Continued research on addiction shows us the effects that traumatic events have on the development of addictions. While there is no direct correlation between certain trauma and the likelihood that someone will develop an addiction, studies have shown that trauma has a lasting impact on our brains. Addiction is a maladaptive coping mechanism so it makes sense that addictions develop in response to traumatic experiences.
Trauma is an event, memory, experience, or environment that leaves you with an overwhelming sense of loss, pain, or unhappiness. Trauma can be an isolated event that leaves marks for the rest of your life or it can be an ongoing, daily occurrence. Trauma can be big, emotionally overwhelming events and small incidents that you might not notice for a long time. Traumatic events also include impersonal things like fires, floods, and other natural disasters.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder develops after some people experience trauma. While in a traumatic situation, it’s normal to feel afraid and unsafe, which triggers our fight or flight response. Many people can feel short-term symptoms and then recover but some people continue to feel stressed and frightened when they are not in danger. When this is the case, they are diagnosed with PTSD.
PTSD highlights that the trauma you experienced in the past can still have a huge impact on your daily life years later. Many individuals who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction can trace the beginnings of their substance abuse back to feelings related to trauma.
These emotions are caused by trauma and can lead to substance abuse:
- Isolation or loneliness
Several factors can lead to addiction but we know that people with a history of trauma are often more likely to struggle with addiction. To effectively treat these addictions, trauma-informed therapy can and should be a part of the recovery process.
Since trauma can play a role in the formation of addiction, a comprehensive rehabilitation plan should address any underlying trauma. Methods like family therapy and 12-step participation may be successful, but trauma-informed therapy is the most effective choice for those with a history of trauma.
The first step of any addiction treatment is to address cravings and physical symptoms associated with substance use. Trauma-informed therapy then goes beyond these physical symptoms to address underlying trauma and the deep-seated triggers that can lead to relapse if they’re not addressed. Trauma-informed therapy treats addiction like the symptom of something bigger and gets to the core of the issue.
Through trauma-informed therapy, you will have the opportunity to talk through the traumatic events in your past. You learn how to address your underlying issues and how to deal with the emotions that stem from your trauma. Our brains naturally want to protect us from difficult, painful emotions so it’s natural to repress them and develop ways to cope with these emotions. Unfortunately, these coping mechanisms are often destructive. Trauma-informed therapy is your opportunity to explore your emotions in a safe place. You’ll be able to examine how events made you feel and develop healthy coping strategies.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an example of a trauma-informed treatment modality. EMDR has been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense as an effective form of trauma treatment for people who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Using external stimuli, EMDR helps to unblock and reframe traumatic memories. Recovery in Motion has two Masters-level therapists with experience in trauma-informed care and who are credentialed in EMDR.
Trauma-informed therapy understands that addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum and so shouldn’t be treated in a vacuum. Rehab and recovery are not one size fits all. Each person’s recovery should be as unique as the person receiving it. Trauma-informed care approaches each aspect of your treatment with the understanding that treating your trauma is a necessary, painful part of your recovery.
Benefits of Focusing on Trauma in Treatment
Trauma-informed therapy offers a framework for therapists to approach their clients in recovery. It allows clients to feel safe and secure enough to explore the trauma of their past. Clients can talk about their past experiences and come to terms with their trauma in a way that allows them to heal.
Therapy that focuses on trauma looks past the physical manifestations of addiction and at the real reasons that people relapse. If we don’t address the underlying issues of substance abuse, they will be recurring problems that continue to cause maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance abuse.
After treatment, you will inevitably encounter triggers and temptations. Whether you relapse or not might be because of mental health issues and chemical imbalances in your brain just as much as it might be about the emotions related to trauma. The key to long-term recovery and sobriety is treating as many facets of addiction as possible.
As you seek the right treatment methods for your addiction, look specifically for a facility that offers trauma-informed therapy. At Recovery in Motion, located in Tucson, Arizona, patients have access to trauma-based group and individual therapy throughout a 90-day program. Call today at 866-849-0901 to learn more and to find out how you can start addressing past trauma and conquering addiction for a better, healthier, happier life.