How Can Alcohol Use Affect the Symptoms of PTSD?

Experiencing a traumatic event that leads to PTSD can also lead to alcohol use. Drinking to cope with PTSD symptoms may be a form of avoidance as PTSD symptoms exhibit feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. However, drinking alcohol and developing a dependency have similar effects on emotions and feelings. Therefore, in addition to your PTSD symptoms, if you experience mood changes when drinking alcohol, you are more likely to drink in excess.

Additionally, alcohol used to self-medicate and prevent the feelings associated with PTSD might work in the short term; however, in the long term, they worsen the symptoms of PTSD and could lead to self-destructive behavior. However, understanding the relationship between alcohol use and PTSD is the first step toward seeking correct treatment. Let’s explore the relationship between alcohol use and PTSD, why this relationship is so common, and how to seek the proper treatment for you.

Self-Medicating With Alcohol

PTSD can hinder positive thoughts, because of this, you might drink as a way to experience positive emotions. However, alcohol is not improving your mood; instead, it is temporarily dulling negative feelings. As the effects of alcohol wear off, more intense negative feelings could occur. Such feelings include:

  • Feelings of numbness
  • Isolating yourself from loved ones
  • Feeling angry and irritable
  • Depression
  • Feeling suicidal

Over time, regular alcohol use as a means to cope will develop bad habits as you will begin to drink alcohol more frequently to sustain its effects. When you develop an alcohol use disorder, you could experience additional traumatic events because alcohol is also related to high-risk situations. Ultimately, alcohol is not a form of medication and stands to intensify negative feelings and behaviors associated with PTSD.

Dual Diagnosis

Some make the mistake of managing their alcohol use and PTSD separately because they view them as two different things. However, the relationship between your mental health and substance use is connected and much more complex to treat. It is why seeking a qualified professional to provide a diagnosis is essential to your road to recovery. Dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder is a term used to describe a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder occurring simultaneously in a patient.

The importance of proper diagnosis is vital to your overall treatment and recovery regimen. Therefore, you will need to see a qualified professional to diagnose and treat your mental health and substance use disorders. At Choice House, we have the resources and experience to treat alcohol and other substance use disorders, as well as co-occurring disorders, including PTSD and alcohol use.

Treatment Approach

Perhaps the most beneficial approach to treatment is an integrated approach. An integrated approach addresses both disorders and helps to provide tools to help you manage them after treatment. Treatment for co-occurring disorders involving PTSD and alcohol use could include both individual therapy and group therapy. Of course, depending on the severity of your alcohol use, there will be an initial screening stage and detox period to help you overcome your withdrawal symptoms and attain sobriety so you may begin therapy. Therapies that help you manage your co-occurring disorder could include the following:

Understand that a thorough diagnosis will determine the kind of treatment you require. A thorough diagnosis will benefit when you include as much about your health history and providing as much about your family health history as you can. The ultimate diagnosis and treatment should operate to meet your individual needs to managing your co-occurring disorder. If you find that you are not responding to certain treatments and therapy, a professional can help you change your approach and find treatment and therapy that is a better fit.

Have a Support Network

One of the greatest elements of positive treatment outcomes is building a social support network around you. Surrounding yourself with friends, family, and peers helps you feel connected and understood, and such support within relationships helps the outcome of effective treatment. If you are having difficulty managing your PTSD and substance use disorder, you might feel intimidated or ashamed to reach out and instead isolate yourself. Understand that your support network is there to provide you the care, compassion, and help to encourage you to continue moving forward in your recovery. Always remain in contact with friends, family, peers, or your therapist regularly.

Recovery is the one choice you can control, and when you understand this, you understand that recovery is always possible. At Choice House, we aim to improve the quality of life for men struggling with a mental or substance use disorder. We utilize conventional and alternative approaches to treatment because we believe each individual requires specific options to help address their needs. We also provide 24/7 admissions to ensure you the comfort in knowing that you can reach out at any time, even if only to ask questions. Our location also offers breathtaking views of Colorado, and our outdoor therapy approach will nourish your mind, body, and soul. Soon you will feel revitalized and ready to embark on your recovery journey. If this is your first time reaching out for help or you have been through treatment before, understand that we meet all of our patients where they are in their journey to recovery. To learn more, reach out to Choice House today by calling us at (720) 577-4422.

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