How Can Drinking Alcohol Make PTSD Symptoms Worse?

Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) without professional support can be overwhelming. Depending on the severity of one’s condition, It is common for individuals to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to mask their symptoms. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol can intensify an individual’s symptoms, potentially worsening their mental health.

Many risks arise from self-medicating with alcohol to find relief from PTSD. Fortunately, there is a safe alternative to self-medicating, which is to seek professional help for addiction and PTSD. Choosing treatment can significantly improve one’s quality of life. 12 South Recovery can provide mental health and alcohol addiction treatment services tailored to each individual’s needs.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

As stated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), PTSD is defined as having experienced a traumatizing, dangerous, or shocking event. One may either personally experience trauma or distantly witness the tragic event and later develop this mental health disorder.

Although it is perfectly natural for an individual to feel frightened due to their body’s fight or flight response, most people’s symptoms fade over time. Those whose symptoms persist may have PTSD.

An individual diagnosed with PTSD may feel scared even if they are not currently in danger. PTSD is an emotional response to trauma. Although women are more likely to develop PTSD, anyone of any age can develop this mental health condition. Genetics can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing the disorder as well.

The Link Between Alcohol Use Disorder And Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), based on clinical studies, there is a strong relationship between drinking alcohol and PTSD. Therefore, individuals diagnosed with PTSD may present increased challenges with alcohol either before or after they develop PTSD.

Those with PTSD are at an increased risk of developing AUD. The VA reports that more than three-quarters of people who survive a traumatic event report problems with alcohol. Individuals who have experienced a tragic accident, physical illness, or natural disaster often report problems with drinking more alcohol than they intend to.

The Risks of Drinking Alcohol With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

As mentioned on the aforementioned VA webpage, drinking alcohol can make PTSD symptoms more severe. It is common for individuals to drink alcohol to serve as a temporary distraction from the negative effects of the condition.

Unfortunately, drinking only makes it more difficult for an individual with PTSD to focus, stay proactive, and essentially enjoy life. Binge-drinking alcoholic beverages can make it even harder to manage daily stress and cope with traumatic memories. Intoxication, in fact, can induce PTSD symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling desensitized to one’s environment
  • Being cut off from loved ones
  • Experiencing anger, aggression, and irritability
  • Feeling depressed
  • Being always on guard

The Importance of Self-Care Instead of Drinking Alcohol

PTSD can make it extremely difficult for individuals to manage day-to-day tasks and live a comfortable lifestyle if they don’t seek professional treatment. Nightmares can keep an individual awake, leading to sleep deprivation. Sleep is crucial for establishing a balanced mood, reducing stress, and keeping a clear mind.

Flashbacks can make others uncomfortable, as they just may not understand why they are happening. Emotional detachment can lead to distant relationships. Unwanted thoughts can put a damper on a good day and ruin a fun time.

Drinking alcohol to self-medicate PTSD is never safe and is strongly discouraged by healthcare professionals. Instead, practicing self-care can be helpful. Getting plenty of rest, practicing mindfulness and meditation, taking a brisk walk, and eating a nutritious diet can all help. Participating in sober activities with others can serve as a positive and healthy distraction from PTSD symptoms.

Moving Forward With 12 South Recovery

Combining self-help strategies with professional treatment can make a significant difference in an individual’s path to long-term recovery. Participating in 12 South Recovery’s mental health treatment programs and partaking in their alcohol addiction treatment services can teach an individual the skills needed to cope and safely manage their condition without drinking alcohol.

One option we offer at 12 South Recovery is psychotherapy. During psychotherapy sessions, we use two modalities known for their ability to treat trauma: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. These therapies can lessen the intensity of symptoms and provide the skills needed to successfully move forward. Holistic therapies like yoga and equine therapy also offer a more natural approach to finding relief from PTSD symptoms.

Other Ways to Cope Without Drinking Alcohol

The 12 South Recovery alcohol rehab and relapse prevention program can help individuals learn to stay abstinent from substances and overcome addiction altogether. As part of these programs, clients participate in group therapy. This allows clients to confide in like-minded individuals and learn new coping skills from others who are also facing challenges with addiction or co-occurring mental health disorders.

Journaling symptoms can also be helpful in promoting self-awareness and accessing one’s inner resources. Additionally, communicating concerns with a health care provider can create a pathway to a more successful outcome. Staying committed to treatment and using the skills learned in therapy outside of each session can help an individual feel more positive emotions, develop healthier relationships with others, keep a positive mindset, stay in the present, and overall feel happier.

Many people face challenges with addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. Professional treatment with 12 South Recovery can help individuals overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and safely recover from alcohol use disorder (AUD). At 12 South Recovery, we use effective, evidence-based treatment modalities to help individuals heal and ultimately thrive. We understand AUD is a cognitive disease, affecting an individual’s behavior, personality, and potential to meet priorities. If you or a loved one are facing challenges with the effects of past trauma, call 12 South Recovery at (888) 830-8374. We invite you to learn more about how our mental health care team can provide the professional and emotional support you need in order to move forward.

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