People can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for a variety of reasons. This disorder often occurs after someone goes through an extremely stressful, traumatic experience like witnessing a violent crime or serving on the battlefield. Unfortunately, alcoholism and PTSD often happen at the same time. When someone does not get treatment for PTSD, they may use alcohol to self-medicate.
How Alcoholism and PTSD Work
Extremely stressful events like losing a loved one or being near an explosion can cause instant, long-term changes to the brain. PTSD changes the parts of the brain responsible for logic, emotional regulation, and memories. When someone undergoes these changes, their mind continuously produces excess stress hormones.
In general, the individual will experience symptoms like avoiding situations that remind them of the trauma. They may suffer from changes to their physical or emotional reactions. Intrusive memories of the experience may disrupt their normal life. In addition, the individual may notice an increase in negative thoughts and emotions.
While everyone is different, there are a few common signs that people can look for. Individuals may notice symptoms such as:
- Depression and paranoia
- Panic attacks
- Nightmares and insomnia
- Thrill-seeking behaviors
- Emotional outbursts
How Are Alcoholism and PTSD Connected?
Unfortunately, alcoholism and PTSD often occur at the same time. An estimated one out of four adults with a mental disorder also suffers from substance use. For many people, drugs and alcohol are a way to self-medicate for the side effects of PTSD.
When someone drinks a lot of alcohol, the brain releases a chemical known as dopamine. This chemical hits certain receptors in the brain to temporarily reduce psychological distress. For a brief period of time, the individual’s symptoms go away.
Unfortunately, alcohol will never get rid of the symptoms for long. Once the individual finishes their drinking session, the symptoms will come back. In most cases, the symptoms will be stronger than before because alcohol causes side effects like decreased mood, headaches, and irritability.
Alcoholism and PTSD cause a destructive cycle. The human body quickly gains a tolerance to alcohol. Before long, the individual needs more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects. Because of this, an addiction can develop extremely quickly. When this happens, individuals need to find the right addiction treatment programs to start their recovery.
Finding Treatment for Alcoholism and Mental Health Disorders
At a dual diagnosis treatment center in North Carolina, clients can get help for their addiction and their underlying disorder. When someone self-medicates with drugs or alcohol, they need to treat their mental disorder at the same time as the addiction. Otherwise, they may feel tempted to use again when their PTSD symptoms reappear. Through the right treatment program, clients can get support with options such as:
- Trauma, anxiety and depression treatment
- Hybrid programs with a focus on the outdoor wilderness
- Family counseling and therapy
- Organic and experiential therapies
- Dual diagnosis programs
- Eco-therapy and gardening
Realizing that you want to become sober is the first step in overcoming your addiction. With the right rehab center, you can begin your journey toward a healthier lifestyle. Find out how Red Oak Recovery can help by calling us today at 828.382.9699.