The Vicious Cycle of PTSD and Addiction

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder can be a debilitating condition that ultimately diminishes a person’s quality of life over time. For people struggling with PTSD, the feelings of helplessness brought on by a traumatic event linger long after the traumatic event occurs and often take on different forms within a person’s daily life.

Seeking escape through drugs or alcohol opens the door for a vicious cycle of PTSD and addiction to unfold. Understanding how PTSD and addiction feed into one another can help you take the necessary steps towards getting needed treatment help.

PTSD Characteristics

According to Perelman School of Medicine, PTSD can develop out of any number of situations where circumstances leave a person feeling helpless and out of control. Common causes of PTSD include:

PTSD and Addiction

Domestic violence and military combat are common causes of PTSD.

  • Domestic violence
  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorist attack
  • Military combat
  • Childhood abuse, both physical and sexual
  • Being physically assaulted

While not everyone will develop PTSD after a traumatic event, those who do can experience problems in everyday life when PTSD goes untreated. For anyone considering getting treatment help, we have a toll-free helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) where one of our phone counselors can help you find the type of treatment that’s right for you.

The PTSD and Addiction Cycle

Considering how fast-paced today’s lifestyles are, it can be easy to overlook or even minimize the effects of PTSD in your daily life. PTSD effects can vary, though the ones most often experienced include:

  • Bouts of anxiety
  • Difficult managing stress levels
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Problems sleeping
  • Avoiding people, places or activities that act as reminders of the trauma

In an effort to cope with these conditions, a person can easily turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to gain relief. This tendency marks the starting point for a PTSD and addiction cycle to take hold.

According to Current Psychiatry Reports, nearly half of those who seek treatment for a substance abuse problem also show signs of PTSD. Likewise, when PTSD and addiction co-exist, a person experiences more intense drug cravings than someone who doesn’t have PTSD and is more likely to relapse faster after completing drug treatment.


Symptoms of PTSD and addiction tend to overlap, which makes it difficult to spot an addiction problem. According to the Journal of Addiction, symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Sleep disturbances, such as sleeping more than usual or insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Inability to control feelings of anger
  • Decline in grooming and/or personal hygiene
  • Sluggishness
  • Secretive or unusual behaviors

In effect, a drug or alcohol problem only works to aggravate PTSD effects, making it even more difficult for a person to cope with daily life pressures. In the process, continued drug abuse increases the risk for addiction while worsening PTSD effects in a person’s daily life.

Treatment Considerations

The effects of PTSD don’t just go away on their own, so the need for treatment help only increases with time. The same goes for addiction.

Ultimately, the sooner a person gets needed treatment help, the easier it will be to overcome the effects of PTSD and addiction and start living a normal, happy life. If you have more questions about PTSD and addiction or need help finding treatment, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 888-647-0051 (Who Answers?) .


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