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The Link Between Trauma and Addiction

An upset young man walks along the waterfront with headphones in his ears.
Posttraumatic stress disorder increases the likelihood of addiction.

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More than 1 in 7 Americans will experience posttraumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives.

While PTSD is often caused by violent experiences such as war or assault, it can also be caused by events that are terrifying, but not violent. The unexpected death of a loved one can, for example, lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

How is PTSD Diagnosed?

You cannot be diagnosed with PTSD until at least one month has passed since the time of the traumatic event. Your doctor will do an examination to rule out other causes of your symptoms.

To be diagnosed, you must experience at least one of the following:

  • Unwanted upsetting memories
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders
  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders

You must also experience negative thoughts and feelings that are worsened after the trauma, including at least two of the following:

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma
  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world
  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma
  • Negative affect
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling isolated
  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect

How PTSD Leads to Addiction

People who suffer from PTSD are two to four times more likely to also battle addiction, according to the journal Clinical Psychology.

One prominent theory is that drugs and alcohol serve as a way to self-medicate and make bad feelings and emotions go away.

That strategy works in the short term, of course, but always leads to more problems than it solves.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Rehab in Denver

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes addiction isn’t just a physical problem. Our master’s level trained therapists get to the root cause of addiction and will help you develop a strategy to manage and enjoy life without drugs or alcohol. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about our 90-day drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs.

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