Those individuals who are dealing with excessive stress and anxiety can be tempted to turn to alcohol for solace. In the beginning this type of substance abuse can bring comfort, but in the long term it just makes problems a great deal worse. This is because the individual will not be dealing with their issues; just temporarily numbing the mind to them. The long term consequences of substance abuse can be addiction. This can rob the individual of everything meaningful in life – including their sanity. Those individuals who are dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be particularly at risk of falling into addiction.
PTSD is a severe type of anxiety disorder that people develop after they have been exposed to a traumatic event that led to psychological trauma. The individual who develops PTSD symptoms can find that this severely impacts their life. They may suffer from increased arousal and live in fear for much of the time. Those with the condition may also find it impossible to really connect with other humans on any meaningful level.
The symptoms of PTSD include:
* The individual may have flashbacks to the original event. This is where it feels like the traumatic event is occurring again.
* Frequently thinking about the traumatic event.
* Regular nightmares
* People may have thoughts that frighten them
* If the individual is reminded of the event they may experience a great deal of stress.
* People with PTSD can experience physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate or sweating if they are reminded of the trauma.
* Inability to sleep at night
* Feeling emotionally numb
* The individual may regularly have a feeling that they are in danger
* Difficulties with concentration
* A strong sense of guilt
* The individual may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.
* People may work hard to avoid any thoughts or mention of the event. The individual may even avoid going to any locations that remind them of the trauma.
* Problems remembering exactly what happened during the event
* Constantly feeling on edge
* Symptoms of depression
* Sudden outbursts of anger
* The individual may feel that they can no longer connect with other individuals
There are believed to be a number of factors involved in PTSD including:
* It is suggested that when people are faced with a situation that is too overwhelming their brain is unable to process the thoughts and feelings at the time in a normal way.
* Those individuals who have low self esteem prior to a traumatic event may be more likely to develop PTSD.
* The reactions of the individual after the event may also lead to PTSD; for example if they feel highly repulsed by what has happened or feel judged negatively because of it.
* Brain imaging studies suggest that those who are suffering from PTSD are dealing with an overactive amygdale. This brain structure is related to how people experience fear.
* Another part of the brain that may be involved in PTSD is the hippocampus. This structure is involved in memory formation and those who have PTSD appear to have a loss of volume in the hippocampus.
* It may also be that the individual has problems with their neurotransmitters and that these create false alarms after the event.
The events that are likely to cause PTSD include:
* Being physically or sexually assaulted
* Seeing somebody else be severely injured or killed
* Being involved in a major disaster
* Those involved in large scale conflict
* Being given a life-threatening medical diagnosis
* Being the victim of crime
* Suffering from physical or emotional abuse
* It is suggested that relationship breakups and sudden unemployment may lead to PTSD like symptoms.
Not everyone who has PTSD will develop problems with alcohol. It is true though that when people with PTSD turn to alcohol for comfort it can prove to be a terrible combination; not only for the individual but also for their family. It is believed that 75% of those who develop PTSD will also abuse alcohol. This is dangerous because not only can it exacerbate symptoms but it also increases the likelihood that the individual will commit suicide. It can be much harder for those individuals who develop this type of dual diagnosis to be able to walk away from their addiction or get treatment for their PTSD.
There are a number of treatment options available for people with PTSD. It may be necessary for the individual to begin taking medications such as:
* Anti anxiety medication
* Anti psychotic drugs
* Prazosin (Minipress) is a drug that is often used for treating hypertension. It can also be used for preventing the recurrent nightmares that those with PTSD may experience.
* Antidepressants can not only be helpful for dealing with symptoms of depression but symptoms of anxiety as well.
There are also psychotherapy options for people with PTSD including:
* Cognitive therapy may help the individual to combat the thinking that is causing so much of their problems. The individual can learn improved cognitive patterns.
* Exposure therapy means that the individual faces their fears. This may be done using virtual reality technology.
* Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) combines exposure therapy with a series of guided eye movements. This technique is believed to help the individual process the traumatic event more successfully.
* Hypnosis techniques may be of value for helping people come to terms with previous trauma.
If the individual has become addicted to alcohol then it may be difficult for them to get the most from these therapies. The best approach might be to deal with their addiction and PTSD together.