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.
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 feeling, 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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With two thirds of all individuals struggling with a substance use disorder, having experienced some type of traumatic event in their life, it is important to understand that childhood trauma increases risk to substance use in the future. Knowing this, you may be able to take preventative measures to help an adolescent in your life take a different path. In adulthood, seeking counseling services and support groups for individuals having experienced trauma will provide a safe space for both boys and girls to process their experiences in a healthy, supportive, and non-judgmental setting.
Regarding addiction treatment, choosing a program that offers dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders, is a great first step to starting the healing process. Other therapies and modalities that are known to help heal wounds from traumatic experiences include, EMDR therapy, cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy, and trauma informed process groups.
It is never too late to start the journey of recovery. There is support and services available to you. No longer do you have to suffer in silence.
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If you or anyone you know is dealing with issues around mental health or addiction, contact us for a full evaluation and treatment options. We understand that it is not a process that any individual should tackle alone, and that is why we have a team of qualified personnel who are available to offer you the help you need.