Dual Diagnosis: Post-Traumatic Stress and Substance Use Disorders

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    What you will learn
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a specific anxiety disorder that occurs after someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
    • Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, physical symptoms of stress, avoiding people, places, or ideas connected to the trauma, irritability, being on edge, recurring nightmares, difficulty sleeping, risky behavior, loss of interest, and persistent negative feelings.
    • Around 13 million Americans report having a PTSD diagnosis in any given year.
    • Studies have demonstrated a significant connection between experiencing trauma and addiction.

    Substance use disorders (SUD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are chronic, debilitating conditions that frequently co-occur. A person struggling with a dual diagnosis needs individualized care, as neglecting one piece of the puzzle can intensify the other. If you can take action with appropriate and personalized treatment, recovery is possible.

    Common Symptoms of PTSD

    Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a specific anxiety disorder that occurs after an individual has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. A traumatic event or experience could include natural disasters, ongoing emotional or physical abuse, or witnessing a tragic death. 

    A key characteristic of PTSD is a persistent “fight or flight” feeling that continues for weeks, months, or even years beyond the traumatic experience. 

    There are a variety of signs and symptoms of PTSD. Each person with a PTSD diagnosis has endured unique trauma, which creates a need for an individualized treatment approach. 

    Symptoms of PTSD may include the following:[1] 

    • Flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event 
    • Distressing and intrusive thoughts that occur randomly
    • Experiencing physical symptoms of stress, such as excessive sweating or nausea
    • Avoiding people, places, or ideas connected to the traumatic experience
    • Feeling irritable and easily angered, leading to aggressive behaviors
    • Being on guard and easily startled by noise or movements
    • Having recurring dreams or nightmares about the traumatic experience
    • Having difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • Engaging in risky or destructive behavior
    • Loss of interest in previous social connections and activities
    • Persistent negative feelings and pessimism about the world

    PTSD Statistics

    Based on recent data, an estimated 1 in 4 adults in the United States reports suffering from any diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. PTSD diagnoses occur in a smaller number of people; however, around 13 million Americans report having a PTSD diagnosis in any year.[2]

    • Approximately 5% of adults report having a PTSD diagnosis in an average year
    • About 6% of adults will have PTSD at some point in their lives 
    • Women receive a PTSD diagnosis twice as frequently as men due to the increased likelihood of women experiencing certain types of trauma 

    PTSD and Addiction

    Studies have demonstrated a significant connection between experiencing trauma and addiction. Many individuals who have endured trauma, such as surviving an armed robbery, a natural disaster, or abuse turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the emotional pain connected with their trauma.[3]

    The co-occurrence of SUD and PTSD is common. This co-occurrence is believed to be a result of the fact that a person with PTSD is seeking an accessible coping skill to mitigate the extreme symptoms they experience with PTSD.

    PTSD and Substance Abuse Treatment

    It is essential to treat a substance use disorder alongside PTSD in an integrative manner. From detox and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) to intensive outpatient (IOP) and standard outpatient programming (OP), achieving long-term healing is possible. Treatment modalities utilized frequently to reduce symptoms of SUD co-occurring with PTSD may safely include the following:

    • Psychoeducation and psychosocial support groups
    • Teaching about the relationship between SUD and PTSD
    • Developing healthy coping skills to reduce the impact of symptoms
    • Learning how to manage negative emotions that arise
    • Healing from the effects of trauma symptoms

    Cost of Dual Diagnosis Treatment for PTSD

    The cost of dual diagnosis treatment depends on several factors:[4]

    • Location of a treatment facility
    • Types of services offered (inpatient, residential, or outpatient)
    • Health insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment

    Your health insurance will often cover some, and possibly all, of the services administered. Most major insurance carriers consider addiction treatment to be an essential service. However, out-of-pocket or private pay will vary depending on the type of treatment needed and the duration required. To verify your insurance, call now.

    Frequently Asked Questions about PTSD

    How do I know what I’m experiencing is trauma?
    What are signs someone is struggling with PTSD?
    How do you confirm you have PTSD?

    Are you or a loved one struggling with PTSD?

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