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PTSD and the Relationship to Addiction

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the most emotionally debilitating mental conditions; creating a feeling of loss of control in most individuals. When an individual experiences tremendous stress or anxiety after witnessing or engaging in a traumatic event they have the capability of developing PTSD. Traumatic events such as military combat, sexual abuse or assault, natural disasters and health related medical traumas could produce symptoms of PTSD. Such symptoms can strike a person at any time and include: nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of things related to the so-called event, severe anxiety and depression.

Mass amounts of research show that one of the chief causes for addiction is the distressing symptoms that develop as a result of PTSD. It is critical that early intervention is sought to help children and adolescents who have suffered from this disorder due to the likelihood that they will later on evolve into addicts of some type. These mental health issues are considered co-occurring disorders and usually worsen when drug and alcohol abuse progresses. Recovery from addiction depends upon treating both the addiction and the mental health problems.

When an individual is over stimulated by painful situations that derived from traumatic experiences they can lose the ability to properly handle life’s day-to-day situations. Coping mechanisms become overwhelmed and an individual will turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of escape. “Self medication” in order to numb out emotions, thoughts and visualizations of the past has pushed many PTSD suffers to adopt a chemical dependence of some kind; over fifty percent for alcohol and thirty percent for drug related dependence according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Although there are no standardized, effective treatments available for individuals with PTSD, studies do show that this disorder can improve with the help of a variety of alternative treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic therapy, Hypnotherapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, intensive group therapy, and exposure therapy in which the individual gradually and repeatedly relives the painful situation under controlled conditions. These different modalities allow for the individual to properly work through their past traumas.

Many reports suggest that successful detoxification of these comorbid (the presence of one or more disorders in addition to a primary disease or disorder) individuals most likely will require inpatient admission to a rehabilitation facility to permit vigorous control of withdrawal and PTSD-related arousal symptoms. Antidepressants can play a major role in assisting with quelling the distress that arises from PTSD as well as substance abuse disorders.

Despite knowing for quite sometime that PTSD and chemical dependency co-occur more often then not, research examining the reasons why this is the case is still in the infancy stages. However with the increasing number of individuals showing signs of both disorders, strong research is leading to the growth of effective treatments to better evaluate and aid those in need. Several inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers globally can equip addicts with the tools needed to adjust to present life.