Although seemingly unrelated conditions, PTSD and addiction are commonly diagnosed together. Those who develop PTSD because of a traumatic event or experience often use alcohol or drugs to manage and cope with their symptoms.

Drug and alcohol substance abuse can become just as much of a problem as PTSD symptoms, and those suffering from both PTSD and addiction require help for both issues to make a full and long-lasting recovery.


What is PTSD?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that is caused by traumatic experiences that affects mental health. Symptoms include flashbacks and anxiety, as well as uncontrollable intrusive thoughts relating to the event that brought about the PTSD.

In the first 3-5 months after a trauma, people suffering from these symptoms will be said to be suffering from Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). If symptoms persist beyond 6 months, then a diagnosis of PTSD is likely.

C-PTSD is a complex form of PTSD and is where people experience additional symptoms such as emotional problems, suicidal feelings, and relationship issues. This requires professional treatment to overcome and is a more severe version of PTSD.

PTSD affects 1 in 10 people in the UK at some point in their lives, so it is important to know the signs of PTSD. Learn more below.


Symptoms of PTSD

Post traumatic stress disorder presents can be identified from several symptoms. Often PTSD is caused by a traumatic event or as a trauma response to a negative event in a person’s life. Addiction and PTSD often go hand in hand, so it is key to know the signs of PSTD to avoid other problems long term.

Some of the symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Flashbacks to the traumatic experience(s)
  • Nightmares
  • Re-experiencing the trauma of the event
  • A range of intense psychological or physiological responses to reminders of the trauma
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Feeling paranoid or ‘on guard’
  • Avoidance of places and people connected to the traumatic event
  • Avoidance of talking about the trauma, or thoughts and feelings related to it
  • Hopelessness
  • Decreased interest in social and professional life
  • Personality and mood changes
  • Memory issues


Is There a Relationship Between PTSD and Addiction?

The wide range of symptoms and feelings associated with PTSD can be extremely difficult to deal with, and many people turn to the use of drugs and alcohol to cope with this. There are four common reasons why people suffering from PTSD are so susceptible to addiction.

Some of the reasons that explain the link between PTSD and addiction are:

Self-Medication to Cope with Symptoms

Those with PTSD may use various substances to reduce their symptoms of PTSD, or at least reduce the distress experienced when faced with hard to manage symptoms. Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol can lead to addiction and health problems long term.

High-Risk of Addiction

Some people may have substance abuse issues before PTSD develops. Those who suffer from problems with alcohol and drugs are more likely to experience traumatic events that can cause PTSD, which is another reason why there is a link between the two.


It is known that some people are more likely to develop mental health and addiction issues due to their genetics. This can be on a biological level, due to family history of addiction, and personality type.


PTSD And Substance Abuse Treatment

Whilst PTSD and substance abuse commonly appear together, they are different types of conditions which have been treated separately in the past. In most cases, drug or alcohol addiction would be treated first, and PTSD dealt with after the person had achieved sobriety.

However, treatment programmes have changed in recent years, with the focus now on dealing with both conditions at the same time in private rehab centres. If PTSD symptoms are treated during and after the detox process, this helps the sufferer to deal with the intense thoughts and feelings brought on by therapy without putting them at risk of relapse.

Treating both conditions via a dual diagnosis treatment programme also means that a patient can work through their mental health problems as well as manage their addiction, which makes long term recovery much more likely to succeed.

By treating PTSD and addiction together via detox and psychological therapies, people can overcome both conditions and remain in recovery. The ways these conditions are treated include:


Medication can be important for detox from alcohol and drugs, as it helps to make withdrawal symptoms less intense and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety that can be experienced during the withdrawal and recovery process.

Antidepressants or sleeping pills may also be prescribed to treat addiction as well as PTSD.

Therapy Sessions

Medications are most effective when combined with therapy to help a person understand their addiction and PTSD. Individual therapy sessions are helpful, but in rehab, group and family therapy sessions are also provided to deal with every aspect of addiction.

Addiction and especially PTSD are psychological conditions which require treatment to overcome.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

The most popular form of therapy to support addicts and those with PTSD is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This type of therapy is designed to help a person look at their thoughts, emotions, and patterns of behaviour to see how these are affecting their lives and mental health.

CBT makes it easier for people to recognise their relapse triggers that led them to use alcohol or drugs, and come up with coping mechanisms so these triggers can be dealt with when they occur.

Exposure therapy is where a patient with PTSD is exposed to their trauma in a safe and secure environment, allowing them to learn to cope with it. Meanwhile, cognitive restructuring helps a person with PTSD to carefully examine their memories of the traumatic event, to better understand the images and their reactions to them.


Treatment Options for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction

For those suffering from PTSD or addiction, or both, there are a range of treatment options to choose from. While there are a variety of treatment methods available, dual diagnosis treatment is more likely to have a long-lasting effect and help you to achieve a permanent remission from these distressing conditions. Treatment options include:

Residential Care

A rehabilitation centre offers a dedicated, full-service environment to help you to focus on your recovery. Ocean Recovery Centre offers a luxurious and welcoming environment in which you can detox, receive individual, group and family therapy and even take part in wellness classes and activities to heal every part of your body and mind.

Outpatient Treatment

You may be able to go to outpatient sessions at a clinic, in a group or at a rehab centre. Ocean Recovery offers an outpatient aftercare service which allows you to get in touch with someone around the clock when you are struggling, helping you to continue the good work that you started in the clinic.

Support Groups

Many people find support groups useful, as it offers a meeting place for other people who have been through similar experiences to you and talk about them in a secure environment. There are usually a few support groups within every city, so look online to see where your nearest one is.

To find out more about Ocean Recovery Centre, call 0800 880 7596 or fill out our contact form and we’ll walk you through the next steps to help you overcome addiction and PTSD.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: October 13, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.