The Connection between PTSD and Alcoholism

The Connection between PTSD and Alcoholism

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Such events may include the following:

  • Violent personal assaults
  • Threat of death to oneself or to someone else
  • Natural disasters
  • Threat to one’s own or someone else’s physical, sexual or psychological integrity
  • Accidents
  • Military combat

Because of exposure to such an event, many people struggle with PTSD, which causes a variety of negative reactions.

Reactions to PTSD Symptoms

Common reactions to PTSD symptoms include the following:

  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Loss of appetite
  • An uncharacteristic need to fill some type of void by increasing food consumption
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fluctuating body temperatures
  • Fainting
  • Inability to focus
  • Overreactions to situations
  • Erratic and inappropriate behaviors

Because of these reactions, many people suffering with PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to relieve these symptoms, at least for a short period of time.

About Alcoholism

When a person suffering with PTSD turns to alcohol, the temporary escape is often not sufficient to relieve the reactions to PTSD. Therefore, many people continue to use alcohol to the point of abuse or addiction.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol addiction (alcoholism) is a progressive debilitating disease that includes the following symptoms:

  • Craving – A strong and continuing compulsion or need to drink
  • Tolerance – The need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol in order to “feel the buzz” or to “get high”
  • Physical dependence – Withdrawal symptoms when a person stops drinking after a period of excessive drinking, including anxiety, sweating, nausea and the shakes
  • Loss of control – The inability to limit one’s drinking over time or on any given occasion

Alcohol or any other substance abuse is not the answer to dealing with PTSD.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

An integrated treatment program is a good choice for a person with PTSD and alcoholism for several reasons, including the following:

  • Patients receive the medical attention they need to withdraw from alcohol with minimum side effects.
  • Nutritional and fitness services are available to rebuild the body.
  • Individual counseling uses strategies such as cognitive behavior therapy that help patients understand and change how they think about their trauma and its aftermath.
  • Counseling also includes exploring coping strategies to assist individuals with feelings such as anger, guilt and fear.

In addition, patients receive aftercare support to help them avoid a relapse. If you or someone you know is suffering with a Dual Diagnosis condition, you need advice about the most appropriate rehabilitation services.