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Millions of people diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) have co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The disorders often cause people to experience more severe symptoms and require professional addiction recovery treatment. According to Clinical Psychology, “[C]omorbid PTSD/SUD is associated with a more complex and costly clinical course when compared with either disorder alone, including increased chronic physical health problems, poorer social functioning, higher rates of suicide attempts, more legal problems, increased risk of violence, worse treatment adherence, and less improvement during treatment.” West Coast Recovery Centers uses personalized programs, case management, and evidence-based treatments to ensure clients have the skills and resources to manage co-occurring PTSD and SUD.

The Connections Between PTSD and SUD

PTSD is a mental health disorder that can result from experiencing or witnessing emotionally traumatic events. Individuals who misuse substances have a higher risk of being in environments and situations where they may experience trauma. Untreated trauma has the potential to develop into multiple mental health disorders, including  PTSD. 

Some individuals have a higher risk of being diagnosed with PTSD and substance abuse. Veterans, first responders, and other individuals who live or work in high-stress environments are more likely to experience trauma. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “Almost 1 out of every 3 Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD.” 

A few other risk factors for developing co-occurring PTSD and SUD include:

  • Gender
  • Genetics
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Chronic stress 
  • Physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse and assault 
  • Neglect 

Early childhood experiences are some of the most common causes of SUD and PTSD. However, many other factors play a role. Connections between the two disorders are often complex. Some people may misuse substances as a way to self-medicate and manage PTSD. Other individuals may develop PTSD from trauma caused by substance abuse. Both conditions may also develop independently. 

The Importance of Self-Care

Individuals with PTSD and other mental health disorders benefit from practicing regular self-care. West Coast Recovery Centers offers various alternative holistic therapies and self-care opportunities for clients in treatment. Practicing self-care lowers stress and increases the effectiveness of psychotherapy and other treatments. 

Many people with PTSD have difficulty identifying healthy ways to practice self-care in their everyday lives. Individuals with PTSD often experience guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence related to their disorder. Finding ways to combat those negative feelings and improve self-care reduces the risk of relapse during recovery from SUD. 

4 Self-Care Strategies for People With PTSD and SUD

Everyone has different interests, needs, and preferences. The clinical team at West Coast Recovery Centers collaborates with clients to ensure they have access to activities they find helpful and relaxing. Clients are guided through creating self-care routines to help them heal and grow during treatment and long-term recovery. Listed below are four ways people develop self-care strategies:

#1. Prioritizing Self-Care With a Consistent Schedule

Self-care is only helpful if people prioritize it and frequently practice it daily. Creating a self-care schedule can help people establish healthy routines in early recovery. Clients often work with their care team to develop a schedule for self-care that accommodates personal responsibilities, mandatory treatment sessions, and other daily commitments. 

Some people with PTSD may have symptoms affecting their ability to focus, stay motivated, or remember important information. Creating a physical schedule or using an online app is a good way to manage symptoms and overcome challenges related to co-occurring PTSD.

#2. Setting Clear and Firm Boundaries

People in recovery learn how to set healthy boundaries and say “no” when something may negatively impact their mental health. Individual, family, or group therapy are excellent opportunities for practicing personal growth and setting firm boundaries with loved ones or peers. The clinical team provides guidance and support to ensure clients know how to set boundaries for improving self-care. 

Many people with PTSD have trust issues caused by trauma. Learning to set clear boundaries helps people gain self-confidence and learn to trust others. Increasing self-confidence makes it easier for people to feel comfortable engaging in self-care.

#3. Physical Health Improves Self-Care for PTSD and SUD

People recovering from substance abuse often have lingering health issues affecting their physical and psychological health. In addition, PTSD is known to cause some physical health issues if left untreated. According to the VA, “[T]here is some evidence to indicate PTSD is related to cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and musculoskeletal disorders.” Clients can improve physical health through self-care.

A few ways people reduce health risks associated with SUD and PTSD include:

  • Staying active 
  • Getting quality sleep each night
  • Eating nutritional meals
  • Staying hydrated 

Focusing self-care on physical health provides many benefits, including lower stress. 

#4. Start Small and Set Realistic Goals for Self-Care

People in recovery benefit from setting realistic goals and starting small when creating self-care strategies. Trying to do too much too quickly may backfire and cause some people to feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with unexpected challenges they encounter in recovery. Clients work with their care team to start small and develop achievable goals for self-care.

Self-care is an essential part of maintaining positive mental health. However, the symptoms and side effects of PTSD and SUD often overlap and make it more difficult for people to prioritize their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Treatment programs at West Coast Recovery Centers help clients find healthy ways to manage their dual diagnosis while establishing self-care routines. Clients benefit from engaging with loved ones and spending time doing activities they find enjoyable. Focusing on self-care reduces stress while increasing the effectiveness of psychotherapy and other evidence-based treatments. Clients in treatment are guided through identifying ways to incorporate self-care into their daily routines. To learn more about our programs and services, call us today at (760) 492-6509.

West Coast Recovery Centers ( 370135CP), Valid through July 31, 2025
Jackson House Visalia (540056AP), Valid through May 15, 2025
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