PTSD Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and possible effects of co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder can be an important first step on the path toward improved health. Sierra by the Sea in Newport Beach, California, is proud to be a source of accurate and relevant information about the impact of co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder.

Understanding Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Learn about co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that is also known as PTSD. A diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder may develop after someone experiences an extremely stressful or traumatic situation. One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is the presence of flashbacks of the traumatic event, which may present as images or sounds of the experience.

Individuals who are struggling with PTSD may experience dissociative symptoms, during which they might feel disconnected with reality. Dissociative symptoms include depersonalization, which causes an individual to feel detached from their own body and thoughts, and derealization, which is when an individual experiences the world around them as distant and unreal. Derealization may also include perceptual changes, such as visual and auditory hallucinations.

Many individuals who are suffering from PTSD may start to use substances to cope with the symptoms of this condition, resulting in the development of a substance use disorder. When a person is suffering from both an addiction and PTSD, it is referred to as a co-occurring disorder.

Seeking care for addiction and co-occurring PTSD is an important first step in learning to cope with the condition you are suffering from. While we cannot cure PTSD, we can provide you with the tools to live a healthier life while preventing any negative long-term effects of PTSD.


Statistics about posttraumatic stress disorder

PTSD is a common mental health condition that affects millions of individuals each year. The National Institute of Mental Health states:

  • About 3.5% of American adults have a diagnosis of PTSD.
  • PTSD is highly diagnosed in survivors of traumatic situations, such as rape, military combat, genocide, and captivity.
  • More females (5.2%) are diagnosed with PTSD than males (1.8%).
  • Of the adults who have been diagnosed with PTSD, approximately 36.6% were classified as seriously impaired, 33.1% were moderately impaired, and 30.2% were mildly impaired.

Causes and Risk Factors for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Potential causes of posttraumatic stress disorder

Individuals with certain experiences, genetic tendencies, and environmental factors have an increased risk of developing PTSD, but this does not mean they will develop this condition. Some of the risk factors for PTSD include:

  • Emotional issues during childhood, including exposure to trauma
  • Existing mental health conditions
  • Growing up in poverty
  • A lack of education
  • Experiencing a semi-permanent or permanent separation from parents as a child
  • Having a low IQ
  • Being raised or taught to take the blame for experiencing or witnessing trauma
  • The presence of poor coping strategies, either through self-development or taught by friends or family
  • A family history of mental health conditions
  • Lack of social support prior to or during a traumatic event
  • Being female
  • Experiencing a traumatic event where there is a perceived life threat or fear of personal injury
  • Continual exposure to triggers that cause someone to relive the event
  • Experiencing additional hardships after the traumatic event, including financial issues or homelessness

Signs and Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder

There is a range of symptoms associated with PTSD that fall into three categories: behavioral, physical, and mental symptoms. You or your loved one may be exhibiting the signs of PTSD if these symptoms have been present for more than one month:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Social isolation
  • Avoiding situations that bring up memories of the traumatic event
  • Not participating in activities that were once enjoyable

Physical symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Jumping or other exaggerated reactions to loud noises

Mental symptoms:

  • Inability to focus on daily tasks
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Fluctuating moods with irritability, hostility, and anger

Effects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The negative impact of co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder

When someone develops co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder and struggles with addiction, the potential exists for a variety of negative effects. This is especially true if one or both of these conditions are left unaddressed.

Posttraumatic stress disorder and any associated substance use disorder can affect mental processes, physical functions, and cause behavior changes. Each of these symptoms can impact many areas in a person’s life and harm the lives of loved ones. These are just a few of the negative effects of co-occurring PTSD if left untreated:

  • Demotion, disciplinary actions, or termination at work
  • Inability to fulfill financial, domestic, or community responsibilities in home, community, or family settings
  • Impaired ability to maintain current social and family relationships
  • Risk of eviction and/or homelessness
  • Participating in reckless or risky behaviors, such as speeding or excessive spending
  • Medical conditions resulting from lack of sleep
  • Poor attendance or performance at work or in school

While there are many negative effects of co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder and addiction, it is possible to live a full and rich life once you seek the appropriate support. By finding a comprehensive care program to address both of the conditions you are facing, you increase your chance of managing symptoms in a healthy and productive way.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who develop posttraumatic stress disorder

Individuals who are suffering from PTSD often also experience other mental health conditions. Some individuals turn to substance use to help relieve the symptoms of PTSD, which can result in addiction.

The following mental health conditions commonly co-occur in individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorder
  • Major neurocognitive disorder

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous