PTSD and Addiction

The Connection Between PTSD and Substance Abuse

Legacy Healing Center Blog

Important Information About the Link Between PTSD and Substance Abuse   

PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is caused by psychological trauma and is thought to affect 7.7 million American adults. Research shows that many people who have experienced psychological trauma turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. A variety of substances can make a user feel numbed, empowered, or calm, feelings individuals crave to experience when suffering with PTSD.  We often associate PTSD with men and women who serve in the military.  While it is true that veterans are among the hardest hit groups of people who suffer from PTSD and addiction, it is also important to remember that PTSD can affect anyone.  People can suffer the effects of PTSD as a result of losing a loved one, experiencing abuse or assault, experiencing a serious health problem or a severe accident, exposure to traumatic events at work, or any other psychological trauma.   

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Symptoms of PTSD  

The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are generally grouped into four categories: 

Intrusive Memories 

Symptoms related to intrusive memories may include: 

  • Reliving traumatic events as if they are happening in the present (flashbacks) 
  • Recurrent, unwanted, distressing memories of traumatic events 
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the trauma 
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds a person of a traumatic event 

Social Avoidance 

Symptoms of avoidance may include: 

  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of a traumatic event 
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event 

Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood 

Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include: 

  • Hopelessness about the future 
  • Negative thoughts about yourself, others, and the world 
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important parts of the traumatic event 
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships 
  • Feeling detached from family and friends 
  • Lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy 
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions 
  • Feeling emotionally numb 

Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions 

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (aka “arousal symptoms”) may include: 

  • Always feeling on guard for danger 
  • Being easily startled or frightened 
  • Self-destructive behavior 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability, aggressive behavior or angry outbursts 
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame 

Ways to Treat Addiction and PTSD  

Incorporating trauma therapy in addition to other modalities is imperative to ensure individuals treat all symptoms that have the power to manifest toxic behaviors. The belief is that by treating trauma, the person suffering from addiction will have less compulsion towards substances.  

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched and effective trauma therapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD. This makes EMDR a front-line therapy and logical choice that can greatly help a patient and reduce their risk of relapse. 

The Legacy Healing Center clinical team includes highly trained EMDR experts highly qualified and trained in intensive trauma therapy. Our clinicians meet once a week with our clients to prepare them to embark on an integrated eight-phase process of transformation and recovery delivering anywhere from 6 to 12 sessions upon completion.  

In collaboration with the patient’s primary therapist, our EMDR clinicians maintain responsibility for the impact and effectiveness of the EMDR work both in and out of session. It is this active collaboration between our team members that allows for success for the client to overcome trauma. 

Some of the more common issues we treat include: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Grief and Loss 
  • PTSD 
  • Trauma 
  • Behavioral Challenges 
  • Stress 
  • Anger Management  

Reach Out for Help 

The experienced multidisciplinary team understands the struggles associated with co-occurring PTSD and addiction. We work hand in hand with all our patients to develop a holistic treatment plan that meets each individual’s recovery needs. Our counselors provide the tools you need to overcome addiction by healing the deeper traumas that are so often at the root of substance abuse.   

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please reach out today (888) 534-2295 Our intake specialists are standing by 24 hours a day to answer your questions and help you understand everything you need to know about the treatment programs we offer.