Substance Abuse Officially Added to Symptoms of PTSD

The relationship between PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse is not without recognition. In order to cope with high amounts of stress and difficult emotions in living with PTSD, people turn to drugs and alcohol with numb their pain- both emotional and physical. Mental illness of any kind has been proven to increase the likelihood of substance abuse as a form of maladaptive coping as well as a result of compromised cognitive function, i.e. decision making. Just recently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, widely regarded as an authority on mental disorders, has added “reckless and self-destructive behavior” as a symptom of PTSD. When “reckless and self-destructive behavior” is present as one symptom of PTSD, it could worsen other symptoms of PTSD. Other symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Agitation

  • Hyperarousal

  • Hypervigilance

  • Social isolation and difficulties

  • Hallucinations

  • Flashbacks

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Toxic guilt

  • Insomnia

  • Night terrors

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Emotional detachment


For many, unfortunately, the close connection between PTSD and substance abuse is not known. People consider their substance abuse to be separate from their experience of trauma. On the other hand, people may blatantly know that they are abusing substances to cope with their trauma, but may be unaware of the fact that their substance abuse could be worsening their other symptoms of trauma.

The treatment industry is well aware of the harmful effect a dual diagnosis of PTSD and substance abuse can have on an individual. Alcohol, and many drug substances, are depressants, which can worsen thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or depression. Other drug substances are stimulants, which can worsen anxiety, hyperarousal, and insomnia, which can have a string of other effects. Treating substance abuse and PTSD concurrently is referred to as dual diagnosis or co-occurring treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment is essential to making sure all symptoms which contribute to harmful behaviors are effectively assessed and healed. Patients need to be given the tools to cope with all of their symptoms in a sustainable way which promotes healthy living and abstinence from drugs and alcohol.


Smarmore Castle Private Clinic is a dual diagnosis residential treatment facility providing care for both substance abuse and mental health disorders. Our treatment programmes help patients reach optimum health of mind, body, and spirit. Restoring a sense of purpose and meaning, our programmes show patients how to live an abstinent life of long term recovery. For information, call to speak with one of our caring staff members at +353 41 214 5111.

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