Researchers have long understood that addiction commonly occurs with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When its impact reaches a serious level for an individual, a therapist will identify PTSD as a co-occurring disorder with addiction. By learning about how co-occurring disorders and addiction can affect the brain, we can discover why the need for co-occurring treatment is so imperative.

What Is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

Sometimes referred to as dual diagnosis, a co-occurring disorder diagnosis is made when a sufferer presents with both an addiction and a mental health disorder like PTSD. Co-occurring disorders always refer to the presence of both addiction and a mental health disorder, but it can include disorders aside from PTSD.

For instance, a person might suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and an addiction to pain killers. Another might present with alcoholism and depression. While either condition is serious on its own, together they pose a decided challenge for the sufferer. Treating both simultaneously is the best method for managing concurrent disorders.

How Does Addiction Affect the Brain?

Over time, abusing substances like alcohol or drugs alters the chemistry of the brain. Someone using these, however, may not notice these effects because that’s often the point of using them in the first place–to achieve an altered state of mind.

However, the intoxicating effect is not the only alteration happening in the brain. Over time, both gray and white matter are damaged by addictive substances.

The result varies among individuals in terms of severity, but effects like foggy memory, impaired cognitive function, and dementia can result. Moreover, someone who abuses drugs or alcohol on a chronic basis can literally give themselves a mental illness that can range from depression to psychosis.

How Does Addiction Affect Mental Illness?

Someone with a mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorder can be plagued by its symptoms, so much so that they may turn to alcohol or drugs to relieve them. In the short term, individuals may find relief in alcohol or drugs, but the relief is short lived because with regular use of addictive substances, tolerance ensues.

When the same dose doesn’t produce the same relief, the user increases the dose. As the dose continues to be increased and the tolerance level cemented, an addiction develops.

It’s easy to see how these very separate conditions can overlap and impact each other in destructive ways. Getting the proper treatment is the key.

While addiction and mental illness may never be cured, they can be successfully managed so that the sufferer doesn’t suffer from these conditions any longer and can enjoy a normal and productive life.

If you suspect your loved one many be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and addiction, it’s important to encourage them to seek help from an addiction treatment center where both conditions can be dealt with at the same time for best results.