Statistically, alcohol abuse and PTSD go hand in hand. An individual with PTSD is much more likely to develop an alcohol problem. In the same sense people with drinking problems often have PTSD, whether the one condition preceded the other or not the link is there. One thing is for certain though having PTSD increases one’s risk of developing alcohol abuse exponentially.
Drinking is often an attempt to escape the effects of trauma
This is due to many factors, among the most common though is the use of alcohol to self-medicate. What is meant by this is that many people use alcohol to forget or escape from the issues that haunt them. The trauma associated with PTSD are precisely the types of issues people commonly attempt to drown with alcohol abuse.
On the other end of the spectrum, people with alcohol abuse problems are much more likely to develop PTSD if it is not already present. Alcohol degrades our decision-making ability, this often leads to violence, when an intoxicated person is presented with confrontational situations most of the time it will end in violence. This violence can be extremely traumatic to both the victim and the aggressor. Trauma, of course, is one of the key factors in the development of PTSD. So, you can see how this vicious cycle can lead to very bad scenarios for all involved.
Helping takes understanding
Now that you understand the link between PTSD and alcohol abuse a little better it is time to look at the ways we can help our loved ones who may be suffering from one or both conditions. The first thing you have to be able to do is identify the signs of alcoholism. The person will likely be moody and distant, they may appear intoxicated on a regular basis. They will likely also lose or gain weight rapidly in the early stages. These are also some other symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
- They cannot quit once they start, often until they fall asleep or pass out
- They must drink much more than others to get intoxicated
- You may notice withdrawal symptoms if they go a long period without drinking (such as shaking or irritability)
- They have given up other activities so they can drink more often
- They keep drinking even if it begins to affect their day to day life
The most important thing to remember is that you cannot force an alcoholic or someone abusing alcohol to change or stop what they are doing. That is a decision that they must make on their own. All that we can do is to help them realize that the way they are living their life is unhealthy. Let them know that you understand what they are going through and you are there for them no matter what. If the person you are concerned for is undergoing treatment this is extremely important. You must stay on top of the person’s recovery process. Offering support and assistance throughout the entire process.