A dual diagnosis is made if you are simultaneously suffering from a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health condition – PTSD and addiction, for instance.
Drug Addiction and PTSD
PTSD is a mental health condition where symptoms are triggered by a traumatic event that you witnessed or experienced.
It’s commonplace for anyone undergoing traumatic events to experience distress at a later stage. If that distress interferes with daily living or lasts for months, it’s diagnosed as PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD symptoms include:
- Extreme anxiety
- Avoidance of the event
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Negative thoughts about yourself or the world
- Problems with interpersonal relationships
- Memory problems
- Emotional numbness
- Feeling on heightened alert
- Being easily spooked
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Problems with focus
- Angry outburst
In sum, both PTSD and substance use disorder are common in the United States. Current NSDUH estimates show close to 20 million adult Americans are addicted to drink or drugs, with up to 8 million suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. There’s a great deal of crossover, too. Of those seeking treatment for substance use disorder, almost half are also presenting with symptoms of PTSD. Of those with PTSD, almost half also have an active substance use disorder.
Beyond this, the data only tells half the story. Many cases of both substance use disorder and PTSD remain undiagnosed.
PTSD and Alcohol Addiction
When you abuse alcohol or drugs long-term and to the extent of addiction, the neurocircuitry in your brain becomes rewired. You’ll need the substance just to feel normal.
PTSD has a similarly complex impact on your brain.
For anyone presenting with PTSD and addiction simultaneously, it’s vital to treat both issues to undo the damage.
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be usefully applied both to addiction and to PTSD. In the case of dual diagnosis PTSD treatment, the program can be smoothly coordinated to account for both conditions.
The treatment team might also recommend physical exercise therapy as part of recovery at a PTSD treatment center. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can soothe anxiety and depression.
Antidepressants can also be effective for the management of withdrawal symptoms, as well as the anxiety that often accompanies alcohol detox and withdrawal.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment: PTSD
Detox needs to take place before treatment proper. You’ll purge your body of all toxins over the course of a few days.
Once substance-free, you’ll engage with a combination of medication-assisted treatment (if required) and a variety of behavioral therapies. These therapies might include:
- CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
- DBT (dialectical behavior therapy)
- Family therapy
- Exposure therapy
- EMDR therapy (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy)
EMDR therapy is a structured form of therapy delivered over 9 distinct phases. You’ll attend 6 to 12 sessions. Sessions are held once or twice weekly.
Developed in 1987, this form of therapy encourages you to focus briefly on the memory of trauma, while at the same time experiencing stimulation of eye movements. This helps reduce the intensity and the emotion associated with trauma memories.
Dual Diagnosis at The District
It’s by no means always clear whether the mental health condition or the substance use disorder comes first.
In the case of PTSD, it’s more often than not undiagnosed PTSD that leads to substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate. Not only is this ineffective, but it also inflames the symptoms of each condition. This makes for a knotty mess that needs unraveling with focused specialist treatment.
All cases of co-occurring disorder are different, so treatment needs to be personalized accordingly. That flexible and personal touch is something we’re renowned for here at TDRC.
Don’t panic or feel concerned if you have a dual diagnosis. With the right treatment program, there’s no reason at all you can’t conquer both of these issues. It’s crucial, though, not to avoid the problem or adopt an ostrich approach. Instead, find a specialist treatment center that can help you with battling your addiction to drink or drugs at the same time as moving beyond the symptoms of PTSD.
Reach out to The District Recovery Community today at 844.287.8506.