After getting back from his service in Iraq, Matt had trouble adjusting to being home with his family and among friends. He began waking up every night with a racing heartbeat, nightmares, and he constantly found himself short of breath. His doctor concluded that he was suffering from anxiety caused by what he had seen during the war. Because of the chronic anxiety and insomnia that Matt began experiencing, he started drinking more and more before going to bed in order to fall and stay asleep.
It got to the point where he could no longer fall asleep on his own. He then began waking up in the morning with his hands shaking and heart racing-Matt’s anxiety had almost tripled. In fear of another attack, he began reaching for a drink during the day, and then after some time had passed, in the morning as well. Matt didn’t want to keep drinking like this, but he didn’t know how else to fix his anxiety. He also began abusing the prescription anti-anxiety medications that his doctor had given him. Matt felt completely hopeless.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, known as PTSD, has been associated and linked to addiction in several different studies. Many unfortunate incidents have occurred in which addiction began as a result of experiencing PTSD. PTSD is “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” Those who suffer from the disorder continue to feel stress or frightened long after a traumatic event has taken place. It is normal to experience a “fight or flight” response after a traumatic event, but it is considered PTSD when this experience continues to happen months or even years after the alleged event occurred.
PTSD is considered a dual diagnosis disorder. Unlike bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which are diseases that occur in the brain, PTSD is directly correlated to the traumatic event itself. The enormous amount of anxiety that is caused by PTSD makes reaching for a drink or drug all that easier, especially among those who are genetically predisposed towards addiction to begin with. PTSD can occur as a result of events in “military combat, violent assault, natural disasters, sexual assault, and childhood abuse.” It can be triggered by a variety of things externally, but is often triggered simply in nightmares, as such was Matt’s case.
According to Dual Diagnosis.org, “alcoholism and drug abuse fall into the category of avoidance symptoms, as the individual may use these chemicals to avoid memories or to numb fear.” In other words, those who experience PTSD attempt to avoid their feelings of anxiety, fear and panic by using substances, which mask these painful emotions. Suddenly, those who never had a substance abuse disorder before begin suffering from addiction that can no longer be controlled.
What are the cures for those suffering from PTSD and addiction? The best plan, according to Dual Diagnosis.org, is a comprehensive, integrated treatment plan. It involves several steps, which include:
- Individual psychotherapy.
- Counseling sessions in a group setting with those who are afflicted by PTSD and addiction.
- Couples therapy and/or marriage counseling to help those suffering from PTSD and an addictive disorder.
- A 12-step program.
- Medication, which can include anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants.
Because addiction and PTSD is a dual diagnosis, there must be a comprehensive plan put in place such as the one set above. It will probably not be resolved just by going to meetings or taking a Xanax, (though those things may be part of the process in getting better.) Like all other dual diagnosis disorders, there are a series of steps that must be taken in order to maintain recovery.
Many have struggled with PTSD and addiction, but there are so many options that can help the individual maintain sobriety and relinquish their anxiety. Like other recovery facilities, Footprints Behavioral Health has certified counselors who can help those suffering with these afflictions, ease their addictions, and help them on their path towards recovery.