PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is often accompanied by feelings of helplessness, suicidal thoughts, depression, self-harm, and anxiety. Those symptoms occur due to various traumatic experiences ranging from emotional, physical, verbal, mental, or sexual abuse to surviving combat in war. The experience an individual undergoes or witnesses may not make itself clear at first as being traumatic. The nature of trauma is that it can develop unknown to the individual and, in some cases, not manifest itself until years after the initial experience. In a case such as this, a triggering experience or encounter can cause the trauma to rise to the surface, making it extremely challenging for persons to cope or even function normally.
Many will turn to some form of self-medicating to alleviate their distress, and often this takes the form of alcohol abuse. Can alcohol use make PTSD symptoms worse? Our PTSD treatment program at Northern Illinois Recovery Center can help individuals and their loved ones find the answers they need. Simply put, there is a direct connection between addiction to alcohol and PTSD.
How Can Alcohol Use Make PTSD Symptoms Worse?
Alcohol is the poison pill in the cycle of self-medication as people living with PTSD try to cope with the aftermath of trauma. The above-described symptoms (feelings of helplessness, etc.) promote feelings of guilt and shame, developing into alcohol and drug dependency. Alcohol worsens the situation with accompanying side effects, further debilitating the sufferer.
Alcohol addiction affects the part of the human brain that makes a person more vulnerable to developing PTSD. Individuals can also be predisposed to addiction after a stressful or traumatic event after a stressful or traumatic event. When this is the case, abusing alcohol while struggling with the mental health condition of PTSD, individuals dealing with what is termed a co-occurring disorder. The best treatment for this is dual diagnosis treatment, a program that addresses the alcohol use disorder (addiction) simultaneously with their mental health issue. Dual diagnosis treatment can address PTSD as well as several other mental health conditions like:
The high threat and constant stress of serving in a war zone take a tremendous psychological toll. When the threat and stress are accompanied by sudden death or severe injury, the trauma can persist long after the events. People with PTSD often cope with flashbacks, intrusive memories, and survivor’s guilt using alcohol and drugs as self-medicating and coping tools.
The Veterans Administration Weighs In
The VA reports that “PTSD and alcohol use problems are related.” People with PTSD “are more likely to have drinking problems.” Likewise, “people with drinking problems often have PTSD.” According to the VA, having PTSD and alcohol use problems “at the same time can make the symptoms of each worse.”
Unfortunately, war veterans with PTSD tend to be binge drinkers. Binge drinking (4-5 drinks in a short period of time) is often in response to trauma memories. Worse, veterans with PTSD are at a significantly higher risk for suicide if their problems are accompanied by drinking and depression.
PTSD Sufferers Can Escape the Trap of Addiction to Alcohol
Alcohol abuse and PTSD can be treated together and provide the best chance for recovery from both. PTSD treatment facilities are the safe, healing environments where people living with PTSD can heal. Caring, trustworthy, licensed clinicians can provide treatment for the disease of addiction and the stress and trauma of PTSD. Finding peer groups of co-sufferers can begin the connection and starting point for healing.
Discover How Northern Illinois Recovery Center Can Help
We have addressed the question, “Can alcohol use make PTSD symptoms worse?” The answer is “definitely.” Alcohol addiction is the false sanctuary of harmful self-medication that can worsen the effects of PTSD. Fortunately, Northern Illinois Recovery Center not only offers extensive treatment programs to help individuals heal but numerous therapeutic options such as:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Yoga therapy
- Individual therapy
- Trauma therapy
We are conveniently located and affordable. Let us help and design a recovery program to improve and prolong your life. Call us at 855.786.1978. Don’t let addiction control your life. Take charge and recover.