Research shows that when men and women return home after fighting in combat, a large percentage of them turn to drugs and alcohol. One primary reason for this is veterans are looking for a way to manage their symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD is commonly known to have symptoms which include flashbacks, anxiety, depression, fear, night tremors, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. It is as though the overwhelming moments of trauma are imprisoned within one’s consciousness and at any possible moment, particularly when a situation mimics or triggers a traumatic memory, a person re-experiences the trauma. This can be troubling for many people. It’s as though the past trauma is invading their present moment experience.
Of course, there are also many men and women who never go to war and who still experience trauma right at home. Experiences such as domestic violence, abuse, being in a car accident, and witnessing violence can all be traumatic. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), it’s common for those with addiction to also have a psychological illness, such as PTSD. In fact, about 60% of those who have an addiction also have a mental illness of some kind.
Sadly, many people who suffer from drug addiction are not aware that they are suffering from PTSD. Because the illness (and most psychological illnesses) are not well known, it’s easy for someone with PTSD symptoms to believe that this is just the way life is. It’s easy for someone to dismiss their troubling experiences as something they must face on their own.
However, PTSD can be challenging to manage on one’s own. For instance, one common way for many people to deal with a heavy and intense emotion is to hurt themselves. Cutting oneself, for instance, can sometimes bring a relief of emotional tension. Although this sounds odd, this describes the experience for many people who cut themselves for emotional reasons. Anger, for instance, is an emotion that might lead one to want to hurt themselves or others. As already mentioned, another common way for people to manage PTSD is to turn to drugs and alcohol instead as a means to escape PTSD symptoms.
Of course, none of these are healthy. The best way to get help is to discuss your symptoms with a mental health provider. If you’re already in treatment for addiction, then it’s likely that you are working with a therapist or psychologist. You can certainly discuss your concerns with them. However, if you’re not already in treatment and you recognize any of the above symptoms, contact a mental health professional. PTSD and other psychological illnesses that are left untreated can eventually become fatal.
Seeking help for your addiction and PTSD means saving your life!