There are a wide variety of mental and emotional disorders that can occur alongside an addiction, including depression and anxiety disorder. However, post-traumatic stress disorder — also known as PTSD — has one of the highest rates of comorbidity with addiction. But what causes so many people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to become addicted? Is there a correlation or causal relationship?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & Addiction
What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
The human mind is a complex, enigmatic organ. It controls the movement and functioning of the entire body while also facilitating cognition. Being such a complex organ, it follows that there would be a diverse breadth of potential disorders from which the mind could suffer. Of course, many of us gravitate toward things like depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder when we consider mental and emotional health disorders; however, there are some disorders that are far more complicated and specific.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that can potentially develop after a person has experienced some type of traumatic event. In practice, post-traumatic stress disorder — often referred to as PTSD for short — entails dysfunction on cognitive and behavioral levels, induced by traumatic events that have occurred long ago. In fact, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder can experience adverse emotional effects years or even decades after the inciting incident.
Research has shown a growing population of individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting in a large percentage of the psychological community focusing on this disorder in hope of developing better, more effective ways of treating it. Considering how we’ve found that many individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder eventually develop substance abuse problems, it’s extremely important that we have a thorough understanding of both disorders, how they might relate, and how they can be treated.
Causes & symptoms of PTSD
As mentioned above, post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health affliction that develops in individuals who have experienced some type of prior trauma. Of course, there are many types of trauma that can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder, but some of the most common include sexual abuse, physical abuse, the experience of being in combat zones and among active warfare, traffic collisions, having witnessed a violent injury or death, having lived through a natural disaster, and countless others. Basically, it’s the experience of one of these events — referred to as a “trauma” — that causes an individual to periodically experience the intense emotions associated with the event again and again over time.
More often than not, the first signs of post-traumatic stress disorder begin to manifest between one and three months after the inciting event or trauma, but it’s possible (though somewhat less likely) that the disorder could emerge years later. When the first evidence of the disorder is delayed, it’s usually because the individual has avoided anything that might trigger memories of the event, causing the first manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder to emerge long after the disorder might otherwise have developed. In fact, the individual might even have amnesia about the inciting event or trauma, not realizing how memories of the event will affect him or her until the individual finally remembers when confronted by some sort of stimulus.
When the trauma or inciting event is remembered, the individual experiences many of the same emotions at much the same level of intensity as when he or she was actually experiencing the trauma. In fact, individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder often describe this as feeling like they’re “reliving” the event. During these instances, they could experience or exhibit a wide range of physiological symptoms like shaking from intense fear or outbursts of aggression.
To be clear, it’s quite common for anyone who has suffered from trauma to experience many of these emotions long after the actual trauma. The difference between re-occurring emotion and post-traumatic stress disorder is when the recurring emotion is of sufficient intensity, potentially inhibiting an individual ability to function normally.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & Addiction
As previously mentioned above, there’s a growing body of research that has indicated high rates of individuals suffering from both post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Of course, this has led many professionals to wonder whether there’s some type of causality between the two disorders. To best understand what kind of relationship exists between post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction, it’s necessary to review how people with post-traumatic stress disorder become addicted.
Is There A Relationship?
Post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction are two separate, distinct disorders, and the development of one doesn’t necessarily guarantee the development of the other. However, as research has shown, the more common occurrence is for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to develop an addiction.
When a person suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, he or she experiences intense emotional distress when he or she is confronted by a stimulus that evokes thoughts or memories of the initial trauma. During these instances, it becomes quite difficult to function, and these periods can last minutes or hours or possibly even days. If this post-traumatic stress is left untreated, the individual could become desperate for relief from the symptoms and effects of the post-traumatic stress. In this situation, it’s possible that the individual could turn to alcohol or drug use in an effort to alleviate or mitigate the post-traumatic stress and restore his or her emotional equilibrium.
As it happens, it’s inaccurate to conclude that post-traumatic stress disorder causes addiction. The reason that we can’t conclude there’s causality is because there are many people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder who don’t develop addictions, and vice versa. In fact, the development of post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t guarantee an addiction but, rather, only makes substance abuse considerably more likely.
Choose Just Believe Recovery in Carbondale for Your Recovery Needs
If you or someone you love is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and comorbid addiction, we can help. At Just Believe Recovery in Carbondale, PA, our priority is to offer high-quality, comprehensive substance abuse treatment and support. To learn more about our offerings and programs, call Just Believe Recovery today at 877-871-3356.