Does Trauma Cause Addiction?


What is Trauma, Exactly? 

In mental health terms, trauma is an emotional response to an intensely upsetting or overwhelming event or series of events that can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Things like serious car accidents, military combat, sexual assault or abuse can all be sources of trauma. Those are just a few examples, however. Sources of trauma can come in many different shapes and sizes and the effects of trauma on people can be as diverse as personalities. 

Where Does Trauma Come From?

It is essential to understand that trauma can stem from various experiences. Any serious situation that causes significant emotional distress or feelings of helplessness can lead to trauma. Trauma may come from a single isolated incident or a pattern of incidents over time. The connections between trauma and addiction are complex, but well-established. The symptoms of trauma are challenging to endure for anyone. Addiction presents a special hazard to people living with trauma as they may seek relief from their trauma symptoms in alcohol or drugs. 

What are Some Signs of Trauma?

The effects and manifestations of trauma can vary widely among individuals, but some common consequences include:

  1. Emotional symptoms: Trauma survivors may experience intense emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, guilt, or shame. They might also feel emotionally numb or disconnected from others.
  2. Intrusive thoughts and memories: Traumatic events can lead to recurring, unwanted memories or flashbacks, which can cause significant distress and interfere with daily life.
  3. Anxiety and panic: Individuals who have experienced trauma may develop heightened anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias related to the traumatic event or situations that remind them of the event.
  4. Depression: Trauma can lead to feelings of hopelessness, persistent sadness, or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
  5. Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling or staying asleep, nightmares, or night sweats are common among trauma survivors.
  6. Physical symptoms: Some individuals may experience physical reactions to trauma, including headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, or fatigue.
  7. Relationship difficulties: Trauma can strain relationships, as survivors may struggle with trust, communication, or intimacy issues.
  8. Avoidance behaviors: To cope with their distress, some trauma survivors may avoid places, people, or activities that remind them of the traumatic event, potentially leading to social isolation.
  9. Substance use: In an attempt to self-medicate or escape their emotional pain, some individuals may turn to alcohol or drugs, which can result in addiction or other substance use disorders.

Being able to recognize these signs and intuit when they may be associated with trauma is critical in order for people to get the help they need to both process their trauma and recover from any associated conditions like addiction. Better Tomorrow offers dual-diagnosis care for both addiction and trauma-related conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. In fact, we offer specific treatment for addiction and trauma via our trauma resolution therapy program. 

Can Trauma Cause Addiction?

Yes and no. While trauma doesn’t directly cause addiction, traumatic experiences can lead to a dysregulated stress system, which can make it difficult for people to cope with their emotions and manage their lives in healthy ways. 

This can lead them to turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating and finding relief from the pain they are feeling. Over time, this can lead to an addiction that is hard to break without professional help. It is safe to say that a person suffering from trauma symptoms is often at greater risk for developing a substance use disorder (addiction). 

While it’s not a foregone conclusion that trauma causes addiction, anyone who suffers from significant trauma symptoms must use great care when it comes to drinking alcohol or using any mind and mood-altering substances, prescription or otherwise. 

What if You Have Both Trauma and Addiction?

If addiction does enter the equation, it is important for those suffering from both trauma and addiction to seek dual-diagnosis treatment so they can receive the necessary treatment for both conditions. Treatment should focus on resolving both conditions in tandem rather than just treating one or the other. This will give them the best chance of achieving long-term recovery. 

Treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), group therapy, medication management, and more.

It is also important for loved ones of those suffering from both trauma and addiction to understand how these two conditions interact with each other so they can better support their loved one in recovery. By understanding how traumatic experiences might have led their loved one down the path of addiction, they can provide more meaningful support during treatment and beyond.

Recovery from Addiction and a Trauma Disorder

If you or someone you love is living with significant trauma symptoms and a substance use disorder, Better Tomorrow Treatment Center wants to help. We offer first-rate evidence-based treatment for addiction and trauma at our West Palm Beach rehab center. We work with most major private health insurance providers in the United States. If you would like more information about treatment for trauma and addiction, please give us a call anytime at: (844) 989-1451