Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Many 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.
The same trauma that causes PTSD can also trigger a substance use disorder. This occurs because PTSD changes brain chemistry in much the same way substance abuse and addiction do. Following a traumatic experience, the brain produces less endorphins, one of the chemicals that helps people feel happy. Alcohol and other mood-enhancing drugs increase endorphin levels, and this realization can cause those experiencing PTSD to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Over time, they may come to rely on drugs to relieve all of their feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritability, which can lead to addiction.
It might be hard to recognize co-occurring addiction and PTSD. Someone suffering from PTSD might keep their drug and alcohol abuse from others because they feel ashamed. If a loved one seems to be increasingly depressed and withdrawn while exhibiting signs of intoxication, they might be struggling with a drug abuse problem.
When PTSD and drug addiction co-occur in response to serious trauma, getting a proper dual diagnosis is crucial to treating both conditions and getting sober. Trinity Behavioral Care is available to do an in-depth biopsychosocial assessment to determine an appropriate treatment plan.