All people experience frequent periods of stress in their lifetime. Daily life is stressful: going to work, caring for children, managing household tasks, and other tasks can drain your energy and stretch your patience. In most cases, people can manage these day-to-day stressors in healthy ways. People may sometimes feel overwhelmed but can cope, even when disappointments or challenges arise.
But some stressful events can alter the course of a person’s life and overwhelm their ability to cope in a healthy manner. When a stressful life experience causes intense distress or fear for their life, people may feel the effects of the event for a long time afterward–even years or decades.
The lingering effects of a frightening or intensely stressful event are called “trauma.” When trauma lasts for a long period after the event, someone may be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can significantly affect a person’s ability to live a healthy, productive life and lead to drug and alcohol addiction.
Researchers have been exploring the relationship between trauma and addiction and recognize that a clear link between trauma, PTSD, and addiction exists. Learning more about this connection may help you make decisions about your own care or treatment for someone you love.
What is the Connection Between PTSD and Addiction?
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that may develop after someone experiences a traumatic event. Some examples of traumatic events include:
- Military service or combat
- A serious accident, illness, or injury–such as a car accident, fall, traumatic birth, severe medical diagnosis, or any other significant medical event or diagnosis
- Living through a natural disaster–a flood, fire, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado
- Being the victim of an assault–violent or sexual assault during childhood or as an adult
- Witnessing an act of terrorism
- Experiencing the death of a loved one
Any event that causes someone to experience overwhelming stress or fear for their life could be traumatic.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through trauma.
Stress is the most common symptom of PTSD. This stress can show up in a person’s life in many ways, including:
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Chronic anxiety
- Severe depression
- Anger or aggression
Trauma symptoms may develop immediately after the person experiences the traumatic event or may take months or even years to appear. Symptoms can fluctuate in intensity or change throughout a person’s life.
Untreated trauma and PTSD seem to be risk factors for substance abuse. This is because people may attempt to manage their stress by using drugs and alcohol–also known as self-medication.
But trained medical and mental health professionals can treat PTSD and addiction by helping people learn to manage their trauma symptoms with healthy coping mechanisms.
Treatment for Trauma and Addiction
About half of all those seeking treatment for substance use disorder meet the criteria for trauma or PTSD. For the best possible outcomes, it’s essential for people with addiction and trauma to receive compassionate, comprehensive treatment for both conditions simultaneously.
Simply addressing the physical aspects of addiction isn’t enough to support lifelong recovery from the condition. Without treating a person’s underlying trauma and giving them healthy coping skills to manage its symptoms, they are more likely to relapse. For lifelong recovery, it’s crucial to help people manage their PTSD and addiction so they can healthily manage both conditions.
Trauma-informed therapy and skill-building are important aspects of addiction treatment programs because so many people with addiction also live with trauma or PTSD.
What Happens in Treatment for PTSD and Addiction?
Comprehensive addiction treatment programs often include specialized therapeutic services that can help people address the roots of their addiction, including PTSD and other forms of trauma. People work with a trained practitioner to identify trauma, learn healthy coping mechanisms to manage it, and work toward new goals as they put addiction in the past.
Treatment for trauma and addiction can happen in various settings at any level of care, including inpatient and outpatient programs. Types of therapy used specifically to target trauma include:
- Rapid Resolution Therapy
- Exposure Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
In addition to specialized therapy, treatment plans include:
- Mental health and medical care
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Holistic therapies, including nutrition support, exercise, mindfulness, art therapy, and more
The combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies can support people as they put addiction behind them and learn how to manage its symptoms for life. Comprehensive, trauma-informed treatment programs can help people identify and heal from their trauma, making it possible to avoid relapse and embrace sobriety for the rest of their lives.
Find Treatment for Trauma, PTSD, and Addiction Today
If you or someone you love lives with addiction and trauma, recovery may seem challenging. It can feel difficult to know where to begin. Taking the first step toward a healthier, sober life can feel overwhelming–but it’s essential.
Finding the caring, effective treatment you need to recover is simple. Reach out to the Arise Treatment Center admissions team today to learn more about starting one of our holistic PTSD and addiction treatment programs.