There is a strong link between post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Roughly 50-66 percent of individuals who suffer from PTSD also battle with substance abuse. The relationship is complex and has to do with high levels of stress. People who are experiencing stressful memories due to an accident, crime or loss of a loved one may try to cope with the pain by using drugs and alcohol.
To prevent PTSD and substance abuse, otherwise known as a dual diagnosis, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of PTSD. This way, you can get yourself or a loved one the help that is needed before the problem spirals out of control.
Here are eight signs and symptoms of PTSD that you should know.
- Flashbacks. People with PTSD generally have flashbacks to the traumatic event. These memories can be so vivid, the person will feel they are living through them again. Flashbacks are often triggered by a certain person, object, event or place, but they can come at any time.
- Avoidance. To prevent flashbacks, people with PTSD will often avoid the places, events, and people that remind them of what happened. It can take time for individuals to revisit places, but progress should be made. It’s a concern when a person refuses to go to a certain place or a see a certain individual.
- Numbness. It’s common for people with PTSD to show numbness and apathy to their surroundings. This usually happens because the traumatic event took a piece away from them and they no longer find life as rewarding as it once was.
- Guilt. Guilt can occur for any number of reasons. The person may feel guilty that they survived when someone else did not. Or they may feel responsible for the experience. If a person continues to harbor guilt, PTSD may be to blame.
- Uncontrolled thoughts. PTSD can cause uncontrollable thoughts to sneak into the mind. They may be suicidal or homicidal thoughts that cannot be explained. People are sometimes embarrassed to have these thoughts, but they are generally the brain’s way of coping with the trauma.
- Substance abuse. Self-medication is not uncommon in individuals with PTSD. To escape the negative feelings they are experiencing, they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, it’s a downward spiral, as the effects of illicit substances can lead to numbness and suicidal thoughts.
- Selective amnesia. Some people remember the details of the trauma so well while others do not. Pushing certain details away is called selective amnesia, and it is not a healthy coping mechanism. Eventually, the details will try to force themselves back, bringing on a world of pain.
- Isolation. It’s hard to have an active social life when you’re dealing with flashbacks, anxiety and other negative emotions. As a result, people with PTSD tend to pull themselves away from others. Being alone is not the answer as it can lead to darker thoughts over time.
If you are concerned about PTSD in yourself or someone you care about, do not delay in getting help. You can call 911, head to the nearest emergency room or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For information about treating PTSD and substance abuse, call The River Source. We are here for you!