Avoidance and emotional numbing are ways people with a PTSD diagnosis can avoid remembering their trauma. It’s common for an individual with PTSD to avoid people, places and things that remind them of what happened. For example, if someone experienced a sexual assault at a local pub, they may stay as far away from the pub as possible. People with PTSD may also throw themselves into their work as a way to avoid dealing with their feelings about the trauma.
Re-experiencing is when someone with PTSD relives the trauma. Flashbacks are common, as are nightmares and uncomfortable physical sensations. Some people blame themselves for the event or think about what they could have done to change the outcome.
The Link Between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction
It’s quite common for people with post-traumatic stress disorder to develop addictions to drugs or alcohol. This happens when the symptoms of PTSD become so overwhelming that it seems like the only solution is to engage in substance use. Drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs can help some people with PTSD block out their traumatic memories or put a stop to their flashbacks and nightmares. As a result, some people with PTSD go on to develop serious substance use disorders.
In some cases, a person who struggles with drug abuse or alcoholism may develop co-occurring PTSD due to trauma that occurs when they’re under the influence. For example, someone who sustains a serious injury after drinking may develop PTSD months or even years after the accident. Because substance use disorders increase impulsivity, some people also develop PTSD after engaging in unusual behaviour while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.