The Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

Experiencing trauma has profound impacts. The medical field has long known about the link between trauma and addiction. But why does such a link exist? Why are so many people at higher risk for addiction following traumatic events? First, it is vital to understand that trauma needs to be conceived of as much more than a singular event. Or, in the case of multiple trauma encounters, a series of events. Trauma impacts mental, emotional, physical, and social wellness. Understanding the full breadth of how trauma alters the body and brain is key to seeing the true link between trauma and addiction.

At Olympic Behavioral Health, our trauma therapy program helps people heal from emotional pain. If you or someone you care about might benefit from trauma treatment, our team of experienced professionals is standing by to help. Contact us by filling out our online form or calling [Direct] to get your questions answered about Olympic Behavioral Health’s trauma therapy program.

Common Types of Trauma

Trauma comes in many forms. What links the various types of trauma is the stress response they create in the brain. When faced with trauma, the brain perceives something harmful, maybe even life-threatening, and responds accordingly. Intense stress causes the body to release cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones that are integral to the body’s fight-or-flight response.

Many times what happens is that the body becomes stuck in a fight-or-flight response and is unable to process the trauma to move forward appropriately. The most commonly recognized types of trauma include:

  • Physical and sexual assault
  • Abuse
  • Natural disasters
  • Severe accidents
  • Domestic violence

When the body is unable to fully process past trauma, it can result in a number of psychological and behavioral issues. This could manifest as a mental health disorder or a more specific mental block that causes low self-esteem, irritability, and mood swings.

Linking Trauma and Addiction

Human brains are incredibly adaptive. Using a process known as neuroplasticity, the brain is able to change over time in response to what people experience. This is vital for learning new skills and forming new memories. The brain’s neurons change, grow, and die off in relation to everything we go through. That applies to the good and the bad.

That’s where the trauma and addiction connection appears. Essentially, trauma changes the brain. What happens to us as children have real-world impacts on our adult lives. For instance, childhood trauma is disproportionately present among adults who suffer from alcoholism or other addictions.

This link is suspected to exist because trauma goes so far as to cause abnormalities in the brain that persist. Cognition, proper brain functioning, and healthy brain development are all impeded by trauma. It also creates or exacerbates the potential for numerous mental health disorders. Addiction is often a means of self-medicating in response to a mental health disorder or even just in response to a traumatic event. Self-medicating then becomes the final piece of the link between trauma and addiction.

Treating Trauma and Addiction

Dual diagnosis treatment is a form of addiction treatment that simultaneously addresses a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder. This approach more or less maps on to treating trauma and addiction, even for people who do not enter addiction treatment with a recognized mental health disorder.

Moreover, many of the best addiction treatment centers offer trauma-informed therapy. Any number of traditional therapies can be used in a trauma-informed way that takes people’s histories into account in dealing with their present. Since self-medicating so strongly links trauma and addiction, treatment in these circumstances prioritizes equipping patients with strong coping mechanisms. It is paramount that they learn positive ways of handling stress and navigating triggers.

Heal from Trauma and Addiction at Olympic Behavioral Health

Trauma and addiction no longer need to define your life. Begin breaking their hold over your present and craft a brighter future by calling [Direct] or filling out our online form today.

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