The relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol abuse is well-established. According to the National Center for PTSD, up to three-quarters of people who survive abuse or a violent, traumatic experience report problems with drinking. Healing from trauma can be challenging enough, but when alcohol is added into the mix, things can get even more complicated. The good news is that participating in a PTSD treatment program for people with co-occurring disorders can help you or a loved one disentangle these issues and begin the healing process.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that develops after a person experiences significant trauma. This can be a single event or a series of events that occur over a long period of time. People who develop PTSD can have intense, disturbing thoughts and images related to the trauma, which are sometimes called ‘flashbacks.’ There are many other symptoms associated with PTSD, including the following:
- Exaggerated startle reflex
- Difficulty managing social situations
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Intense emotions
Why Is Alcohol Abuse Associated with PTSD?
It is common for people dealing with substance abuse to also be living with a mental health condition. In the field of substance abuse and mental health treatment, this is sometimes called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Many people with undiagnosed or under-treated mental health conditions seek to relieve symptoms by using drugs or alcohol. Conversely, the use of drugs and alcohol can lead to experiencing mental health difficulties.
Alcohol abuse itself can create trauma since it can damage relationships and place users into risky, potentially dangerous situations. Also, alcohol is legal almost everywhere, so it is a relatively accessible substance that most people can find and use freely. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol can make symptoms of PTSD worse.
Side Effects of Alcohol Use That May Exacerbate Symptoms of PTSD
There are many side effects of alcohol use that can aggravate symptoms of PTSD. Some of these are:
- Sleep problems – People living with PTSD often report difficulty sleeping. Alcohol use may seem to help sleeping problems at first, but in reality, it can make the issues worse.
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness – These are common feelings for people with PTSD, and using too much alcohol can intensify the feelings. Excessive drinking damages relationships and leads to negative interactions with others.
- Hyper-alertness and anxiety – Drinking too much alcohol can make it challenging to regulate feelings and emotions, but for those with PTSD, this can lead to increased anxiety.
- Numbness or feeling nothing at all – People with PTSD often say that they feel numb or like nothing matters at times. Drinking excessively can also cause this, which makes the issue worse instead of better.
Can a PTSD Treatment Program Help?
For individuals experiencing a combination of PTSD and alcohol abuse issues, a treatment program can be an excellent first step towards healing and hope. Studies have shown that participation in a treatment program is the best way to maintain recovery and sobriety over time. Receiving proper treatment for PTSD can alleviate some of what may be driving you or a loved one to abuse alcohol.
Greater Boston Recovery Center Can Help With PTSD and Alcohol Abuse
Our substance abuse rehab programs provide daytime outpatient and evening intensive outpatient drug treatment programs to help you or your loved one rebuild and restore hope. We understand that our clients dealing with the aftermath of trauma need special help to recover and restore their feeling of safety. Our clinicians have the knowledge and experience to treat clients according to each one’s specific needs. If you or someone you care about has been struggling with PTSD and substance abuse, reach out to us today at 877.920.6583.