What Is PTSD And How Can it Fuel An Addiction?

Traumatic events resulting in significant physical, mental, or emotional pain can sometimes become debilitating enough to adversely impact one’s well-being. In certain cases, such feelings manifest into a serious disorder known medically as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

PTSD Overview

Medical professionals label PTSD as a mental health problem causing stricken individuals to relive past traumatic events. In numerous instances, this causes said subjects to encounter symptoms so severe that they are sometimes unable to live a normal life.

Common types of PISD-inducing events such as:

  • Combat in war
  • Witnessing the death of a loved one
  • Abuse
  • Exposure to life-threatening circumstances
  • Accidents

Persons most at risk of developing PTSD include combat veterans, police officers, firefighters, medical professionals, individuals who have experienced any type of physical, emotional, mental, or sexual abuse, or those who were involved in acute events like major accidents.

Why PTSD Occurs?

Researchers know that the disorder is precipitated by some type of stressful or challenging event. However, such medical experts believe some people might be at greater risk than others. These risks are attributed to pre-existing mental problems like anxiety or depression, and one’s temperament, in addition to their brain chemistry.


The severest presentations often cause the individual to actually relive such events in episodes known as flashbacks. However, these occurrences are typically precipitated by triggers called arousal symptoms. Common arousal symptoms include:

  • Being easily frightened or startled by a sound or vision
  • Cognitive problems like diminished memory and concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Intense feelings of guilt or shame
  • Violent or emotional outbursts
  • Isolation from friends and family

These manifestations are not always present or intense. That said, they can worsen with time or when dealing with prototypical life stressors. Researchers also maintain that the problem does intensify when afflicted individuals face some type of acute precipitating event.

For example, a combat veteran might be set off by the sound of fireworks or a vehicle backfiring. Victims of violent attacks or sexual abuse might encounter trouble when hearing similar cases in media news reports.


If not identified and treated quickly and aggressively, impacted subjects might grow overwhelmed enough to be unable to function, develop worsening mental health issues, or experience suicidal thoughts.

The Relationship Between PTSD And Addiction

Medical researchers and addiction treatment specialists maintain that chemical dependency is one of the most serious complications one with PTSD might develop. In fact, persons eventually seeking help for PTSD are 14 times more likely to have a co-existing substance abuse issue.

Said professionals suggest that stricken subjects use addictive chemicals as a way to numb their painful memories. Moreover, the brains of a solid percentage of people with PTSD produce reduced amounts of substances called endorphins. These chemicals control feelings like happiness. Dependency-inducing drugs like alcohol stimulate the secretion of endorphins.

Preventing Addiction In Cases Of PTSD

Fortunately, addiction may be preventable in persons with PTSD. However, individuals with the illness or their close associations need to be cognizant of the symptoms and either get help or encourage their loved one to seek treatment as soon as such concerns are noticed.

Treatment will depend on how severe the individual’s case is and how life-limiting their symptoms are. That said, commonly employed remedial efforts include psychotherapy and medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety preparations. In some cases, a combination of treatments are attempted until producing favorable results.

What If Addiction Develops?

Should one with PTSD develop an addiction, they will also need to obtain treatment for said dependency. If the problem is severe enough, they might require an extended stint in an inpatient facility.

Regardless of the form of addiction treatment used or where said therapy occurs, it will focus on weaning the ailing subject off drugs, helping identify the reasons they started using, and finding productive ways of handling such stressors.

Contacting Us

PTSD is a serious illness. If left unchecked, it could lead to dependency. Fortunately, with the proper help, it can be controlled and associated incidents of addiction may be avoided.

For additional questions about this or any other addiction-related subject, please consult with the experienced treatment specialists employed inside our Wilmington, Delaware facility. Call us at 302-842-2390.

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