Understanding Complex PTSD & Addiction — And How to Find Help

complex ptsd addiction treatment

If you think the trauma you experienced wasn’t “bad enough” to be taken seriously, think again. It’s not just major traumatic events like war, death, or assault that can impact your life for decades. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD) is a deceptively debilitating experience that can cause you to doubt everything you know. Stemming from repeating or prolonged trauma — like living with a narcissistic parent — complex PTSD can devastate your mental health and lead to developing an addiction as a coping mechanism.

What is Complex PTSD?

Complex PTSD is a psychological condition that stems from repeated or prolonged traumatic events, most often during childhood. These traumas can include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence, but also, experiencing a parent with substance use disorder, emotional incest, and other more subtle forms of abuse can spark this issue. 

Unlike standard PTSD, which is typically caused by a single traumatic event, complex PTSD is characterized by accumulated traumatic experiences over time. For example, witnessing an explosion may cause simple PTSD, but several combat experiences over a tour of duty can cause complex PTSD. Experiencing a car accident can cause simple PTSD, but being forced to drive with an intoxicated parent throughout your childhood can cause complex PTSD. The roots of this disorder are many.

Symptoms of Complex PTSD

The symptoms of complex PTSD are similar to simple PTSD. Above all, the American Psychological Association states that it is characterized by emotional dysregulation — including outbursts, anger, sadness, depression, guilt, or mood swings. It can also cause feelings of shame, low self-esteem, worthlessness, and other distortions of one’s sense of self. Relationship issues, problems at work, and substance use disorders are often the result.

Complex PTSD & Addiction

Individuals suffering from complex PTSD often turn to addictive substances or compulsive behaviors in the hopes of escaping their pain or numbing their memories. However, these self-medications only provide temporary relief, creating a vicious cycle of abuse and self-harm. What’s more, trauma can even alter brain chemistry in ways that make individuals suffering from complex PTSD even more susceptible to addiction.

Get Help for Complex PTSD & Addiction 

If you or a loved one suffers from complex PTSD, you deserve professional help. Unwinding years of twisted trauma is not something you should do on your own — especially if addiction is in the mix.

Dual-diagnosis addiction treatment centers like Country Road can help you treat your addiction and your trauma simultaneously, setting you up on the road to lasting recovery. In addition, evidence-based addiction treatment therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can help you ease trauma symptoms and learn coping mechanisms for the future in residential treatment. At the same time, group therapy with a community of supportive people going through the same recovery process can give you new hope.

Indeed, while complex PTSD and addiction can destroy your life, there is hope for recovery. At Country Road Recovery Center, we understand the challenges people face when trying to overcome both complex PTSD and addiction. By seeking professional help, engaging in evidence-based addiction treatment therapies, and building a strong support system, individuals can embark on a transformative journey toward healing and reclaiming their lives on the road to recovery. Reach out today.