Addiction is often thought to be an overnight experience driven by the intense craving for drugs and alcohol. Some even believe that addiction is simply a lack of willpower, but this is far from the truth. Addiction is often interwoven with mental health problems and past traumas. Trauma especially can play a significant role in the development and sustainment of addiction due to the stress and symptoms associated with trauma memories. Understanding the role of trauma in addiction can help individuals understand why treating trauma is crucial to a successful recovery. By treating your underlying trauma, you can learn how to properly cope and maintain lifelong sobriety.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is the emotional response that occurs in your body following a deeply distressing or disturbing event. It can occur after a single event, multiple events, or long-lasting repetitive events. These events can range in scale and severity and often include natural disasters, accidents, sexual assault, abuse, neglect, combat, etc. Longer responses are possible, with individuals unable to move past the event and continue with their lives. Symptoms can be distressing and can impact daily life for survivors of traumatic events. It should be noted that individuals will react differently to traumatic events. While some individuals may recover naturally and be fine later on, others can have ongoing problems that interfere with their daily lives.
Common initial reactions to trauma include:
Common long-term trauma symptoms:
- Emotional dysregulation
- Feelings of shame
- Physical health problems or pains
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems focusing
- Intrusive thoughts
- Trauma-induced hallucinations
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
While some trauma survivors find healing and proper ways to cope with their experience, others cannot move past the traumatic event. Individuals that do not recover from initial trauma symptoms may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can appear as early as three months after the traumatic event, but delayed onset symptoms can also occur. These symptoms are typically severe enough to interfere with work, school, interpersonal relationships, and other daily responsibilities. Treatment is the best option for individuals with PTSD to help avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Reliving the traumatic event (flashbacks)
- Disturbing or frightening thoughts
- Staying away from triggers
- Avoiding any thoughts or feelings related to the trauma
The Relationship Between Trauma and Addiction
Many trauma survivors that struggle with ongoing symptoms often do not know how to cope with the distress they are facing healthily; this can cause many to turn to drugs and alcohol as an outlet for their emotions. These substances become a coping mechanism that allows the person to escape PTSD symptoms temporarily. However, this can lead to eventual dependence and addiction, wreaking more havoc on the person’s life. A person that struggles with both addiction and a mental health disorder, such as PTSD, has what is known as a co-occurring disorder. As the cycle continues, both disorders can feed off each other and worsen symptoms, leading the individual further down the rabbit hole. The best option to escape this vicious cycle is by seeking treatment for both addiction and trauma; this will give you the best chance at recovery and healing.
Treating Trauma in Addiction Recovery
Enrolling in a treatment program that treats co-occurring disorders is the best route to take when seeking treatment. Treating addiction and mental health disorders separately poses a greater risk of relapse later on. Identifying and treating the underlying issues simultaneously will give you the best chance at overall lifelong recovery.
Programs that treat addiction and trauma often do so through methods such as group therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) through trained trauma-informed clinicians. Group therapy is great for healing trauma; it allows you to connect with others that have also experienced traumatic events. During each session, the moderator will most likely have the group practice mindfulness exercises, emotional regulation strategies, interpersonal skills, and distress tolerance skills. These will help patients learn how to manage their emotions in a healthier manner, become more mindful of the present moment, be more observant of triggers, and learn to foster healthy interpersonal relationships. DBT is great for building upon these skills by helping patients identify self-destructive behaviors and other unhealthy coping strategies that impact their daily lives. DBT will help them better regulate their emotions and boost their overall recovery.
When looking at recovery programs, make sure the facility has trauma-informed care clinicians; this will ensure that you receive the best care available to help your individual needs in recovery. Over time, you will be set up for success and ready to take on a life of sobriety!
Experiencing trauma and coping with long-term PTSD symptoms is tough on anyone. Combining these with addiction can be enough to send someone to the bottom of the rabbit hole — finding the right treatment center is crucial for complete healing. Facilities that offer co-occurring disorder care, have trauma-informed clinicians, and work with each patient’s individual needs are the best choices for individuals struggling with addiction and trauma. Luckily, Lakehouse Recovery Center has all three and more to help you find your way to sobriety. We specialize in co-occurring disorder care and offer our programs online; this means you can still receive care while staying safe at home. We also provide individual and group therapy, DBT, and holistic wellness services. Finding your home in recovery has never been easier. Call us today at (877) 762-3707 to learn more and take your first steps towards healing. Welcome to Lakehouse Recovery Center. Welcome home.