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How PTSD Can Affect Your Recovery

How PTSD Can Affect Your Recovery

Written by: Marlene Passell | Date: February 26, 2016

Recovery isn’t always easy, especially in the beginning. You may find yourself flooded by a barrage of emotions that run the gamut from anger and grief and guilt to remorse, shame and sorrow.

Fortunately, there are good days, too. Filled with hope, promise and excitement. These good days will often start to outnumber the bad, and with time and work you find that you are no longer so easily swept away by your emotions, even when they are painful.

However, if you are struggling with a co-occurring disorder, it can feel like things are not only not getting better, they are just getting worse.

A co-occurring disorder means that in addition to your addiction, you are also experiencing another issue or disorder. One commonly faced problem is PTSD. When you are suffering from PTSD in recovery, you may experience a worsening of symptoms when you get sober.

PTSD And Addiction

ptsd picture

Over half of people who abuse substances are believed to also suffer from trauma and PTSD. The figures could be higher, but in many cases, it goes undiagnosed. Certainly not everyone who abuses drugs or alcohol has a history of trauma or PTSD, but the numbers are high.

When you consider that it isn’t always diagnosed, and that even when it is, it often isn’t addressed in treatment, it represents a large chunk of the addict population who is not getting the help they need.

How PTSD Affects Addiction, And Vice Versa

For people with PTSD, daily life is often a struggle. Symptoms vary among individuals, but common ones include:

Memory issues, such as not being able recall traumatic events.

Intrusive thoughts and flashbacks of the events.


Feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Feeling jumpy or on edge.

Avoidance of people, places or things that may remind then of the trauma.

Panic attacks.

Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.

Substance abuse

These are some of the symptoms, and they manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Women who have experienced trauma, often as children and adolescents may have these symptoms for years and may not connect them with PTSD or trauma.

It’s common for women who have struggled with PTSD to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and to be prescribed medication such as antidepressants, benzos for anxiety or sleeping pills.

While medications can be a useful tool in the treatment of PTSD, too often the PTSD diagnosis is missed, medications are dispensed and real treatment doesn’t happen.

Self-medication in the form of substance abuse is common, and full-blown addiction is frequently the result.

PTSD And Recovery

ptsd healing

Women who are new in recovery carry many wounds. For addicted women, trauma is a sad reality. This can come as a result of domestic violence, which is common in addicted couples, as well as sexual assault and exploitation.

This is often on top of trauma experienced in childhood, frequently a root cause of substance abuse. By the time a woman reaches rehab, she may have trauma on top of trauma, and be suffering from chronic, long-term PTSD.

All of this comes into recovery with them, along with any co-occurring issues.

It can feel like a losing battle from day one.

Alternately, some women experience a sudden, positive change once they get clean, but when something triggers their PTSD, relapse is a common result.

Unfortunately, women who have PTSD may struggle to get clean and sober many times. So often, it is because they have only received treatment for their addiction, but nothing else.

In order to increase your chances of long-term, satisfying recovery, the PTSD must be addressed.

Treating Chronic PTSD In Rehab

Addiction is a complex illness that requires a multi-faceted approach to recovery and healing. There are underlying issues that must be addressed in order to achieve the best outcome. When PTSD is present, it should be treated along with the addiction through a combination of individual therapy and holistic therapies that have been shown to be effective in treating it, such as art therapy and animal- assisted therapy.

Getting Help At Wayside House

If you are a woman who is trying to heal from trauma and addiction, Wayside House can help. Our program is specifically designed for women and offers not only addiction treatment, but treatment for co-occurring disorders like PTSD.

Our program consists of inpatient treatment at our safe, supportive facility. We also offer outpatient aftercare and an alumni program. If you are ready to be free from addiction, call 800-655-0817 today.