Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a stress and anxiety condition that is caused by exposure to intensely stressful circumstances and experiences such as the following:
Shocking or highly stressful events cause immediate and some long-term changes in the human brain. Most people are familiar with the rush of adrenaline we all feel when we experience a shock. When a threat feels life-threatening or goes on for an extended period of time, the brain will begin to prepare for long-term survival.
People with post-traumatic stress disorder have experienced changes in:
People who have undergone traumatic stress may also experience ongoing increases in norepinephrine and cortisol, key stress hormones. All of these effects can create lasting changes, which is exactly what we see when a person has untreated PTSD.1
The good news is that PTSD is treatable, and these brain changes can be reversed. Newer, faster treatments for PTSD are being developed each year, and current treatments have shown that people can find healing through existing treatments.1
The clinical definition of post-traumatic stress disorder covers four main areas of functioning. These four main symptoms of PTSD include:
In some cases, these symptoms present themselves shortly after the traumatic incident. In others, they may not be noticeable for years after the trauma.
When high levels of alcohol are consumed, the brain releases a naturally-occurring chemical called dopamine. This washes over specialized receptors in the brain and temporarily relieves underlying psychological distress for a short time. After drinking, the symptoms always return, and often they return even stronger than they were before the effort to self-medicate with substances. In some cases, the alcohol actually leads to more traumatic experiences, which creates a disastrous cycle.
The body develops a tolerance to alcohol very quickly. This means that the affected person will need larger and more frequent doses of alcohol in order to feel the desired effect. Between the brain’s need for emotional relief and the individual’s increasing tolerance to alcohol, addiction can develop very quickly.
The most successful PTSD and alcoholism recovery programs integrate their patients’ treatment for all physical and emotional conditions into one holistic therapeutic regimen. These often include the following components:
Over time, these programs help patients to reprogram their brains back to their pre-trauma health. Alcohol is not a long-term solution for PTSD even if it seems to “take the edge off” for a time. The underlying problems only get worse. Eventually, any person who suffers from both alcohol use disorder and PTSD will not be able to get drunk enough to feel any relief. Overdose and suicide are very real risks if these conditions are not treated carefully and comprehensively.
Call our toll-free helpline, 615-490-9376, for immediate, confidential and free answers to all of your PTSD and alcohol dependency questions. Our staff is available 24 hours a day with access to the best treatment programs for your exact needs. You don’t need to bear this burden alone any longer. Call today.
1 Bremner, JD. Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2006.
2 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed., American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print.