PTSD and Alcoholism: A Common Co-Occurring Disorder

PTSD and Alcoholism: A Common Co-Occurring Disorder

When we’re faced with a traumatic event, stress kicks in – and there’s no doubt that as our fear response becomes more present than ever, our entire system can be affected – even long after the event has occurred. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious condition that impacts around 13 million people in the United States each year. Characterized by nightmares, paranoia, anxiety, depression, anger and more, PTSD can be debilitating. For those who don’t seek help, the stress and exhaustion can eventually catch up – and with seemingly little ways to turn, substance abuse often becomes a coping mechanism.

Alcohol has been widely promoted in our society as a way to have fun, relax and forget about stressors. The term, “self-medication”, is used when a person is trying to manage their emotional upsets by drinking or using drugs – alcohol, for instance, can mask some of the painful symptoms of PTSD by causing a person to become more relaxed. Even though it may feel like a few drinks helps lessen that anxiety or other symptom, however, it’s only temporary – and the symptoms of PTSD will reappear. In other cases, alcohol can worsen the symptoms – which makes it all the more difficult to manage.

Last year, researchers conducted a study regarding PTSD and alcoholism that was published in The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences. They wanted to know how anxiety, depression and PTSD symptoms as a whole were associated to alcoholism, and they found that while anxiety and depression severity did have an impact on alcohol-related issues, PTSD symptoms were the most significant predictor. These types of co-morbidity (also known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders) can be even more debilitating for a person, as they now must deal with the symptoms of PTSD and fulfill the never-ending demands of addiction.

Despite the fact that PTSD and alcoholism is a common occurrence, there is so much help available – making recovery more possible than ever before. It’s a hard reality to face, but the symptoms of PTSD won’t go away unless you work through the pain you’re experiencing and find a ground for healing. After a traumatic event, grief and sadness should be felt – but after some time has gone by, it’s important to move forward and find strength again.  Resilience is crucial to build after a devastating event, because you still deserve to have a happy, healthy, fulfilling life.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-campus, we are made up of 2 twelve-step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.