PTSD and Alcohol: Understanding PTSD
PTSD and Alcohol: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. This disorder has a strong connection to addiction because those experiencing PTSD might turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress. In this piece, you will learn about the strong connection between PTSD and Addiction.
As stated by the scientific piece ‘Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population’, published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, exposure to traumatic experiences, especially those occurring in childhood, has been linked to substance use disorders (SUDs), including abuse and dependence. SUDs are also highly comorbid with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mood-related psychopathology.
According to the article ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder And Addiction’, published by Addictioncenter.com, most people who have suffered through traumatic events eventually overcome the anxiety, depression, and agitation caused by those experiences. But when PTSD develops, these symptoms don’t just go away. They might last for months or years after the event. PTSD can emerge as a result of witnessing or experiencing:
- Military combat
- Serious accidents and injury
- Natural disasters
- Acts of terrorism
- Sexual or physical assault during childhood or as an adult
- The death of a loved one
PTSD and Addiction often co-occur in response to serious trauma. Getting a proper dual diagnosis is crucial to treating both conditions and getting sober.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is caused by a traumatic experience in a person’s life, such as military combat, sexual abuse, or car accidents. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 8 out of 100 Americans will suffer from PTSD. Some may experience symptoms that include flashbacks of the traumatic event, fighting thoughts, and bad dreams.
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PTSD and Alcohol Abuse
PTSD and Alcohol: Alcohol abuse issues and PTSD are connected. Alcoholism is more prevalent in those who have PTSD. PTSD is another common condition in those who have drinking issues. Learn how having alcohol use issues and PTSD at the same time can exacerbate both conditions’ symptoms. You can address both issues together with treatment.
According to studies, any problem may be the starting point for the connection between PTSD and alcohol use disorders. For instance, PTSD sufferers struggle more with alcohol both before and after their condition worsens. The likelihood that you’ll develop a drinking issue rises if you have PTSD. People with drinking issues are also more likely to have distressing incidents that could result in PTSD.
Alcohol use issues can result from trauma, whether or not PTSD develops as a result. Up to 75% of those who have suffered violent or abusive traumatic incidents report having drinking issues. One-third or more of those who experience catastrophic illnesses, accidents, or disasters report having drinking issues. If someone who has experienced trauma also has continuous medical issues or chronic pain, alcohol problems are more likely to occur.
Another key consideration is gender. Compared to women who never experience PTSD, women with PTSD at some point in their lives are 2.5 times more likely to also abuse or become dependent on alcohol. If they have PTSD, guys are 2.0 times more likely to struggle with alcohol than men who never do.
Six to eight Vietnam Veterans out of ten (or 60% to 80%) who seek treatment for PTSD have alcohol use issues. Veterans of war with PTSD and alcoholism issues frequently engage in binge drinking. When someone consumes a lot of alcohol (four or more drinks) quickly, this is known as binge drinking (1-2 hours). Binging episodes could be brought on by traumatic recollections. Veterans over 65 with PTSD who additionally have drinking issues or depression are more likely to attempt suicide.
PTSD and Alcoholism
PTSD and Alcohol: You are more likely than others with a similar background to have a traumatic event if you have a drinking problem. You can also find it difficult to connect with others. With those to whom you are close, conflicts might arise more frequently.
Alcoholism issues are associated with a chaotic and uncontrollable life. This way of living causes people to grow apart from one another and increases family strife. Being a good parent is more challenging when you have a drinking issue since life is tougher to control.
You may drink since doing so temporarily takes your mind off of your issues. However, you should be aware that drinking makes it more difficult to focus, be effective, and enjoy life.
Alcohol abuse makes it more difficult to manage stress and memories of trauma. Some PTSD symptoms can worsen when someone drinks alcohol or becomes intoxicated (drunk). Examples of signs that can deteriorate include:
- Feeling numb or having no emotions
- Being cut off from others
- Feeling angry and irritable
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling jittery or as if you are always on guard
You can have issues falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night if you have PTSD. You might use alcohol as a form of self-medication because you believe it will make you sleep better. In fact, excessive alcohol consumption can prevent a good night’s sleep. Your sleep will be of worse quality and will be less rejuvenating if you drink alcohol.
You might experience nightmares or unpleasant dreams if you have PTSD. You might consume alcohol because you believe it will help you prevent nightmares or lessen their frightening nature. However, suppressing the unpleasant dreams and recollections actually makes PTSD persist longer. Avoiding your difficulties will prevent you from making as much progress in treatment. Treatment for PTSD is less successful when there are alcohol use issues.
You frequently experience worse nightmares when you abruptly quit drinking. It is simpler to cut back on alcohol if you consult your doctor about the best approach to do so. Your chances of being successful in your endeavors will increase.
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Alcohol Induced PTSD Flashbacks
PTSD and Alcohol: While someone with PTSD may use alcohol to distract themselves, in the long run, it can make the stress and flashbacks harder to deal with. As the brain releases the “happy chemical,” dopamine, alcohol may temporarily alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, but it can also make people feel even more alone, numb, furious, irritated, and depressed.
Alcohol can help someone with PTSD fall asleep at night and lessen nightmares. Alcohol, however, decreases deep sleep, and if a person develops a tolerance, they may start to withdraw at night. This lack of high-quality sleep can subsequently have an effect on a person’s emotions and capacity for functioning, making them moody, unpredictable, worried, and depressed as well as more forgetful, more mistake-prone, and slower to think.
Alcoholism and PTSD: PTSD Alcohol Blackout
PTSD and Alcohol: When you use alcohol to treat your PTSD symptoms, you can feel better right away, but the symptoms always come back—often worse. Long-term blackout drinking can also lead to major issues throughout your life, which could deteriorate your mental health and increase your dependence on alcohol.
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Alcohol and PTSD: Alcohol PTSD Trigger
PTSD symptoms might alter with time. Some symptoms may start to show up three months after a stressful event, or the disease may not fully manifest for years.
The areas of the brain connected to memory and emotion are impacted by PTSD. A brain in good health is able to distinguish between memories from the past and events from the present, but PTSD obstructs this ability. A person with PTSD may retaliate if their current surroundings trigger memories of a traumatic event. Fear, worry, and stress are brought on by the brain’s reaction, which makes it seem like the individual is still in the past.
Memory is also impacted by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. The triggers, environments, and people connected to drug use can affect an addict’s brain and cause cravings. Triggers for PTSD and addiction might interact and exacerbate one other’s symptoms.
PTSD and Alcohol Abuse in Veterans
After going through a terrible encounter, a person develops PTSD. Combat stress, serious trauma, or life-threatening circumstances can all fall under this category.
The body first mobilizes in a stressful situation to deal with the threat. The fight-or-flight reaction is triggered, preparing individuals to protect themselves or escape the circumstance. It results in a series of physiological changes, such as an accelerated heartbeat, fast breathing, dilated pupils, and more tense muscles.
The relaxation reaction aids in restoring the body to its pre-threat balance when the threat has passed. But those who have PTSD find it difficult to totally exit the state of increased alertness and readiness, which causes a variety of symptoms.
You may have a different connection with alcohol as a veteran than a civilian. Even if a mental health condition has not been identified in you, it is not unusual to experience trauma after returning home. You may therefore turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism for despair, anxiety, and other intangible effects of war.
Trauma from exposure to combat is a frequent occurrence, and these wounds may not naturally heal. The VA predicts that 11–20% of veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq may suffer PTSD. These people are more likely to indulge in unhealthy habits like binge drinking, especially if they don’t get the mental health care they need.
Alcoholism can be brought on by both stress and trauma, making PTSD a significant risk factor for alcohol addiction. When you use alcohol to treat your PTSD symptoms, you can feel better right away, but the symptoms always come back—often worse. Long-term binge drinking can also lead to major issues throughout your life, which could deteriorate your mental health and increase your dependence on alcohol.
You might already be addicted to alcohol if binge drinking or drinking until you pass out has become regular occurrences in your life. This is especially true if you detect tension in your relationships or if you start running into new issues at work. Additionally, even for veterans who have accomplished tremendous feats, giving up drinking is not an easy task. Thankfully, though, assistance from other veterans makes staying sober for good a lot simpler.
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Does Alcohol Make PTSD Worse? Alcohol Makes PTSD Worse
Why does alcohol make PTSD worse? As persons with PTSD attempt to deal with the effects of trauma, alcohol is the poison pill in the cycle of self-medication. The symptoms mentioned above (such as a sense of helplessness, etc.) encourage guilt and shame sentiments, which lead to alcohol and drug addiction. Alcohol makes the issue worse and has adverse side effects that make the person even more disabled.
Alcoholism has an impact on the area of the brain that increases a person’s risk of PTSD. Those who have experienced a traumatic or stressful situation may also be inclined to addiction in the future. When this occurs, people are said to be coping with a co-occurring disorder when they abuse alcohol while battling the mental health disease PTSD. Dual diagnosis treatment, or a program that tackles both the person’s mental health issue and alcohol use disorder (addiction), is the best course of action for this.
Why Does Alcohol Make PTSD Worse?
Serving in a conflict zone puts one’s mental health in extreme jeopardy and constant stress. Trauma can linger for a long time after the events if the threat and stress are coupled with a fatality or serious injury. Alcohol and narcotics are common forms of self-medication and coping mechanisms used by people with PTSD to deal with flashbacks, bothersome memories, and survivor’s guilt.
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Dual diagnosis Treatment
Dual-diagnosis treatments are used alongside modern psychiatric medicine to help people with co-occurring disorders learn new ways of coping with life. So that they can live a happy and healthy life. At high-quality dual diagnosis treatment centers, patients are able to work with therapists who understand the relationship between both substance abuse and their underlying secondary mental health disorders.
PTSD and alcoholism (alcohol use and PTSD) are conditions that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up treatment center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from PTSD and Addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
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 Dworkin ER, Bergman HE, Walton TO, Walker DD, Kaysen DL. Co-Occurring Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder in U.S. Military and Veteran Populations. Alcohol Res. 2018;39(2):161-169. PMID: 31198655; PMCID: PMC6561402.