Proven Methods for Treating PTSD and Addiction Together | AspenRidge

Proven Methods for Treating PTSD and Addiction Together

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition that affects more people every day. PTSD can strike anyone. Moreover, it can strike anytime. Scientists and doctors have called the condition many things over the years. It was called shell shock in the early part of the 20th century. Our understanding of this disorder has grown tremendously since then. Many research projects look at the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These studies help people suffering from the disorder. One area that has been getting a lot of attention lately is the relationship between PTSD and addiction. This post looks at the relationship between addiction and the disorder.  Addiction and PTSD ruin lives by themselves. The combination presents an even greater challenge. However, the right treatment methods can make all the difference. Use this information to help yourself or someone you care about to get clean and feel better.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder. It begins when someone experiences or sees some kind of trauma. Many people associate the disorder with military veterans. However, former members of the military aren’t the only people that can get the disorder. Anyone, including children, can suffer from PTSD. Additionally, it’s important to note that the disorder does not affect everyone who experiences trauma. Science is still trying to learn why some people develop the disorder and others don’t. While more research still needs to be done, there are several things we can say about PTSD.

Causes of PTSD

The disorder has a wide range of causes. That’s why it can affect anyone. It is also why it can happen at any time. Trauma can come from anything. Additionally, the disorder affects people who witness trauma. It can also occur if someone close to you experiences trauma. As a result, it affects adults and children. Understanding how trauma and addiction work together is essential for successful treatment. Trauma comes in many forms. It includes combat, car accidents, domestic abuse, and more. In fact, there’s no limit on what can be considered trauma. What matters is that the event deeply affects the person. This is why it is so important to understand addiction in the context of the disorder. Addiction frequently occurs in response to the same trauma that caused the disorder. In fact, people with PTSD are more likely to use drugs and alcohol. Therefore, successfully treating addiction and PTSD requires a focused approach.

Symptoms of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has many symptoms. Everyone who has the disorder does not have the same symptoms. This can make it difficult to spot the disorder. It is even harder to spot the disorder when it happens with addiction. In fact, many people with both issues suffer from PTSD induced addiction. Moreover, the disorder often comes with other mental health problems. Some examples include depression, acute stress disorder, and anxiety disorders. Generally, there are four main categories of symptoms. These categories are intrusive symptoms, thought and mood symptoms, avoidance symptoms, and arousal and reactivity symptoms.

Intrusive Symptoms

Words, objects, and situations that remind a person of the trauma cause intrusive symptoms. These symptoms include frightening memories, disturbing dreams and nightmares, and flashbacks. These symptoms can feed an addiction. People use substances or drink alcohol to escape the symptoms. As a result, they start to rely on harmful substances. These substances don’t make the trauma go away. Therefore, a person develops an addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Thought and Mood Symptoms

The thought and mood symptoms that come with the disorder also create addiction risks. These symptoms include negative feelings about the self, lasting guilt, isolation, and numbness. Thought and mood symptoms cause people to use addictive substances. Moreover, these symptoms make it harder to treat addiction. People don’t feel that they deserve to get better.

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance symptoms occur when someone structures their daily lives to avoid memories of trauma. These behaviors include avoiding locations or situations similar to their trauma. While everyone avoids unhappy situations, people with the disorder go above and beyond to do so. This makes it hard to go about their daily lives. Moreover, some people use drugs or alcohol to cope when they can’t avoid a trigger. This can cause PTSD induced addiction. This situation makes healing more difficult.

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

Another set of symptoms that come with PTSD are arousal and reactivity symptoms. These include feeling uncontrollably angry, lashing out, reckless behavior, self-destructive behavior problems concentrating, and problems sleeping. Sometimes people take drugs or drink to fight these symptoms. However, this creates a greater risk of addiction.

How Does PTSD Affect Addiction?

Addiction affects the disorder in many ways. It can mask the disorder. This prevents someone from getting the help they need. Moreover, people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and addictions need to be more careful about their treatment options. For example, many doctors recommend anti-anxiety medication. However, anti-anxiety medication is addictive. The combination of PTSD and addiction is complex. People dealing with this dual diagnosis need specialized care. Health professionals used to treat addiction separately from mental health disorders. However, that approach is flawed. Most drug and alcohol abuse programs aren’t equipped to treat PTSD. Moreover, most mental health professionals lack the means to deal with addiction. Therefore, it makes sense that people with both issues face a difficult situation. Each problem needs different treatments. A treatment that only focuses on one issue is likely to fail. As a result, it is vital to understand how to treat PTSD and addiction at the same time. Now that you have a better understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, we’ll look at the best ways to treat PTSD and addiction together.

Treating PTSD and Addiction Together

Specialized treatment is the best way to treat PTSD and addiction at the same time. People don’t get good results when only one problem gets treated. A good program will create the best way to treat both issues. People fighting both the disorder and addiction get good results from integrated treatment teams. These teams have different kinds of doctors. A combination of doctors makes the best chance for recovery. The best programs include therapy to deal with substance abuse triggers. They offer counseling to help the person deal with their PTSD. Some programs use family counseling. Others provide medication. Every person is different. This fact is the starting point for any successful recovery. However, there are some options that have been proven to work better than others. It is important to remember that these steps work best when done at the same time.

Steps to Treat PTSD and Addiction Dual Diagnosis


Detox is the first step to treat a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and addiction dual diagnosis. People get better results when they stay at a treatment center. People have a harder time getting clean when they are not at a center. It is helpful to have trained medical staff when you’re getting clean. The staff can help in many ways. For example, treatment center staff help taper the amount of drugs used. This makes detox easier. It reduces the effects of withdrawal.


Inpatient rehab centers are proven to work better for people with a dual diagnosis. These centers have trained staff on hand 24/7. The staff gives the person the help they need. This includes mental health help. They also give other types of support. Some people use or switch to sober housing. These homes provide support to prevent a relapse. They also give more independence. As a result, they help people make the change to living a clean life. It is hard to overcome the struggle of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The substances cloud your mind. They offer a tempting escape from reality. However, the escape doesn’t make reality any better. Therefore, rehab is an essential step for recovery from PTSD and addiction.


Therapy is an important part of treatment. Studies show it is effective for addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common choice for these issues. This type of therapy helps people spot harmful ways of thinking. It also helps people change how they think. This lowers the risk of drug and alcohol use. It also helps people come to terms with the trauma that gave them the disorder. Other helpful methods include drug addiction worksheets for adults and other tools to help people better understand their addiction and PTSD. Therefore, therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction together. Most other options only focus on one issue. However, therapy works best when done in the right environment. That’s another reason why inpatient treatment is so helpful. It helps people get to a place where therapy works best. Therapy is not as helpful if the person is still using. Moreover, recovery is a delicate time. People with a dual diagnosis have a hard time getting the benefits of therapy if they are around temptation and triggers.


Some patients benefit from medication. This is another reason why inpatient rehab is helpful. These rehab centers monitor medication. As a result, patients don’t need to fight the temptation to abuse their prescriptions. They also aren’t tempted to try other drugs. There are several medications that help people in this situation. Anti-anxiety medicine helps control the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Other medication helps fight addiction. These medicines help people deal with the worst parts of getting clean. They reduce the effects of withdrawal. Different options are available. Doctors help decide the best medicine to help someone with their problems. They do this while making sure that the patient does not develop a new addiction.

Support Groups

It is hard to fight addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes people feel alone in their fight. Support groups help. A group is a place where someone can celebrate success. They can also bond with others dealing with the same problems. Furthermore, a support group gives you a way to form healthy friendships. This is a challenge for many people. Often, an addict’s closest friends are other addicts. This increases the temptation to use drugs or drink alcohol. As a result, a support group gives people the bonds they need to get better without risking their recovery. Support groups also help with trauma bonding. This happens when people talk with others who have similar issues. It helps people to understand that they are not alone. This is a key step to recovery. A support group gives people the friends they need and helps with making the connection. PTSD and substance abuse often go together. Moreover, people with either condition do better when they have outside support to help. As a result, support groups play a vital role in treatment for addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Treating PTSD and Addiction Together is a Process

As you can see, there isn’t one solution for people with addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This complex problem requires a complex solution. People don’t get the best results when they try some of the steps but not others. Moreover, it is hard to find doctors and health professionals who know how to handle both problems at the same time. That’s why combining all of the steps into one program produces the best results. It is also important to keep in mind that these two conditions build on each other. That’s another reason why trying to work on only one element of a dual diagnosis isn’t as successful. The best treatment options consider the whole person. They make sure that the treatment is designed for a specific individual. PTSD and addiction aren’t diseases like the flu. These types of diseases don’t have one best option that works for nearly everyone. Therefore, working with this fact instead of ignoring it produces the best results. Use the information in this post to help yourself or help someone else get the best treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction together.

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