Traumatic experiences leave a lasting mark on individuals, shaping their perspectives of the world and their own identities. Whether the traumatic events occurred during childhood or later in life, they can influence one’s future actions and well-being. Unfortunately, drawing a line between trauma and addiction tends to be easy; many individuals seek solace in alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.
Understanding the Connection
The interconnectedness of trauma and addiction is well documented. If you, or someone close to you, is battling substance with substance dependency caused by traumatic experiences, it is essential to keep in mind that no one’s future is automatically defined by it.
Healing from an addiction is possible, and help is available.
Types of Trauma
Trauma doesn’t just mean negative experiences. It comprises all events or circumstances that profoundly affect an individual’s mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual well-being. Trauma triggers a stress response, releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol and adrenaline are very beneficial in emergencies, but an excess of them can become toxic. The body may lose its ability to distinguish between a genuine threat and memories of past traumatic events, leading to a state of perpetual distress and anxiety.
Some individuals can become trapped in a cycle, unable to move forward or process their traumatic experiences. This condition doesn’t only affect war veterans but can manifest in those who have gone through other kinds of trauma.
Different events, including physical and sexual assault, domestic violence, emotional abuse, neglect, bullying, accidents, natural disasters, and terminal illnesses, can cause trauma. Any event that instils a sense of life-threatening danger can potentially lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It is not uncommon for people to resort to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication to numb their pain and memories.
Recognising Signs of Trauma
Childhood trauma’s aftermath can result in many psychological and behavioural side effects. Individuals may attempt to bury their traumatic experiences in their minds, but the signs of the ordeal inevitably surface.
These signs may manifest as dramatic mood swings, erratic behaviour, excessive displays of emotions, ongoing fear and anxiety, irritability, lack of confidence, eating disorders, avoidance of triggers, and difficulties in personal and professional relationships.
The Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction
The human brain is remarkably adaptable, thanks to neuroplasticity. Plasticity allows the brain to respond and adjust to life’s experiences. Consequently, events from childhood often continue to influence an individual’s thoughts, behaviours, and reactions well into adulthood. Childhood trauma, in particular, profoundly impacts the brain’s structure and function. Elevated cortisol levels and stress hormones, common in childhood trauma, can hinder normal brain development, leading to cognitive and behavioural problems.
Studies have shown that up to two-thirds of individuals battling addiction have experienced some form of childhood trauma. Moreover, they may model their substance abuse and self-medication behaviours based on what they observed in their caregivers while growing up. The deep-rooted issues associated with childhood trauma often drive people to self-medicate, further cementing the connection between trauma and substance abuse.
When an individual experiences both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance addiction simultaneously, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Those with PTSD may turn to substances to alleviate their symptoms and manage their triggers, which include agitation, hypersensitivity, depression, social withdrawal, and insomnia.
Attempting to self-regulate using drugs or alcohol is an ill-fated endeavour. It only leads to tolerance, worsens the situation, and leads to a vicious cycle, perpetuating the link between trauma and addiction. Dual-diagnosis patients, including those with severe anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia, require comprehensive treatment that addresses both the addictive cycle and the underlying trauma.
Treating Addiction and Alcoholism Resulting from Trauma
A holistic approach to addiction treatment begins with supervised detoxification to rid the body of substances. Following detox, a compassionate team of addiction professionals focuses on personalised behavioural rehabilitation. Through trust, collaboration, and the implementation of coping mechanisms beyond self-medication, individuals can regain their strength and sense of empowerment.
While trauma may be integral to an individual’s past, it need not define their future. At White River Manor, our trauma therapy program is tailored to provide our guests with all the tools necessary to break free from dependency. We offer an individualised and holistic path to recovery by addressing trauma and addiction simultaneously.
Treatment at White River Manor
Do not let trauma and addiction dictate one more day of your life. At White River Manor we treat every guest holistically, ensuring the care is tailored to every individual’s specific needs. Contact us today to discover how our dedicated team can help you heal from past experiences.