The Relationship Between PTSD and Alcohol

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can occur after a person has experienced some form of major trauma. This disorder is commonly linked to alcohol addiction and can affect men and women, as well as active or veteran military members. Read on for more about how PTSD and alcohol abuse are related.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is classified as a mental health condition. The condition, lasting from a few months to several years, is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Intense flashbacks, nightmares, and hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Self-harm
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Aggression

PTSD can develop as the result of trauma experienced in childhood. It can also develop due to many other types of trauma, including:

  • Loss of a family member
  • Stress
  • Military combat
  • Divorce
  • Abuse, including sexual, mental, and emotional

PTSD and Alcohol Addiction

The relationship between PTSD and alcohol addiction is unique. People who have developed PTSD may choose to self-medicate by drinking alcohol in increasing amounts, which can cause addiction to develop.

However, the high consumption of alcohol can also worsen the symptoms of PTSD. This is because alcohol is a depressant. While alcohol may provide the short-term relief of symptoms, the longer a person drinks to suppress negative feelings and memories, the higher their risk of developing an addiction.

Finally, individuals with a family history of addiction or mental illness can be at much higher risk of developing one or both.

People with PTSD and problems with substance use disorders are said to have a co-occurring disorder.

What the Statistics Reveal

Overall, it’s estimated that as many as 40% of men and women in the United States already diagnosed with PTSD also meet several criteria for alcohol use disorder or AUD.

It’s true that both women and men can have PTSD and substance abuse problems, albeit for different reasons. Where women have a higher likelihood of experiencing sexual abuse and rape, the traumatic events that men are exposed to are often much higher in number.

Of the two groups, women are 2.4 times more likely to develop problems with alcohol and twice as likely to develop PTSD. A 56% increase in alcoholism treatment was observed in veterans between 2003 and 2009.1

How Is Co-Occurring PTSD and Alcoholism Treated?

Professional psychologist doctor consult in psychotherapy session

When a co-occuring disorder like alcohol addiction and PTSD has been identified, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis. The most effective way to treat a dual diagnosis successfully is to address the addiction and the mental health disorder together in what’s known as integrated treatment.

Integrated treatment programs combine several targeted forms of therapy, including:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Group and individual counseling
  • Medications
  • Yoga

Dual diagnosis treatment is and must be comprehensive, because this is the only way to prevent one or both from reoccurring, overlapping, or worsening one condition or the other.

The Right Treatment Is Crucial

Because of the intricate relationship between PTSD and alcohol addiction, the right mix of treatments is crucial for long-term recovery. Not only that, but the dual diagnosis treatment you receive must be able to be customized to meet your individual treatment needs.

Delray Beach Intensive Outpatient is a treatment center that specializes in treatment for co-occurring disorders such as PTSD and alcoholism. Using treatments that are both evidence-based and innovative, we can help you realize long-term success and maintain lifelong sobriety.

Our leading treatments have received national recognition, and we adhere to the highest practices and standards in health care and addiction treatment. When you are ready to learn more about the treatment options available at Delray Beach Intensive Outpatient, call us at (561) 678-0618.