man and woman shaking hands

man and woman shaking hands

There is a known connection between trauma and addiction. A vast body of research shows a clear link between experiencing (or witnessing) a traumatic event and substance use disorders.

Recent data provided by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that more than 22 million Americans ages twelve and older have a substance use disorder. 70% who have or meet the criteria for a substance use disorder have dual diagnoses or co-occurring mental health conditions that evolved from their traumatic experiences.

What is Trauma?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is the “emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.”

Trauma can result from many different circumstances. Each person who experiences trauma does so in a unique way. The symptoms of trauma exposure take time to develop; they may occur in the hours and days immediately after the traumatic experience.

Trauma Symptoms

As each person experiences trauma uniquely, it can be challenging for friends, loved ones, and even medical providers to notice or recognize the outward signs of trauma. Two of the most common early trauma symptoms include shock and denial. These often develop before most other physical or emotional trauma symptoms. Trauma victims may experience flashbacks, physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea, and unpredictable mood swings or emotions as they process their feelings.

Trauma Sources

Trauma develops from several sources. The most common root cause of trauma is experiencing or witnessing an overwhelmingly negative or painful event. Traumatic events leave lasting and sometimes debilitating effects on all aspects of well-being, including physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health. Sources of trauma can be psychological, violent, or both. Examples of trauma sources include natural disasters, witnessing a traumatic event, domestic violence, rape, the death of a loved one, and severe illness or injury.

Secondhand Trauma

It is important to note that trauma can develop when someone learns about trauma secondhand. You do not need to be directly involved (as a witness or victim) in the traumatic experience to experience trauma symptoms. A frequent source of trauma includes learning about trauma that occurred to a friend or loved one.

The safest and most effective way to manage and overcome trauma symptoms is to seek help at a treatment center specializing in trauma-informed therapy.

The Link Between Trauma and Addiction

There are several links between trauma and addiction. The most common is using self-medication. When you or a loved one experience painful and often unpleasant symptoms linked to trauma, it can quickly become overpowering. In some cases, victims of trauma struggle to complete or participate in everyday activities and obligations, such as going to work or school, socializing with friends, going to the mall, or taking care of family and loved ones.

Many trauma victims use drugs or alcohol to help numb the physical or emotional pain. Although substances are successful for a short time, the effects inevitably wear off. The symptoms return and lead to increased use to achieve a lasting escape. Unfortunately, this dependency on drugs and alcohol can quickly lead to a substance use disorder and worsening mental, social, and physical health symptoms.

Steps to Treating Trauma and Addiction

You have a co-occurring disorder when you simultaneously experience the emotional effects of trauma and a substance use disorder. Approximately 9.2 million American adults have a co-occurring disorder. Dual diagnosis conditions often share many overlapping symptoms. The best opportunity for recovery is to choose a treatment program where trauma and addiction treatment occur simultaneously.

We need comprehensive, evidence-based therapy techniques to rehabilitate from trauma and addiction. These techniques will help us learn how to explore and change the thoughts and behaviors that led to addictive behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate.

Another benefit to choosing a dual-diagnosis treatment program is learning how to identify trauma triggers. It is essential to know more about your trauma triggers so you can develop and practice the skills necessary to manage them in safe and healthy ways. Learning about and how to use healthy coping strategies to handle triggers is a vital part of ongoing recovery and relapse prevention.

If you or a loved one struggles with trauma and addiction, seeking help at a dual diagnosis treatment program like ELEVATE Wellness Center in Pasadena, California, is vital for healthy long-term recovery. ELEVATE offers holistic care as our multidisciplinary team carefully addresses your underlying needs and offers the highest quality personalized care. We believe that addiction is a symptom of underlying concerns. Our team of physicians, nurses, and mastered level clinicians collaboratively offers a dynamic approach for your long-term emotional, physical, and social wellness.

Although treatment is an essential first step, completing a treatment program that focuses on only one condition may lead to a relapse and a return to using substances to manage symptoms. Contact your support team at ELEVATE Wellness Center to learn more about how our trauma and addiction treatment programs can help you.