Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that can be debilitating, often leaving a person feeling stuck with a constant sense of danger and memories that can be excruciatingly painful. People with PTSD typically have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a war or combat, a severe accident, a natural disaster, a terrorist act, or faced some form of threat of sexual violence, serious injury, or death. In severe cases, sufferers might turn to substances, including alcohol, to reduce these intense feelings of danger and to avoid painful, unwanted memories.
What are the Symptoms of PTSD?
People who have PTSD experience intense, disturbing feelings and thoughts that relate to their traumatic experience(s), lasting long after the event has ended. Many people begin experiencing symptoms within four weeks of the traumatic event, but in some cases, symptoms do not appear until years later. PTSD symptoms can adversely affect a person’s relationships, including those at work or school, as well as interfere with their ability to go about typical daily tasks.
The symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories:
Intrusive memories – Symptoms involve recurrent, unwanted memories (including dreams and nightmares) of the traumatic event that are distressing to the individual in addition to flashbacks. Severe emotional distress and physical reactions may occur when something reminds the sufferer of the traumatic event.
Avoidance – Symptoms may include taking steps to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event as well as avoiding specific people, places, or activities that remind a person of the event.
Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood – Symptoms include negative thoughts about oneself, other people, or the world overall. Feelings of hopelessness and emotional numbness, in addition to lack of interest in activities once enjoyed may overwhelm people with PTSD. Memory problems, emotional detachment from family and friends, and difficulty experiencing positive emotions may also occur.
Changes in Emotional/Physical Reactions – Symptoms may involve always being on guard out of fear of danger, being easily frightened or startled, difficulty concentrating, feelings of overwhelming guilt or shame, trouble sleeping, or self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much alcohol or getting in trouble with the law.
What Causes PTSD?
The cause of PTSD can vary by individual. PTSD is likely caused by a complex combination of:
- Stressful life experiences
- A person’s temperament
- Inherited mental health risks
- The way a person’s brain regulates hormones and chemicals released in response to stress
Can PTSD Cause Alcoholism?
If you or a loved one suffers from PTSD, you might ask, “can PTSD cause alcoholism?” The short answer is yes – PTSD and alcoholism often go hand-in-hand.
PTSD changes the chemistry in the brain in a similar way that substance abuse and addiction do. These disorders often develop around the same time and feed off each other. The trauma that causes PTSD can also lead to a substance use disorder, including alcoholism. According to one study, women with PTSD are 2.48 times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence than women without PTSD, and men were 2.06 times more likely than those without PTSD.
The desire to avoid thinking about or reliving traumatic events or experiencing trauma-related emotions can cause a person to turn to alcohol, which may provide temporary relief from the intrusive thoughts and feelings. Some people drink to try to experience positive emotions because alcohol use may improve their mood. Unfortunately, when the effects of alcohol begin to fade, negative emotions that are associated with alcohol withdrawal can intensify PTSD symptoms. The process of “numbing” one’s pain by alcohol use is often referred to as “self-medication” and comes with many risks, including the development of alcoholism, which can lead to an increased risk of health problems in addition to making PTSD more difficult to treat in the long run.
How to Find Dual Diagnosis Treatment Near Me
If you or someone you care about has PTSD and you are concerned about PTSD and alcohol dependency, it is important to know that finding support for PTSD as well as alcohol abuse is highly recommended. When both issues are addressed, the root cause of PTSD and alcohol dependency can be treated. Atlanta Recovery Place offers outpatient treatment in Atlanta for anyone suffering from addiction or dual diagnosis disorders, as well as aftercare treatment, including sober living in Georgia.
Helping a loved one with co-occurring PTSD and alcoholism can be difficult, but recovery is possible. The caring professionals at Atlanta Recovery Place offer comprehensive treatment for PTSD in Georgia. For more information, reach out today.