BY: Alexandrea Holder
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Why Do Those With PTSD Use Substances?
If you’re one of the individuals seeking help for your substance abuse disorder, it’s also 50% likely you also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But, you don’t need to be told this. In a way, it makes perfect sense that those experiencing immense psychological pain would occasionally turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.
PTSD occurs when an individual experiences an event—or numerous events—so frightening that they begin to experience distressing symptoms that limit their ability to function in the world.
Anyone can suffer from PTSD, not simply those who have served in the military. The condition can affect anyone who has experienced something extremely disorienting, scary, or overwhelming. This is especially the case if the event involved a threat to their or someone else’s life. Even secondhand exposure to such details can cause PTSD.
Substance abuse is when an individual uses drugs or alcohol to the point that they become addicted and begin to suffer consequences throughout their life. One defining characteristic of the disorder is that these consequences often don’t lead the individual to curb or end their substance use.
The Complexity of Co-Occurring Disorders
Those suffering from co-occurring PTSD and substance use disorders have a more difficult time overcoming their disorders. Their substance abuse also tends to be more complicated.
For example, they report greater cravings and may even relapse quicker following substance abuse treatment. They may also experience an increased risk of developing other psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
We’ve already talked a little about why someone with PTSD might use substances to help cope with their pain.
Still, there’s another component. It may also be the case that characteristics making someone more likely to develop PTSD also mean they are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Some of these characteristics may even be genetic.
Or, they may be a result of environmental factors. Examples could be living in an abusive household or a poverty-stricken neighborhood. This is why PTSD and substance abuse are so likely to manifest at the same time.
Suffering from co-occurring substance abuse and post-traumatic disorders only means it’s that more imperative you seek help from the professionals there to help you navigate these complex conditions. Help is out there. You’re not alone.