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Most people have been through a traumatic experience at some point in their lives. This experience could be from physical trauma, such as a car accident, or emotional trauma, such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. No matter what caused the traumatic experience, its effects may linger in a negative way.

Anger, depression, or even terror are just some of the feelings an individual can have after a traumatic experience. Whether the trauma occurred when the victim was an adult or in childhood, in time, most individuals generally move on from these experiences. For others, when trauma occurs the process of healing is hampered.

In such cases, coping with the memory of the traumatic experience may steer a person down a troubled road of substance abuse and the risk of drug dependency. For concerned observers, the relationship between a loved one’s trauma and addiction can be difficult to understand. Why does trauma create such an impact upon the rest of their lives?

What is Trauma?

Trauma is something that happened, that has upset you or brought you physical or mental pain. Your trauma is not for someone else to identify or categorize. If you believe your experience harmed you or caused you physical or emotional pain, then it did. The aftermath of trauma is a profoundly upsetting time in life.

Being traumatized is an emotional reaction to a situation affecting a person’s life, making them fearful of experiencing further emotional and/or physical pain. Disturbing memories of trauma can disrupt day-to-day routines, make socializing difficult, and lead to nightmares, depression or drug abuse. These emotional reactions are symptomatic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder, which may be treated with prescription medication.

For some people every day negative situations could be classified as a traumatic event since we do not react to circumstances the same way. Regardless of how it is categorized, any trauma can be emotionally devastating. Whatever its cause, there is no trauma more or less impactful than another.

For example, someone dealing with parental divorce may experience a level of emotional distress similar to another traumatized individual who had been sexually assaulted. Society may view sexual abuse as an inherently more devastating experience; however, depending on the individual’s response, the psychological effects of the parental divorce can have a similar level of impact.

There are two types of trauma: psychological and physical.

Psychological trauma covers a wide range of emotional experiences, any of which may be mixed with physical trauma from a stressful or even life-threatening situation:

  • Divorce
  • Illness
  • Shock
  • Bereavement
  • Torture
  • Sexual abuse or witnessing abuse
  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Near death encounters
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying
  • Emotional abuse

Physical Trauma covers a wide range of physical harm and/or painful experiences to the body:

  • Torture
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Neglect
  • Accident
  • Illness
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying

Trauma can Increase the Probability of Addiction

Trauma can leave adults and children with hidden emotional distress. Though physical wounds heal over time, emotional and mental scars can affect the lives of those who have lived through a traumatic experience for many years. Trauma can change someone’s life entirely, impact their mental health, and diminish their coping skills. This makes them vulnerable to substance abuse and drug addiction as a coping mechanism.

Anyone that has experienced a traumatic event at some point is at a higher risk for substance abuse and drug addiction, now classified as substance use disorder. Individuals find themselves turning to illegal drugs or alcohol to help “self-medicate” the physical and psychological condition. Often, self-medicating is but an attempt to try and hide their pain or bury their painful memories. Self-medicating generates a vicious cycle that can take the form of substance use disorder.

Mental health is related to trauma

It is common for individuals who have suffered traumatic experiences to suffer from mental health disorders. Mental illness such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression are frequently linked to trauma.

One telltale sign someone is suffering from an unresolved traumatic experience is self-inflicted harm. Often, self-inflicted harm indicates the person feels helpless and that they have nowhere to turn.

Get Help with Co-occurring Disorders and Addiction

Attempts to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol is a dangerous way to deal with your experiences. Substance use disorders can make you do things that would risk your health and safety; things you would not typically do if not under the influence. With the help of a recovery facility specializing in treatment of co-occurring disorders, you can learn how to cope with your feelings without resorting to drugs and alcohol.

The connection between trauma and addiction is real. If you know someone who has experienced trauma and is suffering from drug abuse or addictive behaviors, please contact us at Serenity Acres. Our recovery center has a wide range of addiction treatment and therapy available to you. Our professionals understand specific experiences you may be facing or have faced in the past, and how it affects and influences addiction.

At Serenity Acres, there are multiple substance abuse treatment programs such as medically supervised detox, group therapy, one-on-one therapy, equine assisted therapy, grief and loss counseling, and family therapy. Contact us today so we can help you or a loved one overcome addiction, long-term recover or cope with any traumatic experiences and get you back on track to living a happier life.