Does Trauma Lead to Addiction?

female therapist discussing with male patient does trauma lead to addiction

Millions of Americans have the quality of their daily lives diminished as a result of traumatic experiences. This unprocessed and unresolved trauma often leads to substance use or mental health conditions. The connection between trauma and addiction is well-known in the behavioral health industry. The need for professional trauma-informed addiction treatment has never been greater.

Seasons in Malibu understands that trauma and addiction recovery are complex. We offer a comprehensive trauma therapy program that addresses substance use disorder and the co-occurring mental health conditions that often accompany it. Call 424.235.2009 to learn more about how trauma and addiction relate. We are ready to help you or a loved one heal and find recovery.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event that overwhelms a person’s natural ability to process and cope with the experience. This inability to process the trauma can lead to a variety of behavioral health issues. Traumatic experiences can be a single event, like a car accident, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster, or they can be persistent, such as childhood abuse and neglect or domestic violence. These traumatic situations can lead to various mental health and substance use disorders.

Examples of traumatic experiences can include the following:

  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Emotional abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Bullying
  • Terminal illness of oneself or a loved one
  • Death of a loved one
  • Injury
  • Natural disasters, such as an earthquake or fire
  • Car accidents
  • Childhood neglect or a negative, hostile home environment as a child

Symptoms of trauma include the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Lack of self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Persistent negative thoughts
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Problems forming romantic relationships
  • Trust issues
  • Difficulty in large crowds, leaving home, or hearing loud noises
  • Avoidance of specific types of people or places

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is probably the most well-known behavioral health condition stemming from trauma—after all, it is right there in the name. Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when a person experiences a traumatic event and subsequently faces difficulties in coping and adjusting to the point where it disrupts their daily life and functioning. The brain’s natural response to danger—the “fight, flight, or freeze” response—becomes altered, leading to changes in thoughts and feelings. Long after the danger is over, these individuals continue to have flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, among other symptoms, that won’t go away. Each person’s reaction to trauma is unique, and the onset of PTSD can occur weeks or even months after the traumatic event.

PTSD can manifest in many ways, including:

  • Isolation
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Eating disorder
  • Depression
  • Addiction

Unfortunately, this is not the only outcome of traumatic experiences; addiction and trauma often go hand in hand as individuals turn to drugs and alcohol to soothe the symptoms mentioned above.

Trauma and Addiction Recovery – Co-Occurring Disorder and Dual Diagnosis

The only good news about trauma and addiction is that they are both treatable conditions, and recovery is possible with help from professional addiction treatment centers. The important thing about co-occurring trauma and addiction is that they must be treated together because each separate condition fuels the other. This is done through dual diagnosis treatment and working through both the addiction recovery process and the trauma recovery process.

First, the individual will detox to get them physically weaned from substances. Through medication-assisted detox, the individual will have uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms lessened as much as possible. When emotional and psychological symptoms arise, medications for anxiety and depression can be taken in conjunction with close counseling.

As treatment continues, the patient will be able to learn skills to stay sober and overcome their trauma symptoms. Triggers, toxic relationships, and more can all be addressed while in treatment, and a comprehensive aftercare program can be created to continue the work outside of treatment.

Treat Addiction and Trauma at Seasons in Malibu

Getting mental health treatment while in residence at Seasons in Malibu is the ideal foundation for long-term success. We work to ensure that upon your discharge, your success is continued by continued interaction with our team of professionals or by connecting you with elite care providers who understand your specific needs wherever you live.

With our superior team of clinicians, we can succinctly pinpoint those areas of focus that will give the client the most advanced opportunity for success. Our approach towards healing is collaborative, comprehensive, and committed.

Call 424.235.2009 or reach out online to learn more about our programs and services or to get started with treatment today.