It’s unfortunate that emotional trauma is so often overlooked when treating an addiction. The truth is that physical, sexual, or emotional abuse is at the heart of many addictions. Studies have shown that drug addicts and alcoholics have a some type of abuse in their past at a much higher rate than the general population. Those who have worked in addiction treatment have been the ones most aware of this fact. Now that more studies have proven emotional trauma plays such a huge role in addiction, perhaps treatment methods can improve and become more effective.
Even traumatic experiences can contribute to addictive behaviors. Children who grew up with three or more traumatic situations are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Other addictive behaviors, such as overeating or sex addiction, can develop as well.
What Exactly Is Trauma?
Trauma is hard to gauge as it is a subjective thing that depends on how an individual absorbs and processes it. A therapist or other outside individual can attempt to name a traumatic event, but in the end it’s up to the individual them self to define it. Trauma can originate with some type of abuse or neglect. It can also be caused by an event that is either witnessed or experienced firsthand. This could be an accident, death, bullying or harassment, or drastic life change. For many children, dealing with any type of trauma means burying their feelings in order to survive. These feelings never do indeed go away if not properly dealt with. As a result, children and adults who were faced with trauma struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction, and other issues.
Drugs, alcohol, or other substances are used to help numb or avoid the feelings connected to a particular trauma. Children of trauma are especially susceptible to doing this. Substances help trauma survivors feel something different than the negative emotions associated with a past event. It can also make them feel more relaxed, alive, or in control. Anything that keeps them from reliving the experience of their trauma is preferable.
How Can This Change Addiction Treatment?
Abusing drugs or alcohol or engaging in risky behaviors may provide relief at first, but in the long run will only worsen the problem. When the behavior begins to seriously damage one’s life, it’s time to seek help and find a healthier way to cope. Many who begin treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism are unaware that trauma is what’s at the root of their problem. As a result, the trauma is never properly addressed during treatment and the individual may continue to struggle with addiction.
Screening for signs of trauma when beginning treatment may help professionals recognize when a patient needs more than just rehab. Dual recovery can help resolve trauma and mental disorders, as well as whatever the addiction the individual originally entered treatment for. With these new findings to back this up, hopefully addiction treatment can improve and help more people escape the downward spiral of addiction.