Unfortunately, experiencing a traumatic event, especially in childhood, can have negative outcomes if not resolved. For example, substance abuse and addiction can arise from these issues. In this blog, we’ll explore this link between trauma and addiction and explain why dual diagnosis treatment is so important for dealing with these co-occurring disorders.
Could trauma be the driving force behind your addiction? Call The Woods at Parkside for help with co-occurring disorders.
What Is Childhood Trauma?
Trauma is what happens when you become overwhelmed after being exposed to a terrifying, violent, or threatening event. When trauma happens during your childhood, you are extremely vulnerable. As a child, you may be utterly helpless to protect yourself from harm. This is an event that will change your entire life, even if the memory becomes buried under addiction or other mental health issues.
Childhood trauma can arise from a variety of events. Sometimes, the child is directly involved or threatened. Other times when a child sees someone else, especially someone close to them, threatened or hurt, they may experience that as a traumatic event in their own lives.
Any life-threatening event can be a traumatic event. Some examples include:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Physical or emotional neglect
- Seeing a parent struggle with substance abuse or mental illness
- Being separated from a parent
- Death of a parent or sibling
- Domestic violence in the home
- Parents’ divorce
- Being in a natural disaster
- Being bullied
- Having a severe illness or injury
Of course, these are only a few of the possibilities. Every experience is different, and every child reacts differently. Therefore, what may not be much of a problem for one child may be deeply traumatic for another.
In short, childhood trauma consists of a scary event, the child’s perception of it, and its impact on the child after the event is over. The best way to truly overcome addiction is to make dealing with trauma a part of the treatment.
How Childhood Trauma Changes Your Brain
One thing that makes childhood trauma different from traumatic events you experience as an adult is that your brain is still developing rapidly when you are young. During that time, your brain is busy making, breaking, or organizing neural connections.
The traumatic experience affects these connections so that your brain develops in a way that seems at first to protect you from pain and fear. Yet, the long-term result can be much more devastating. When your brain develops through trauma, you become vulnerable to substance abuse disorders.
What Does Childhood Trauma Look Like in Adults?
In some cases, your caregivers, your life circumstances, or other factors can work together to help you resolve your traumatic experience. However, if it is not resolved, your traumatic experience will follow you into adulthood.
Childhood trauma as a child can make you mentally unstable as an adult. It can make you feel guilt and shame, even if the event was not your fault at all. Those feelings can become so generalized that you don’t even know why you feel shame and guilt.
Childhood trauma can lead to problems in forming attachments in relationships. Because you develop unhealthy relationships, your past trauma continues to affect you, your family, and your close friends.
You may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms that carry into your adulthood. Addiction could be one of these ways in which you try to soothe or heal yourself. Unfortunately, the results of this trauma and addiction can be destructive to your physical and mental health.
Where Does Addiction Enter the Equation?
The connection between trauma and addiction has been well-established. What’s more, at least one study showed that the level of substance abuse was greater for those who had suffered greater or more intense childhood trauma. So, why does addiction happen this way?
Addiction as a Response to Trauma
Addiction, as well as the behaviors that contribute to it, could be deeply founded in trauma. You may react to the unresolved trauma, and addiction might follow. Because your brain has now adapted to the traumatic stress, it handles everyday situations in the same ways it handled the traumatic event. That is, you may look for comfort or try to forget through any means you can, including substance use.
Can Addiction Cure Trauma?
For some, the question is not whether they have trauma or not. You may know your addiction and trauma are connected. Unfortunately, it’s easy to tell yourself that the substance is your cure. If it makes you feel better for a little while, it may seem like a cure, if only a temporary one. If it helps you keep going, the substance may feel like a kind of medicine you give yourself.
However, self-medication and substance abuse can lead to a life of more pain, disappointment, and failed relationships. For real healing, you need to address both the addiction and childhood trauma in healthier ways. The best way to learn how to do this is to work with professionals who provide effective, proven treatments for addiction and trauma therapy.
Why It’s Hard to Get Past the Addiction
Addiction is a difficult enough problem to conquer. When the addiction comes from an emotional place of childhood trauma, you likely need professional help to get past your substance abuse disorder. Unresolved trauma and addiction combine to keep you from quitting drugs or alcohol. Only after you deal with both the unresolved trauma and addiction can you develop stability, sobriety, and inner peace.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Over the years, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals have developed effective treatments for co-occurring trauma and addiction. These methods work well to help you get past the worst of the addiction, deal with the trauma, and then build a life of sobriety.
Treating Substance Use Disorders
The first step in treating the combination of trauma and addiction is to lessen the impact of the addiction. In many cases, people have to start with detox to get the substance out of their system. Only when they can think clearly and recognize their feelings will they be ready to process their trauma.
Detox should happen in a safe, structured, medically managed environment. It is true that detox can be extremely uncomfortable and even frightening. Yet, you can get through it much more easily with the help of the professionals available for you at a substance abuse treatment center like The Woods at Parkside.
Dealing with Unresolved Trauma and Addiction
After the drugs or alcohol leave your body, the process of addiction and trauma therapy can begin. As a part of treatment, you may explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the trauma. You may learn new ways to look at your addiction and childhood trauma that led to it.
Many types of addiction and trauma therapy may prove valuable to you. For example, music therapy for addiction recovery helps many people feel a sense of healing from their addiction and childhood trauma. Individual and group therapy can help you address the root issues behind your addiction as well, including traumatic life experiences.
Another aspect of treatment is learning new responses to your past trauma. Your brain may hide your traumatic memories behind addiction. Or you are extremely aware of the traumatic experience. Either way, you can learn better ways to approach the trauma and deal with it.
Finding Healing and Sobriety in Ohio
Trauma and addiction are life-damaging issues until you find healing and sobriety. At the Woods at Parkside, we help people in Ohio deal with trauma and addiction in our co-occurring disorders programs.
Our Dual Diagnosis treatment plans address both your past and current issues. With our medical and psychological professionals and the best treatments, you can address, understand, and resolve your trauma. You can get off drugs or alcohol safely and learn healthier ways to deal with your past and current stressors. Then, you can create a healthier, happier life experience for yourself without the damaging effects of addiction.
Would you like to break the chains of addiction? Contact us at The Woods at Parkside to get help with trauma and addiction.