PTSD and Addiction are All-Too-Common Battles for Veterans

Published on November 4, 2019
Mountainside Canaan Aerial Shot

Canaan, CT – For veterans, many of the toughest battles are fought after returning home from war. This Veteran’s Day, Mountainside treatment center in Canaan, CT, urges people to not only give thanks to veterans for their service but also keep in mind the challenges that America’s heroes often face in recovering from addiction and trauma.

“Trauma and factors such as homelessness, divorce, chronic pain, and suicidal ideation can increase veterans’ chances of developing substance use disorders,” says Andrea Kreisz, Senior Family Wellness Clinician at Mountainside. “Veterans may have self-medicated with drugs or alcohol in the first place to numb their emotional pain, so addressing their substance use as well as the underlying trauma is critical during treatment.”

More than ten percent of veterans have been diagnosed with alcoholism or drug addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Substance use disorders often co-occur with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which disproportionately impacts veterans and may further hinder their recovery from substance use disorders. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs indicates that up to 20 percent of veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD – compared to eight percent of the general population. Symptoms may include avoidance, hypervigilance, insomnia, recurring nightmares, and a sense of detachment from reality.

“When a person suffers from trauma, they’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. A trauma-informed approach is key in helping veterans feel safe and supported, empowering them to regain a sense of control over their lives,” says Kreisz. “Talk therapy and mindfulness practices help form new pathways in the brain, allowing people who have suffered from addiction and other traumatic experiences to reshape negative thought patterns.”

While veterans face additional obstacles in recovery, they can take steps to address addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. Aside from consulting with a therapist, veterans can find assistance through nonprofits such as Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, which helps disabled veterans heal by providing them with an outlet for therapeutic outdoor recreation. Veterans can also look into support groups, where they can meet others in similar situations and learn from their experiences.

For further help managing addiction and trauma, contact a local treatment center.