Traumatic events shape you. Whether it’s a childhood experience or something you faced as an adult, these situations change how you see the world and how you view yourself. It’s not uncommon to hear that someone who has suffered a traumatic experience now struggles with addiction. Too often, trauma leads to alcoholism or drug abuse.
Why does this happen? There is a deadly link between trauma and addiction. If you or someone you love has a substance abuse disorder because of trauma, that’s not the end of your story. You can find hope and healing, as well as freedom from the substance holding you captive.
Types of Trauma
Trauma is more than a negative experience. It’s an event or series of circumstances that has lasting effects on your mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual well-being. Trauma causes high levels of stress because your mind and body see this event as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening.
Sometimes, those who experience trauma get stuck in a loop, unable to move past or process what has happened. This can lead to a severe mental health disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While this condition is commonly associated with veterans returning from war or combat, the same physiological fight-or-flight responses occur in people who experience childhood trauma. Some people may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and mask their feelings.
There are many types of trauma, with the most common being:
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Emotional or verbal abuse
- Parental neglect
- Bullying or ongoing harassment
- Accidents, like car crashes or fire
- Natural disasters
- Terminal illness
While these are just a few examples, surviving anything where you felt your life was in danger is what causes PTSD.
Signs of Trauma
People who’ve suffered a childhood trauma experience a wide range of side effects, both psychological and behavioral. Sometimes your mind can try to cope with trauma by covering it up, but the signs of the event still come out. Some of the symptoms you can experience as a result of a traumatic experience include:
- Dramatic mood shifts
- Erratic behavior
- Excessive or inappropriate displays of emotions
- Ongoing fear, nervousness or anxiety
- Prolonged agitation or irritability
- Lack of confidence (timidity)
- Eating disorders
- Avoiding things that remind you of your traumatic experience
- Continually reliving the event
- Problems with how you relate with others in your professional life
- Romantic and social relationship issues
Those who sustain a traumatic experience in their childhood are also at an extremely high risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
The Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addictions
The things you experience in your childhood typically follow you into adolescence and adulthood. They shape how you think, behave and react to people and situations. There is a clear connection between childhood trauma and alcoholism and other addictions.
Trauma can create a variety of long-term mental health issues, including PTSD. These issues lead many to self-medicate with excessive drinking or drug misuse.
Dual Diagnosis: PTSD and Addiction
If you have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as an addiction to drugs or alcohol, this is known as dual diagnosis or a co-occuring disorder. Anyone who has a mental health condition and a substance use disorder has a dual-diagnosis — this includes those with severe anxiety, depression or schizophrenia.
To treat a dual diagnosis PTSD, a treatment facility must be able to address both the addictive cycle and the underlying trauma that caused the addiction, which could include an analysis of all trauma-related triggers.
Treating Addiction and Alcoholism Caused by Trauma
Comprehensive addiction treatment and therapy begins with detoxification to wean your body off the substance in a medically supervised environment. Then, a compassionate team of addiction professionals can focus on customized behavioral rehabilitation. Ultimately, through trust and collaboration, you can move past substance use and trauma. As you learn coping mechanisms other than self-medicating, you’ll begin to feel empowered and strong.
While trauma may be a part of your past, it does not need to define your future. At Gateway, our trauma therapy program offers individualized treatment to give you the tools you need to break addiction’s hold. By treating trauma and addiction at the same time, we offer you the best chance of recovery.
Don’t let trauma and addiction impact one more moment of your life. Contact us today to learn more.