PTSD And Alcoholism – Does Drinking Alcohol Affect PTSD?

Many people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also experience co-occurring alcohol abuse or addiction. While alcohol may temporarily numb the symptoms of PTSD, it can ultimately worsen this condition. Seeking treatment for both of these disorders is the best way to overcome both conditions and lead a fulfilling life in sobriety.

PTSD And Alcoholism – Does Drinking Alcohol Affect PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a debilitating mental health condition that an estimated eight million adults will experience each year. Unfortunately, many people with PTSD will also experience a co-occurring alcohol use disorder. These two conditions can cause the symptoms of the other to worsen and can make treatment particularly difficult.

Luckily, many treatment centers offer specialized programs that address the unique difficulties presented by a dual diagnosis like PTSD and addiction. Addiction Campuses has several state-of-the-art rehab facilities that provide customized recovery plans for individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders.

What Is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition characterized by intense and disturbing feelings and thoughts related to a past traumatic experience. People may develop PTSD after events such as war, natural disasters, abuse, and significant or sudden loss.

Individuals with this condition may experience flashbacks to the event or have nightmares. They may also feel intense emotions such as sadness, depression, and anger. Some people with PTSD may withdraw from friends or family and often avoid situations or people who remind them of the traumatic event.

PTSD can happen to anyone; however, women are twice as likely as men to experience this condition. An estimated 3.5 percent of the American population have PTSD, and nearly one in 11 individuals will be diagnosed with this disorder at some point in their lives.

Symptoms Of PTSD

For a person to be diagnosed with PTSD, he or she must experience symptoms of this condition for a month or longer. Many people will suffer from PTSD symptoms for several months or years. Most individuals will begin to experience symptoms within three months after the traumatic event. However, some people don’t begin to have symptoms of PTSD for several months or years.

PTSD symptoms may include:

  • flashbacks
  • nightmares
  • intrusive thoughts
  • involuntary memories of the traumatic event
  • avoidance of people, places, or things that are a reminder of the traumatic event
  • negative feelings or thoughts
  • detachment
  • self-destructive behaviors
  • trouble concentrating
  • sleep problems

Symptoms will vary in intensity. Many people experience PTSD alongside other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and addiction.

The Relationship Between Alcoholism And PTSD

The National Center for PTSD has found that up to a third of people coping with PTSD also have problems with alcohol abuse. This may due to the fact that some people with this condition turn to alcohol as a way to cope with symptoms.

Individuals who self-medicate with alcohol may experience a temporary relief in PTSD symptoms. However, alcohol often worsens symptoms over time. While alcohol may temporarily improve mood and distract a person from negative thoughts and emotions, once the alcohol wears off, people often feel worse.

Additionally, alcohol abuse can put a person at an increased risk of experiencing other traumatic events. Because of the lowered inhibitions experienced with intoxication, a person may be more likely to participate in dangerous activities like drunk driving. This can lead to or exacerbate PTSD.

What’s more, regular alcohol abuse can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. In fact, women with PTSD are up to 2.5 times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction, and men are up to two times more likely to experience an alcohol use disorder.

At the end of the day, alcohol abuse only worsens symptoms of PTSD and increases a person’s risk of developing a co-occurring alcohol use disorder.

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Treatment For Co-Occurring PTSD And Alcoholism

The most successful form of treatment for co-occurring PTSD and alcohol addiction is an integrated approach that addresses both conditions at the same time. The programs offered by Addiction Campuses cater to the unique needs of patients struggling with PTSD and alcohol use disorders and use several different treatment methods for a comprehensive program of recovery.

To learn more about how alcohol affects PTSD or to explore treatment options, contact an Addiction Campuses’ treatment professional today.

National Center for PTSD - https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/related/problem_alcohol_use.asp

National Center for PTSD - https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp

American Psychiatric Association - https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd

Journal of Dual Diagnosis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474251/

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