Substance Abuse & PTSD

Substance Abuse & PTSD

The longer traumatic residue stays in the body and mind the more complex and deeply rooted become the coping mechanisms originally adopted for dealing with being emotionally overwrought.

They become crucial in coping with life and are often tied up with pride and shame.

The Need of a Coping Mechanism while Suffering PTSD

In terms of normal daily stresses, coping mechanisms can be very beneficial; like sports, socializing, cinema, a glass of wine, nature.

In the wake of Post-Traumatic Stress they certainly have a use, in diffusing some of the high energy charge, but at the same time they are frequently destructive to the individual.

The more common ones are: alcohol, drugs/medication, smoking, (binge) eating, sex/porn, but think also of shopping, gambling, TV watching, excessive sleeping or sports, being a workaholic, finding meaning in religion or spirituality, hand-washing or other excessive behavior patterns, compulsive occupation or organizing, and the list goes on.

How Coping Habits can become Problematic

When no attempt or start has been made to resolve the underlying Post-Traumatic Stress, these coping mechanisms become more rigid and will turn into focal points themselves. Even to the point that they are not associated anymore to the original stress, as in:

• ‘I have to stop smoking’
• ‘I shouldn’t drink’
• ‘I don’t want to use dope’
• ‘This time I will eat just a little’
• ‘I really need to get away from my computer, tablet, TV’


But in the thick of traumatic stress activation there is just no way to avoid it. This dual mind-set of ‘involuntary’ indulging very likely creates additional stress reinforcing an unhealthy cyclic release and build up of the high energy charge in the nervous system.

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