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How Do I Know I’m Using Alcohol to Mask PTSD?

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How Do I Know I’m Using Alcohol to Mask PTSD?

Sometimes individuals unknowingly find themselves using alcohol to mask the discomforts of their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the most challenging aspects of this reality is that some individuals do not even realize they are struggling with PTSD or using alcohol to mask the symptoms.  

Turning to substances such as alcohol to mask or cope with life’s discomforts is unhealthy and can be dangerous. Everyone has different life experiences and has different reactions to them as well. However, when people experience traumatic events that cause them to struggle with that looming trauma, there is often a notion of avoiding it. Trauma that is allowed to exist unaddressed will only fester and grow. It can develop other mental health conditions, addictions, and more. 

What Is Trauma?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes “individual trauma as an event or circumstance resulting in:

  • physical harm
  • emotional harm
  • and/or life-threatening harm”

Trauma can affect anyone regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, etc. SAMHSA states, “Trauma is a common experience for adults and children in American communities, and it is especially common in the lives of people with mental and substance use disorders.”

The Effects of Trauma

SAMHSA also notes that trauma has long-lasting impacts on an individual. These effects can range from mental health, physical health, emotional health, social well-being, or spiritual well-being. 

Trauma can have an impact on an individual and those who surround them, such as family. Some people who experience traumatic events can go on with their lives without lasting negative impacts. However, other people may have difficulties coping and experience traumatic stress reactions. 

SAMHSA states, “[T]raumatic experiences are associated with both behavioral health and chronic physical health conditions, especially those traumatic events that occur during childhood.” Trauma has been linked to substance abuse, mental health disorders, and other risky behaviors. The effects of trauma can bleed into all areas of life, including relationships and careers. 

What Is PTSD?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines PTSD as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” These shocking, scary, or dangerous events are traumatic events that a person experiences. When a person is continually affected by trauma, they may develop PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD typically occur within three months of a traumatic event. However, they can also emerge later. According to NIMH, “To meet the criteria for PTSD, a person must have symptoms for longer than [one] month, and the symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with aspects of daily life, such as relationships or work.”

The symptoms of PTSD are split into four categories:

  • Re-experiencing
    • Experiencing flashbacks and reliving the traumatic event
    • Recurring memories or dreams related to the traumatic event
    • Distressing thoughts
    • Physical signs of stress
  • Avoidance
    • Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the traumatic experience
    • Avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
  • Arousal and reactivity
    • Easily startled
    • Feeling tense or on edge
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Sleep difficulties
    • Irritability or anger outbursts
    • Risky, reckless, or destructive behavior
  • Cognition and mood
    • Trouble remembering key features of the traumatic event
    • Negative thoughts about oneself or the world
    • Exaggerated feelings of blame
    • Ongoing negative emotions
    • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
    • Feelings of social isolation
    • Difficulty feeling positive emotions

The Relationship Between Alcohol and PTSD: Using Alcohol to Mask PTSD

PTSD can affect an individual at any given moment. Sometimes individuals do not even realize that they are struggling with it. They just kept moving through life after the traumatic event that birthed PTSD in their lives. 

As a result, they may not have noticed the connection between their thoughts and feelings that are related to their trauma when they experience it. It can be easy to assume that you are just anxious and stressed out because life is stressful. So to keep moving, you have a glass of wine every day to block the pain because you do not have time to feel or heal. 

Before you know it, the wine or cocktail may graduate to stronger proofs that are now consumed at higher frequencies. Although addiction has now developed, it can still be easy to see this daily ritual as your attempt to knock off the edge. 

Also, as alcohol use is seen as socially acceptable, it can be hard to see when there is a loss of control over it. Some symptoms of alcohol addiction are:

  • The constant need to consume alcohol 
  • Change in behaviors 
  • Lack of financial discipline when it comes to alcohol 
  • Cannot drink responsibly 
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Depression

How Lantana Recovery Can Help You Stop Using Alcohol to Mask PTSD

Treatment can help individuals struggling with co-occurring disorders find long-term healing. With our wide range of therapy options, Lantana Recovery can help you acknowledge your humanity and take the pause that you need to process your pain. You do not have to go on using alcohol to make your pain from PTSD. Our therapy programs can help you to address your emotional regulation issues. 

Here at Lantana Recovery, we see the link between mental health and addiction. Due to this, we work to treat the scars of your mind; we are committed to removing the alcohol bandaids and treating the addiction at its core. 

If you are thinking that you may be using alcohol to mask your PTSD, we are here for you. It is okay to acknowledge that something is wrong. We want to help you get back to a sense of normalcy and find your best self. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after traumatic events. When trauma begins to affect everyday life, including emotions, relationships, careers, etc., you may be struggling with PTSD. In order to cope with the symptoms of PTSD, some people turn to alcohol. However, this is only a temporary bandaid and can make PTSD symptoms worse. If you feel like you may be using alcohol to mask your PTSD, Lantana Recovery is here to help. Our outpatient programs include evidence-based and holistic treatment options that help you get to the root of your addiction. By treating your trauma, you can begin to heal from the inside out. To learn more about Lantana Recovery and how we can help you heal, call (866) 997-2870.

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Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.