Dual-Diagnosis: PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is most often associated with soldiers who have returned home from deployment, but it is a mental health disorder that can affect anyone who has suffered a life-altering experience. The symptoms of PTSD are often “self-medicated” through alcohol abuse, which then results in a disorder that is considered a dual-diagnosis.

What is PTSD?

When someone has survived a traumatic experience and possibly suffers from nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of detachment and much more, they can be considered to have PTSD. This disorder is psychiatric, meaning that the core of the disorder affects the mental health of the sufferer. Examples of an event that can cause PTSD include, but not be limited to: a violent military deployment, a destructive natural disaster, a terroristic incident and a serious accident.

There are, most often, three different kinds of symptoms that those with PTSD suffer from. The first symptom is having to relive the trauma in some shape or fashion. When reminded of the trauma in some way, this can be considered a “trigger” for the PTSD sufferer, where episodes of having to relive the incident are sparked.

Feeling removed from others is the second symptom that most with PTSD often feel. This means that the sufferer tries to keep themselves from people and/or places that might remind them of the trauma they had to endure.

Irritability and a sense of being on-guard are often the third set of symptoms that those with PTSD suffer from. This is likely due to the fact that they feel removed and must protect themselves from having to go through another traumatic experience.

Why Do PTSD Patients Turn to Alcohol?

It is extremely common for those who suffer from PTSD to also have an alcohol addiction, as they use the alcohol to mask the feelings of isolation they may be having. When this happens, they can be considered to have a dual-diagnosis and must receive treatment as such.

Though drinking may lead those with PTSD to believe that alcohol relieves them of their traumatic symptoms, it really can make things worse. For instance, those with PTSD who drink to fall asleep can actually be disrupting their sleeping pattern, as alcohol has the ability to change the quality of sleep, making for a less effective rest.

Though it may seem like alcohol helps those with PTSD “forget” about their traumatic experience, it can worsen the situation. Alcohol abuse can also encourage the PTSD sufferer to avoid the root of their problem, which can result in prolonging treatment and getting the proper help needed to soothe their symptoms.

Treatment and Dual-Diagnosis

Quitting alcohol cold-turkey, without the supervision of a professional, can worsen symptoms of someone with PTSD. Because the disorder and the addiction are most often established independently, those with a dual-diagnosis of PTSD and alcohol abuse should seek the proper treatment, in order to learn how to deal with the traumatic event that was experienced.

If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from a dual-diagnosis, please visit our website for more information on getting the proper treatment.

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