ADDICTION AND PTSD
Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may self-medicate with substances as a frantic effort to regulate their emotions and to manage distressful thoughts and situations. PTSD survivors are also likely to use substances as an escape from chronic feelings of depression, helplessness, rage, panic, and fear of abandonment. Furthermore, the toxic shame of PTSD survivors creates such intense humiliation and self-loathing that the PTSD survivor feels unworthy of seeking support from others and often chooses to socially isolate through substance usage, which causes even more toxic shame and severe problems with many daily personal, work, and academic tasks.
PTSD survivors may also experience cognitive difficulties, such as constant battling against a harsh inner critic, frequent and uncontrollable dissociation, a very fragmented sense of identity, and a self-perception as defective or flawed, due to their trauma. Addiction within PTSD survivors must be understood as a coping mechanism for the long-term emotional pain and persistent difficulty with daily stress management skills. Survivors of prolonged trauma tend to emotionally “shut down” and to experience self-doubt on a daily basis. In sum, the emotional and cognitive repercussions of trauma create a very fertile breeding ground for addiction.