Addiction & Co-occurring PTSD: Symptoms & Warnings

PTSD is characterized by upsetting symptoms that can occur after sudden or recurring traumatic experiences.

Understanding PTSD

Learn about PTSD

Trauma is viewed as an unexpected event that the individual perceives as life-threatening and out of his or her control, such as experiencing or witnessing violence or abuse, natural or manmade disaster, horrific injuries, or military combat. An individual can also develop PTSD from viewing events without them directly happening to him or her.

Someone who struggles with PTSD might experience invasive, repetitive memories of the traumatic event. These memories can present themselves in the form of nightmares or flashbacks, which can become so intense that the individual actually loses his or her grasp on reality and feels as though the experience is occurring once more. In an effort to avoid these reactions, an individual who has struggled with trauma prior to a diagnosis of PTSD might attempt to steer clear of other people or situations that could be reminiscent of that experience. His or her moods, behavioral patterns, attitudes, or perceptions can be changed significantly. In many instances, those with PTSD might grapple with issues such as relaxing or sleeping, anger or irritability, or problems achieving happiness. Fortunately, with professional treatment for PTSD, there is hope for those who are suffering.


PTSD statistics

Within any given year, roughly 3.5% of Americans will grapple with PTSD. The risk of developing this mental health condition at any point in life is 8.7%, while veterans are at the most risk for developing PTSD, approximately 75% of them do.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for PTSD

PTSD cannot be diagnosed without the occurrence of a traumatic event. There are also a number of other factors that add to one’s chances of developing PTSD after a traumatic event, such as:

Genetic: A traumatic experience is more likely to cause PTSD in someone who is genetically more susceptible to developing anxiety. Those with a first-degree relative with a mental health condition, namely anxiety, is more likely to develop PTSD if they experience a trauma.

Environmental: In addition to genetic factors, one’s environment can also impact his or her chances of developing PTSD after a traumatic event. Certain childhood experiences, such as poverty, can make one’s risk of developing PTSD greater. In addition, the nature of the event itself can add to one’s risk of PTSD. Exposure to numerous traumatic events, or continued events, can add to one’s chances of developing this disorder.

Risk factors:

  • Experiencing traumatic events as a child
  • Being a racial or ethnic minority
  • Gender (females report PTSD more often than males)
  • History of interpersonal violence or domestic violence
  • Lack of social support
  • Poor coping abilities
  • Poor mental health
  • Being a victim of physical abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD can fall into three separate categories: re-experiencing, which serve as reminders of the experience; avoidance, which are one’s attempts at avoiding people, places, or situations that are connected to the traumatic event; and hyperarousal, which includes large amounts of awareness or alertness of one’s surroundings.

Re-experiencing symptoms:

  • Flashbacks, or strong dissociative reactions that cause a person to feel as though he or she is in the midst of the traumatic experience
  • Elevated physiological responses, including difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, and sweating
  • Involuntary, intrusive, or distressing memories of the trauma
  • Nightmares or intense, disturbing dreams

Avoidance symptoms:

  • Difficulty feeling, or a complete inability to feel, positive emotions
  • Feeling detached from life or hopeless about the future
  • Difficulty remembering details about the traumatic experience
  • Intentionally staying away from people, places, situations, or conversations that remind a person of the trauma
  • Attempting to ignore or prevent thoughts, memories, or feelings associated with the traumatic event

Hyperarousal symptoms:

  • Engaging in risky, reckless, or self-destructive behaviours
  • Excessive alertness to one’s environment (hypervigilance)
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Angry outbursts
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Jumpiness


Effects of PTSD

If PTSD remains untreated, the physical and psychological symptoms of it can lead to the effects listed below:

  • Poor work performance
  • Loss of employment
  • Violence and reckless activity
  • Substance abuse
  • Homelessness
  • Additional mental disorders
  • Family relational distress
  • Relationship problems
  • Suicidal thinking
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

PTSD and co-occurring disorders

The onset of PTSD increases the chances of developing an additional mental health illness. The most common disorders that occur alongside of PTSD can include the following:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major neurocognitive disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Substance use disorder
What our clients are saying

My husband's PTSD symptoms were getting worse with each day that passes. We felt hopeless, until we sought out treatment at Huntington Creek. Thanks to the staff at Huntington Creek, my husband is now managing his PTSD symptoms better and we are optimistic about the future.

– Wife of Former Patient
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