PTSD and Alcoholism

The Combination of Alcohol and Traumatic Stress Disorders

Post traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism are two conditions that are unfortunately seen together often. If someone develops PTSD, their propensity to alcohol addiction is greatly increased. Plus, being an alcoholic increases your chances of experiencing trauma.

You or your loved one may already be familiar with how devastating a cycle this can be, and how much it can take to get through each day while you battle on two fronts.

If you have PTSD and alcoholism, keep reading to learn about how Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada can help you find your footing on a path to recovery today!

What Causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Causes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

No matter what the source of trauma is, PTSD can have serious consequences for a person’s mental and physical health. Understanding what kinds of events can trigger the disorder can help you identify if you or someone close to you may be at risk of developing it.


It’s no surprise that one of the most common sources to develop PTSD is war combat. Not only do military personnel confront danger in their daily lives, but they can also be exposed to death and violence on a scale that many people cannot fathom.

It is not uncommon for those who have served in the military to experience flashbacks, nightmares, and heightened anxiety for months or even years after their deployment is over.

Terrorist Attacks

Terrorist attacks are one of the traumatic events that can easily cause people to develop PTSD. While not as common as experiencing other forms of trauma, terrorist attacks can lessen a person’s sense of safety on a daily basis, which can cause co-occurring disorders including developing PTSD.

This can lead to binge drinking and an outright substance use disorder. Remember, PTSD and alcohol are never a good combination if you are attempting to mask your PTSD symptoms.

Victim of Violent Crime

Being the victim of a violent crime carries a heavy emotional burden that can often lead to PTSD. Robbery and sexual assault survivors are at a high risk of developing the disorder due to their traumatic experiences.

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Survivors of Natural Disasters

Going through a natural disaster is one of the traumatic events that can leave lasting emotional scars that often result in PTSD. Those who have gone through floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other disasters can be deeply affected by the experience, leading to anxiety, distress, depression and other mental health disorder.

Losing a Loved One

The sudden loss of a loved one can cause intense emotional pain that may lead to the mental health condition PTSD. While it’s natural for people to go through the grieving process after a death in the family, some may find themselves unable to cope with their emotions and develop the disorder as a result.

Car Accidents

Being involved in a car accident is another one of the traumatic events that can leave people with PTSD, even if they were not physically injured in the crash. The shock of being involved in such an unexpected event and the fear of what could have happened can cause intense emotional distress that may manifest as PTSD symptoms in PTSD sufferers.

Childhood Trauma

One of the most common events that cause PTSD is childhood trauma. This may be sexual abuse, physical abuse, or mental abuse. Sometimes, someone may not remember the abuse that they experienced as a child. On these occasions, it is crucial to work with a mental health professional to get to the root of post-traumatic stress disorder and reduce PTSD symptoms.

PTSD Symptoms

PTSD Symptom

PTSD, or posttraumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person, but some common signs include nightmares and flashbacks of the event, avoidance of anything that might remind the person of the traumatic experience, and emotional numbing or avoidance of feelings. Here are some other common symptoms of PTSD:

Intrusive Memories

Intrusive memories are one of the most common symptoms of PTSD. These can include flashbacks to the traumatic event that can be so vivid and intense that it feels like the person is reliving the experience. This is another symptom that can lead to alcohol use, which in turn can worsen PTSD symptoms like these.


Another common symptom of PTSD is avoidance of anything that reminds them of the traumatic experience. This can include avoiding people, places, or activities. It can also involve emotional numbing and avoidance of feelings, where the person shuts down emotionally and avoids talking about the traumatic event.


Hyperarousal is another common symptom of PTSD, where a person may experience heightened states of anxiety, irritability, and being easily startled. They may also have difficulty sleeping or concentrating on tasks, as well as engaging in reckless behavior. Again, alcohol use can make hyperarousal symptoms worse.

Negative Thoughts and Feelings

PTSD can also lead to negative thoughts and feelings that may last long after the event has passed. People with PTSD may experience feelings of guilt or shame, depression, or difficulty connecting with others. They may have a hard time enjoying activities they used to enjoy, as well as difficulty expressing their feelings.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms are also common with PTSD, including headaches, dizziness, chest pain, fatigue, and stomach problems. People may also experience physical reactions to reminders of the traumatic event, such as sweating or a racing heart.


Nightmares are another common symptom of PTSD. Nightmares can involve flashbacks to the traumatic event or dreams about the event that causes distress and fear. People with PTSD may also experience insomnia or difficulty sleeping due to nightmares.

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Alcohol Abuse and PTSD: The Devastating Connection

When it comes to mental health disorders, there are few more serious than Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a condition that can affect individuals after they experience a traumatic event. It’s often characterized by intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, hyperarousal, and avoidance. While it’s often associated with veterans of war, the truth is that anyone can experience PTSD following a traumatic event such as an accident, mugging, or home invasion.

Many individuals who suffer from PTSD turn to alcohol abuse in order to cope with their symptoms. Unfortunately, this only serves to worsen their condition, as alcohol is a depressant and can compound the issues associated with PTSD. It’s important to understand that this connection between PTSD and alcoholism is strong, so if you or someone you know suffers from both conditions, it’s essential to seek help right away.

What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition. It’s characterized by an inability to moderate or control one’s intake of alcohol, leading to physical dependency and psychological addiction. Note that alcohol use disorder isn’t just about drinking too much; it has serious implications for the individual’s health, relationships, and finances.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Alcoholism?

There are a few common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse to look out for. These include drinking more than intended or drinking for longer periods of time than expected, feeling guilty or ashamed about drinking behavior, hiding alcohol consumption, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors or shakes when not drinking.

Other signs and symptoms include neglecting important obligations, having frequent arguments with loved ones about alcohol use, and giving up activities that were once enjoyed in order to drink.

The Connection Between Alcoholism & PTSD

Those who suffer from PTSD may find themselves turning to alcohol as a means of coping with their symptoms. They may find that drinking helps them forget about the traumatic event or reduces their anxiety and hyperarousal. Unfortunately, what many people don’t realize is that this form of self-medication can quickly spiral out of control and lead to alcohol addiction.

When an individual with PTSD and alcoholism continues to consume alcohol, they are at an increased risk of experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms such as seizures. Additionally, they may experience an increase in their PTSD symptoms due to the depressant effect of alcohol. This can lead to a vicious cycle of drinking and relapse that can be difficult to break without professional help.

Treatment for Alcoholism and PTSD

Treatment for Alcoholism and PTSD

The good news is that there are treatment options available to those who suffer from both alcoholism and PTSD. The first step is to seek professional help in order to diagnose the condition and create an individualized treatment plan. Treatment typically consists of psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.

For individuals with PTSD, psychotherapy is often the most effective form of treatment. This can include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which helps individuals to identify and manage their thoughts and behaviors, as well as exposure therapy which gradually exposes them to their traumatic memories in a safe environment.

For those who suffer from alcoholism, medications such as disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Treatment is also often combined with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding triggers or environments associated with drinking, setting realistic goals for sobriety, and understanding the impact of alcohol on the body.

Ultimately, when both conditions are treated simultaneously through psychotherapy and medications, individuals can more effectively manage their symptoms and lead healthier and happier lives.

At Icarus, as a licensed mental health treatment facility, we fully understand the interplay of trauma and drinking problems and are well-versed in providing care that addresses both issues.

PTSD and Substance Abuse

If you are an alcoholic who also suffers from PTSD, it is likely that you may be struggling with the use of drugs as well. This can be a difficult and dangerous situation to be in for many reasons. Substance abuse often exacerbates the symptoms associated with both alcoholism and PTSD, making it even harder to reach recovery.

People who are alcoholics and have PTSD may turn to substance abuse in an effort to cope with their symptoms. Many people believe that using drugs can help numb pain, soothe anxiety, or block out traumatic memories. Unfortunately, continuing to use drugs while having both conditions often leads to more severe and long-term effects on physical and mental health.

Regular use of drugs can cause an increase in symptoms associated with PTSD, such as nightmares and flashbacks. Additionally, it increases the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. People who are alcoholics and also have PTSD may be more prone to withdrawal symptoms when not using drugs or alcohol, making it even harder to quit.

Using drugs can also take a toll on physical health. Drug misuse can lead to an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing problems. It can also cause a decrease in immune system functioning, which makes it harder for the body to fight off infections or illnesses. Additionally, mixing alcohol and drugs increases the risk of overdose and other complications.

Why is PTSD and Alcohol Combination So Dangerous?

PTSD and Alcohol Combination So Dangerous

When PTSD and alcoholism are combined, the risk of serious complications such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and violent behavior increases drastically. People who experience both disorders often struggle with intense feelings of hopelessness, depression, guilt, and anger which can lead to increased alcohol consumption as a means of self-medication. This vicious cycle can result in serious physical and psychological damage, including liver failure, cognitive impairment, and social isolation.

The combination of PTSD and alcohol can also lead to dangerous behaviors such as risky sexual activities or driving under the influence. These risks are further heightened when combined with other mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, which can lead to further substance abuse and dangerous behavior.

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Find Effective Relief from Dual Diagnoses with Our Support

Alcoholism and PTSD often occur together, as those who suffer from PTSD may turn to alcohol as a means of coping with their condition. This simply isn’t an effective way of addressing PTSD, and it will lead to your symptoms getting worse over time.

Although we know all too well that it can be hard to reach out and ask for help, Icarus is dedicated to making this process as smooth and comfortable as possible.

If you need alcohol or PTSD treatment, our facility in Nevada will welcome you with open arms. Our team has decades of experience treating PTSD, alcoholism, and crucially, a combination of the two.

Call us today for a confidential discussion and get options for relief now!