Many people who have experienced trauma tend to turn to alcohol or drugs to help deal with emotional pain, bad memories, difficulty sleeping, guilt, shame, anxiety, or even terror. Conversely, those with substance abuse disorders are more likely to experience additional traumatic events resulting from addictive behaviors. Often, people find themselves in a vicious circle where traumatic experiences increase their use of substances, which leads to new traumatic experiences, which leads to worsening substances use for which treatment is required. To better understand the connection between the two, it is helpful to have a clear understanding of what addiction is and what trauma is. 


An Overview of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that impacts the brain. Someone who struggles with an addiction, whether it be to substances or behavior, suffers from a dysfunction in the brain’s areas involving reward, motivation, and memory.  Addiction impacts how the body craves a substance or behavior, especially if its use results in a desirable feeling. Someone with an addiction will continue to pursue acquiring substances or using substances regardless of any negative consequences they may experience. 


An Overview of Trauma

Trauma comes in different forms, and therefore trauma can have different impacts on the body and mind.


Psychological Trauma

Psychological trauma is a response to an event perceived by the nervous system as life-threatening to the individual or a loved one. The results of psychological trauma involve the debilitation of one’s adaptive abilities. Adaptive abilities include cognitive, physical, spiritual, and social capabilities.  


Developmental Trauma

Developmental trauma occurs early in life and disrupts the normal sequences of brain development. Consequently, other aspects of development, such as emotional, physical, cognitive, and social development, are also impacted.

Domestic violence, physical trauma, sexual violence, natural disasters, and witnessing violent events can all result in traumatic outcomes.


The Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

Trauma and addiction are frequently linked as addiction commonly occurs due to trauma and related mental health disorders associated with traumatic events. There are many reasons why people turn to substances after a traumatic event. For some, substances are used to dull the symptoms that develop as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. The use of alcohol or drugs can provide a temporary distraction and temporary relief for someone who has experienced trauma and may be suffering from severe and even debilitating problems across multiple areas of their lives. Unfortunately for the individual, this relief is only temporary, and the use of substances to reduce symptoms can ultimately cause harm. Ongoing substance abuse minimizes an individual’s ability to concentrate, be productive at work or home, sleep well, and cope with traumatic memories and other external stressors.


As noted above, substance abuse can increase behavioral symptoms such as emotional numbing, social isolation, anger, and irritability. In an attempt to self-medicate against memories or reminders of the traumatic experience, the person turns to alcohol or drugs to feel relief. They will use it to the point where they can no longer feel emotions associated with her trauma. These numbed emotions can sometimes cause the person to take risks they wouldn’t ordinarily take, such as drinking while driving, driving at excessive speeds, committing crimes to obtain substances, stealing from friends or loved ones, or acting out violently against those around them. These actions can lead to further traumatic events, which only further their addictive habits.  


Crosspointe Recovery Can Help You With Addiction

When someone is struggling with substance abuse and trauma, it is essential to treat both conditions simultaneously. In these cases, it is best to seek treatment from an experienced and skilled treatment facility with specialized expertise in dual diagnosis treatment programs. If you are experiencing substance abuse related to trauma, contact Crosspointe Recovery today. 

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