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Dealing with PTSD as a Loved One of an Addict

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Dealing with PTSD as a Loved One of an Addict

Imagine walking to your son’s room and knocking on the door, hoping he will say he will be home for dinner this time. There is no answer, but you know he is home due to the blaring music. You knock twice more before swinging the door open because you are tired of his constant lack of courtesy and respect. Then you see him lying on the floor, blue-lipped and motionless. You call 911, and when the paramedics arrive, you hear them say it was a heroin overdose. Although you are not struggling with addiction, you are still vulnerable to the consequences and may find yourself dealing with PTSD down the road.

At New Start Recovery, we understand that even if your loved one survives an overdose or is lucky enough not to overdose from their drug or alcohol addiction, you are highly susceptible to experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The trauma those witnessing addiction in someone they love can have devastating effects, so you must seek trauma treatment. When you need support for PTSD, we are here to help you get through it. Call us today at [Direct> to learn more about our trauma therapy programs.

What Is PTSD?

Psychological disorders like PTSD are very real ailments that need to be diagnosed by licensed clinical professionals so you can get the right treatment. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health problem that some people experience after a life-threatening event. This includes a car accident, an assault, or even an earthquake.

You have probably heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in your life, although you may not realize the range of events that can lead to this debilitating condition. As in the above example, you can experience PTSD by witnessing a traumatic event happen to someone else. You may overlook your symptoms and accept your struggles as normal life stress without knowing this.

Symptoms of PTSD

If you are unsure whether you are dealing with PTSD, here are some symptoms to be aware of:

  • Reliving the event – Experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, or lifelike memories
  • Avoiding memories of the event – Not wanting to address, talk about, or think about the event
  • Negative feelings about yourself or the world – Not being able to feel happy about things that made you happy before the event
  • Hyperarousal – Feeling irritable, angry, easily startled, always alert, and unable to sleep

The Relationship Between PTSD and Addiction

Addiction does not just affect the person using drugs or alcohol. Their loved ones also experience a lot of trauma concerning the addiction, and in serious cases, that trauma can lead to PTSD. Even if a loved one did not necessarily experience a defining life-threatening event, constantly caring for a person struggling with addiction can be life-threatening in the long run. Living in chaos, dealing with the person’s faults, and trying to love someone who cannot love back will change a person’s way of thinking, feeling, and living, which is life-threatening in and of itself.

Examples of PTSD triggers caused by a loved one’s addiction:

  • Witnessing a loved one overdose
  • Seeing the aftermath of an overdose
  • Death
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Seeing a parent passed out or incoherent
  • Losing a home, kids, or even the person struggling with addiction

Sometimes a person might not classify as experiencing PTSD but could still be severely affected by the loved one’s addiction. Most commonly, the loved one will start living as the caregiver for others while sacrificing their well-being. Living with a loved one struggling with addiction means that you have to be responsible for two people. You might feel that you have to take care of and clean up after them. However, caring for someone with an addiction can be self-detrimental because:

  • You are not getting any confirmation, appreciation, or love back from them.
  • You do not have enough time or effort to care for yourself.
  • Even if they get treatment or you move on from them, the time spent on that person will still change how you live your life afterward.

If you love someone who struggles with addiction, remember that you have resources to support you. Al-Anon is a fellowship created for friends and families of people with addiction looking for support in dealing with their loved ones’ addictions. Check out their website to find a meeting near you.

Dealing With PTSD Due to a Parent’s Addiction

Children are incredibly likely to experience symptoms of PTSD if a parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol. A parent is supposed to be the child’s caregiver, but those roles are reversed when struggling with addiction. The child is forced to mature more quickly and take care of their parent’s addiction. Some triggers for PTSD in a child include seeing a parent hit rock bottom, witnessing a parent overdose, and being taken away from the parent by protective services.

Children can experience the common PTSD symptoms listed above in addition to:

  • Acting out the trauma through play
  • Retelling the trauma through stories
  • Avoiding school
  • Having trouble with schoolwork
  • Having trouble with friends
  • Running away

Besides post-traumatic stress disorder, a parent’s addiction can also cause a child to become codependent. Dealing with an addicted parent can also change how a child will act in adulthood. A parent’s addiction can cause a child to constantly seek approval in adulthood and make excuses for other people, causing them harm.

Overcome PTSD and Addiction at New Start Recovery

At New Start Recovery, we know that it is imperative to seek trauma treatment for PTSD as it can quickly develop into other mental health problems. For example, PTSD can lead to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse if left untreated. You can help prevent or alleviate symptoms of PTSD by helping a loved one struggling with addiction enroll in a treatment program as well. Help yourself and your loved one by calling us at 855-737-7363 for a free and confidential assessment.

Posted in Addiction, Addiction Recovery Support, For Loved Ones, Health and Wellness, Trauma, Trauma Treatment Program