain
  • Women with PTSD are 2.5 times more likely to have alcoholism than women without PTSD
  • Men with PTSD are twice as likely to have alcoholism than men without PTSD

PTSD and alcoholism are linked for a few reasons. For one, alcohol is a legal substance and doesn’t share the same stigma as illegal drugs. Therefore, a person with PTSD can access alcohol easily and others might not see a problem with their drinking.

Alcohol misuse can also put a person at risk of experiencing traumatic events. Alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions, leading them to take risks or engage in reckless behaviors. As a result, they are more likely to injure themselves in an accident. A person under the influence is also at risk of being a victim of physical or sexual assault.

In addition, since alcoholism creates other issues in a person’s life, their symptoms of PTSD can worsen as a result. Thus, alcoholism and PTSD feed into one another creating a cycle that is hard to escape without professional intervention.

Trauma-Informed Care and Treatment

Trauma-informed care refers to treatment practices that assume a person has some type of traumatic background. This assumption shifts the focus of treatment from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

While PTSD is commonly associated with traumatic events, other mental health disorders also result from trauma or leave clients more vulnerable to trauma.

With trauma-informed care practices, treatment professionals are careful not to re-traumatize clients by creating a safe environment. Professionals also look for signs of trauma in their clients, regardless of their diagnosis.

Signs of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a specific type of mental health disorder resulting from trauma. People with this disorder develop symptoms because they are unable to fight off or run away from a past traumatic experience.

Their brain remains locked in survival mode as a result, leading to anxiety, guilt, shame, depression, and other symptoms.

The following are some of the most common signs of PTSD:

  • Intrusive thoughts about the event, including nightmares and flashbacks
  • Avoidance of talking or thinking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that could trigger thoughts or feelings of trauma
  • Feeling numb or a lack of emotions
  • Negative thinking and low self-esteem
  • Difficulty keeping close relationships with others
  • Irritability and feeling “on edge” most of the time
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Overwhelming shame, guilt, or anxiety
  • Self-destructive or reckless behaviors

Since PTSD and addiction are commonly linked, it is important to find a treatment center that can help with both disorders at the same time.

Get Help for PTSD and Addiction Today

PTSD can lead to several problems in a person’s life, affecting their health and well-being. Many people with the disorder struggle to open up about the traumatic events they’ve experienced.

As a result, they might turn to maladaptive coping strategies, such as substance use. However, clients can feel safe to open up at our trauma-informed treatment center in Los Angeles, California. Harmony Place provides dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders of PTSD and addiction. We understand that navigating the financial aspects of treatment can be overwhelming, which is why we accept health insurance from a variety of providers. Our facility proudly accepts coverage from Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield of CA, Carelon, and Humana. This breadth of insurance acceptance underscores our commitment to ensuring that access to empathetic, professional, and comprehensive care is within reach for as many individuals as possible.

We warmly invite you to contact Harmony Place for a personalized assessment of your insurance benefits. Our expert team is ready to help you understand the specifics of your coverage and how it can support your journey to recovery. Taking this first step is a powerful act of self-care, and we’re here to guide you through every subsequent step with compassion and professionalism. Reach out to us today, and let’s explore together how your insurance can facilitate your path towards a healthier future.

Contact us today to restore a sense of hope and serenity in your life.