The effects of alcohol abuse on PTSD

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be incredibly debilitating. It can have a huge effect on your emotions and interfere with your ability to complete normal everyday tasks.

Some people with the disorder turn to alcohol to numb or avoid a past that is continuing to disrupt their lives. However, using alcohol to dampen feelings and experiences can leave someone vulnerable to being involved in dangerous situations, where their health and wellbeing is put at risk.

If you or someone that you care about has PTSD and an alcohol dependency, it is important to know that getting support for both the disorder and the alcohol abuse is recommended. By addressing both, the root cause of the alcohol dependency as well as the alcoholism itself can be treated.

The effects of alcohol on PTSD symptoms

While someone may use alcohol to distract themselves from their PTSD, it can make the stress and memories more difficult to deal with in the long term.

Alcohol may relieve symptoms of PTSD for a short time as the brain releases the ‘happy chemical’ dopamine, but it can then leave them feeling even more isolated, numb, angry, irritable and depressed.

A person with PTSD may also use alcohol to fall asleep at night and reduce their nightmares. However, alcohol reduces deep sleep and a person can start to withdraw at night if they have built up a tolerance. This lack of good quality sleep can then impact a person’s emotions and ability to function, leaving them irritable, erratic, anxious and low, and causing them to be forgetful, make more mistakes and think slower.

Alcohol use can lead to dependency

Alcohol abuse can also lead to the person having to deal with addiction as well as PTSD. As alcohol is used to achieve emotional relief, they may find that they need to drink more and more to get the desired effect. As their tolerance increases, this can lead to addiction.

Using alcohol to numb and avoid symptoms of PTSD means that the PTSD itself remains untreated, and the cause of the feelings, emotions and flashbacks still remains unaddressed.

Treatment at Priory locations

At Priory, we understand that seeking support can be extremely daunting. However, our diverse team are dedicated to providing leading dual-diagnosis support to help our patients to manage their PTSD, as well as recover from alcohol addiction.

Seeking treatment for both the alcohol dependency and PTSD at the same time is recommended. If a drinking problem isn’t confronted, treatment for PTSD will be less effective and progress will be stunted. Meanwhile, alcohol withdrawal can heighten PTSD symptoms, so it is best to treat both at the same time so that the support is as effective as possible.

When physically addicted to alcohol, detoxification may be needed to rid the body of alcohol. With round-the-clock care, support and medical management, a person will be closely observed, safe and comfortable. Group and individual therapy sessions may then be used to address the PTSD alongside the addiction, which can be provided on a residential or outpatient basis.

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