Trauma and Addiction

According to the web dictionary, Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.

Even though they might be aware that their behaviour brings about significant problems for them, someone who has an addiction may find it difficult to reduce or stop what it is they are addicted to.

Their addiction often displays a desperate attempt for a meaningful pleasurable experience.

There are considered to be a few possible causes to an addiction from one’s genetics to one’s environment; however, there seems to be a very close connection between addiction and trauma.

According to America’s National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a person who starts developing a dependency on a drug or alcohol has experienced a trauma, as a coping tool, up to 76% of the time.

In psychological terms, trauma is a situation or an event that a person simply cannot cope with. Trauma is a very personal experience that depends upon the individual. It can be a response to a single, one-time occurrence, or it can be developed over time because of a chronic or systematic situation.

Some of the causes of trauma might include: Child abuse, neglect, violence, bullying, accidents, crime, sexual assault, extreme deprivation, natural disasters, domestic assault and war.

A person who suffers from an exposure to trauma doesn’t necessarily need to be the victim, witnessing any of these occurrences can be just as significantly harmful on an individual’s psyche.

An entire list of strong emotions can be experienced due to the exposure to trauma, like: terror, physical and/or emotional pain, helplessness, betrayal, loss, confusion, powerlessness and more.

Some will experience a strong disconnection from their unbearable emotions/body bringing a sense of general numbness and indifference to their living experience.

Most of these emotions or the lack of them are temporary. However, suffering a sufficiently traumatic event or a situation can manifest as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

People turn to substance/alcohol in an attempt to ‘self-medicate’ as they try to deal with the difficult emotions and symptoms associated with PTSD.

PTSD can also make it harder for an individual to stop drinking or using drugs, because any reminders of the trauma can trigger cravings.

Alternatively, substance abuse can significantly hinder the healing process for an individual who wants to face his PTSD and engage with processing unprocessed emotions.

Almost three-fourths of individuals who receive treatment for substance abuse also have a history of exposure to trauma.

Interchangeably, substance abuse can precede traumatic exposure. This direct link is because alcohol and drug use leads people to engage in risky behaviour that may result in injury to themselves or others, like driving under the influence, fighting, and unsafe sexual behaviour, self-harm and increased risk-taking.

So trauma increases the likelihood of substance abuse and substance abuse increases the likelihood of trauma; in treatment, both need to be addressed in order to increase the chances of a successful recovery.

One would need a therapeutic program like ‘Reflections’ which is tailored specifically for him/her as a whole person; a multi-faceted system which our personhood is build upon.


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