Dual diagnosis is very common among those with addiction issues. No group of people is greater affected than those returning from active duty in the military service. A diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) along with substance abuse occurs in 2 out of 10 veterans, with alcohol and binge drinking being the most common addictions among that group. If your friend or a loved one is returning from active duty, it is important to know what PTSD is and how it relates to addiction.
What is PTSD?
PTSD occurs when you experience a traumatic event, such as a sexual assault, car accident, natural disasters, and in the case of veterans, combat. Usually, after an inciting incident, the body goes into "fight or flight" which triggers the output of adrenalin and the triggering of other physiological reactions. Typically, after the incident, the body recovers and reverts to a normal state. PTSD is when recovery is taking longer and leaves with the stress, fear, and other physiological effects, even when not in immediate danger.
What are the Symptoms of PTSD?
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there are four possible symptoms of PTSD, though not everyone will suffer from these at the same time.
1. Hyperarousal: This is a state of increased anxiety. This person is always on alert. Perhaps they often seem jittery and easily jump at the slightest of provocation.
2. Negative Feelings: This person may feel extreme guilt or shame for what happened while deployed. They may lose their trust in others and stop doing things they enjoy.
3. Avoidance: The person suffering from PTSD might try to avoid engaging in situations that might trigger those traumatic memories. It is even possible that they will go so far as not to discuss it at all.
4. Flashbacks: They may suffer from flashbacks, in which they end up mentally reliving the event, over and over again. Flashbacks may come in the form of memories or even nightmares.
Addiction and PTSD Those with PTSD are more likely to use substances in an attempt to self-medicate and numb the pain. Drugs and alcohol can be a distraction, so they do not have to think about the inciting incident, or as a way to temporarily stop the symptoms and flashbacks. Unfortunately, while they may believe that they are treating it on their own, addiction can exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD and delay treatment.
What Can I Do? If you believe your friend or loved one might be suffering from a dual diagnosis of PTSD and substance abuse, do not lose heart. There are things that you can do. Some of the ways to treat PTSD are with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, or "talk therapy." You can also refer them to the local Veterans Affairs Department for PTSD treatment and rehab, or call the Freedom From Addiction hotline for 24/7 help to explore the different treatment options available and find a rehab program that fits your specific needs and insurance at
1.855.RECOVER or 1.855.732.6837.
Sydney DeZinno is a writer from Tucson, AZ. A graduate of the University of Arizona, she an active advocate that is passionate about addiction recovery and helping those in crisis.
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