Are PTSD, Domestic Violence, And Addiction-Related?

Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC

Published 08/09/2022

Content Warning: This article includes sensitive information about domestic violence, what it looks like, and the effects it may have on a person. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or intimate partner violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233).

The statistics may shock you. Almost 20 million people have a substance use problem. More than 10 million people per year are survivors of domestic violence. And eight million people have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In many cases, addiction can lead to domestic violence, and domestic violence can lead to PTSD.

Each of these is a mental health condition that can be treated. But just because you have an addiction does not mean you will be a survivor of domestic violence, and just because you are a domestic violence survivor does not mean you will develop PTSD. It is important to first examine the three separately.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD is a serious mental health disorder that can affect someone who has experienced some kind of traumatic event. It may be something that you were actually a survivor of, or it could be that you just witnessed a serious or frightening incident. Either way, the trauma that you experienced has left an effect that caused emotional issues. Some of these include:

  • Being in a natural disaster such as a tornado, flood, or earthquake
  • Domestic violence like physical, mental, or sexual abuse
  • Witnessing the death of someone whether you know them or not
  • Being in a war or experiencing combat
  • Working as a first responder like a firefighter or EMT
  • Losing a loved one or family member
  • Surviving a serious accident like a plane crash or vehicular accident
  • Being the survivor of a serious crime like rape, assault, or kidnapping
  • Terrorist attack
  • Divorce or separation

Symptoms Of PTSD

Sometimes it is difficult to know if you are experiencing PTSD even if you know you have experienced a traumatic event. Taking an online PTSD test can help you figure things out. You can also assess yourself to see if you have any of these symptoms.

  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feeling anger and rage for no obvious reason
  • Being paranoid or not being able to trust anyone
  • Frequently being on edge
  • You may feel depressed or sad for no reason
  • Losing interest in your favorite activities
  • Recurring nightmares and night terrors
  • Feeling detached or emotionally numb
  • You may have trouble controlling your anger
  • Flashbacks can happen anytime and anywhere
  • Concentrating and making decisions may be difficult
  • You might feel overwhelmed or helpless
  • Anxiety attacks can hit you out of the blue (heart palpitations, chills, shaking, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, nausea, feeling of impending doom)

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is more than just being physically abused. It is defined as a pattern of behavior used by one person to get control or power over their partner. In fact, in many cases, survivors of domestic violence are not physically abused at all. It may be emotional, economical, or psychological as well. The most commonly reported domestic violence instances include:

  • Physical abuse, which may include punching, cutting, shoving, slapping, biting, choking, or any other type of physical violence. It can also include withholding medical treatment from someone who needs it.
  • Psychological abuse includes being intimidated, or threatening to hurt your friends, family, or pets. Threatening to damage or destroy your property is also considered psychological abuse.
  • Economic abuse is when the abuser withholds money from someone so that they are totally reliant on their abuser.
  • Emotional abuse includes constant name-calling, criticizing, and making fun of a person. It could be that the abuser interferes with your personal relationships and harms your self-esteem.
  • Sexual abuse is when the abuser either forces or coerces a person to have some kind of unwanted sexual contact. This may include sexually demeaning someone, marital rape, and sexual remarks.

Signs Of Domestic Violence

Often, those who are being abused will cover for their partner because they believe that it will not happen again or just because they love them. It may be difficult for someone to recognize the signs of domestic violence. But there are signs to look for, which include:

  • The abuser calls the person names or insults them in front of others.
  • A survivor may be prevented from making their own decisions about school or work.
  • The survivor may seem afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing when the abuser is around.
  • You may see signs of physical abuse like bruises or scratches that they make excuses for.
  • The abuser may pressure their partner to use alcohol or drugs.
  • You may notice that the survivor has to ask their partner for permission to do anything.
  • They do not have control over their own finances.
  • They may isolate themselves.
  • The abuser may be very jealous of everyone.


Addiction is a condition that causes you to crave a certain substance, activity, drug, or alcohol, even if it causes physical, legal, or personal harm. If you or someone you know is experiencing a difficult time with addiction, don’t hesitate to get help at the SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1 (800) 662-4357. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) considers addiction a complex brain disease that makes it almost impossible for someone to resist a certain thing. Some of the most common addictions include:

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Methamphetamines or cocaine
  • Sedatives like tranquilizers
  • Marijuana
  • Narcotics like heroin, oxycodone, and codeine
  • LSD, PCP, or other hallucinogens
  • Gambling
  • Video gaming
  • Internet
  • Sex
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Signs Of Addiction

It may be hard to tell if someone has an addiction or not. Often, those who are addicted to something will do whatever they can to hide it from others. It may be even harder to know if it is you who has the addiction. Some of the signs may include:

  • Drug tolerance:The need for more and more of the substance or activity to get the same effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms:Depending on the drug or activity
  • Riskiness of use:You may take risks to get what you need
  • Social issues:It can cause trouble at work or negatively affect relationships
  • Cravings:You have a strong urge to use the drug or activity when you try to stop

How Are They All Connected?

Although it is not a given, it is common for addiction to lead to domestic violence. In fact, it has been found that almost 80% of domestic violence incidents are related to drug or alcohol use. The problem with any kind of substance use is that it affects the chemicals in the brain and can cause a loss of control that may lead to abuse. This does not mean that anyone who is addicted to drugs or alcohol is a domestic abuser. It also does not mean that anyone who is an abuser is under the influence or going through withdrawal from a drug or alcohol. It just means that it is more likely that the two can coincide. And those who are survivors of domestic violence often develop PTSD.

Can PTSD Lead To Addiction?

Another commonality is that many people who experience PTSD turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. In a study done in the Current Opinion in Psychiatry, it was found that up to 43% of those with PTSD were also affected by some kind of substance or alcohol addiction.

Treating Multiple Conditions

One of the largest problems, when you have a comorbidity of mental health illnesses is being able to treat them all without leaving any out. Treatment usually includes several types of therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and in some cases, a hospital stays for addiction withdrawal.

A therapist may suggest that you do an inpatient withdrawal program for a period of time (typically 30 to 90 days) in some cases. Certain narcotic addictions may require drug therapy as well. However, you will most likely be able to get CBT and other psychotherapies while you are in an inpatient program.

Legal And Medical Matters

Because domestic violence is a life-threatening and legal matter, this may need to be handled in another way. For example, there are domestic violence shelters that provide therapy as well as help with legal and medical issues. The main thing is to make sure you are safe before worrying about anything else.

Psychotherapy Can Be Used for Almost Everything

The best thing about psychotherapy is that it is effective for so many different kinds of disorders, so it can be used for addiction, domestic violence, and PTSD. There are many different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and humanistic therapy.

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  • CBT is a way to examine how your thoughts and beliefs are linked to your feelings and behaviors. You will be taught skills to help you deal with your thoughts in a better way. You will also learn how to deal with stressful situations in a more responsible way.
  • DBT focuses on helping you build better relationships. You will become more aware of your own strengths and learn how to use them to better yourself. This may include journaling, group therapy, and role-playing.
  • Humanistic therapyincludes two types, which are Gestalt and person-centered. Gestalt therapy teaches you how to stay in the present rather than looking at the past. It focuses on becoming aware of your emotions and learning to deal with them better. Person-centered therapy puts you in charge of your own therapy plan.

Try Online Therapy From Home

Although therapy can help most any disorder, many people experiencing PTSD have trouble going out in public or talking to strangers. It may be helpful for you to use online therapy, which is easy to do from your own home with a phone or another electronic device.

For more information on whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, take this online test today.