There is a significant correlation between trauma and addiction. Addiction can occur because of trauma and other mental health disorders related to trauma. In turn, those that suffer from a substance use disorder are then at a higher rate of experiencing traumatic events due to engaging in high-risk behaviors. Understanding how trauma increases the rate of addiction and how unresolved trauma can negatively impact an individual’s ability to stay sober is essential to helping those on the road to recovery stay sober and prevent relapse.
Trauma is defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as any event or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as life-threatening or emotionally or physically harmful. It is important to understand that trauma is relative to the individual. What is traumatic for one person may not be for another. Trauma can occur at any time in a person’s life. Trauma has lasting effects that affect an individual’s ability to function emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. There is a wide array of events that could be considered traumatic, including but not limited to grief and loss, rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, or a natural disaster. Long-term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, difficulty functioning in social situations, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. It is likely that many of us have experienced a traumatic event in our lives at one point or another.
The long-term effects of experiencing trauma at any time in a person’s life can lead to the onset of a mental health diagnosis. Trauma can have a great effect on how you feel about yourself and relate to the world around you. The implications of trauma often interfere with daily activities and functioning. Individuals who face ongoing stress and lack support from family and friends may be more likely to experience more severe symptoms and need additional help. The following are a list of mental health conditions all listed in the diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM-5) created by the American Psychology Association; that may arise from unprocessed trauma.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A mental health condition that develops following a traumatic event. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks and nightmares of the event, isolation, increased anger and irritability, negative thoughts or feelings, and constant apathy.
Depression: A mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Depressive disorders can cause sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, trouble in focus and decision making, recurrent thoughts of death and suicide, and unexplained physical pain.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A mood disorder characterized by intense, excessive feelings of fear and worry about everyday situations. Often involves sudden feelings of intense fear or terror that reach within minutes (panic attacks). It is important to note that there are a variety of different types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and some pertaining to specific phobias, all of which can become prevalent after experiencing a traumatic event.
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