Trauma and addiction are oftentimes very much connected. An individual may develop an addiction after having experienced something traumatic whether in adulthood or childhood. If recovery is purposed to prevent relapse and allow an addict to rejoin the real world, trauma counseling and addiction rehab should be conducted together if there is to be the highest chance of sobriety being maintained.

Trauma Counseling

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, defines trauma as coming from “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”

The thing about trauma is that it a widespread, global occurrence that affects people regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic background, or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, it is a highly common experience for Americans and has been found to exist in the lives of those with substance use disorders. Due to this, addressing trauma should be a critical aspect of every treatment method especially if that trauma instigated the addiction. One cannot fully heal from substance abuse if they do not make amends with what has troubled them for so long.

Research has found that trauma, especially when it takes place during childhood, is connected with chronic health conditions as well as behavioral issues, such as substance use. We know that trauma can pose tremendous challenges in careers, relationships, and family life so it is important to explore healing and counseling options to best tackle trauma and promote recovery.

A major step in trauma counseling is to find the root of the issue and identifying symptoms that trauma has taken place. Common signs after traumatic experiences are impaired concentration, sleep disturbance, and emotional instability. This is because traumatized people try to protect themselves by using disbelief, denial, and dissociation. Still they may have trouble completing normal tasks have flashbacks or nightmares that makes them relive the trauma. Counselors should also note that sometimes people exhibit their trauma with physical symptoms. Bodily aches, heart palpitations, sudden sweating, constipation, and/or diarrhea are frequently cited. Recording all of these observances, trauma counselors will then begin asking questions to the patient or reading case stories of other traumatic experiences to deduce what has taken place.

How Trauma Counseling and Addiction Rehab Work Together

We as a society are slowly becoming less judgmental of treatment for mental health disorders. Therapies are less stigmatized and more available, but psychotherapy remains too costly for most people to afford. Even if someone can afford the treatment they may push it off due to the scrutiny that trauma survivors often face. Many survivors encounter so much criticism that they become apologetic for their experiences and so feel unworthy of professional help. Due to this, trauma survivors can seek out alternative methods of assistance and that is where they fall into substance abuse.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has shown the relationship between trauma and addiction. Someone with childhood trauma is five times more likely to become an alcoholic and almost 50% more likely to be addicted to drugs. In addition, 76% of teenagers dealing with substance addiction began their habit after experiencing trauma. Also, individuals who have endured trauma are susceptible to mental health disorders, usually post-traumatic stress disorder but other disorders are common too. 18% of Americans live with a type of mental illness while 8.4% have a substance use disorder. Approximately eight million struggles with both. There is also a trend for addiction to get worse alongside mental illness since substances can heighten certain conditions. For example, hallucinogenic drugs may lead to a psychotic break or the development of schizophrenia.

For those who must contend with the symptoms of mental illness and substance addiction, spurred on by trauma, treatment that ignores the cause of all these issues fails to tackle why that person is experiencing what they are. This makes therapy ineffective and contributes to relapse, which can potentially be deadly. Because of this psychologists and psychiatrists recommend that trauma counseling and addiction rehabilitation be combined during treatment to uncover the deeper underlying trauma rather than just addressing the apparent symptoms of mental disorder and substance use.

Another reason why trauma should be accounted for in addiction rehab is that traumatic experiences make it hard for young people to quit the substance they are abusing. Post-traumatic stress disorder when combined with substance addiction results in a dual diagnosis which must be treated simultaneously since the mental health disorder and addiction irritate one another. PTSD has been mentioned but there are many other disorders that can arise from trauma and also lead to addiction, but still must be treated together, and they include:

  1. Major depressive disorder
  2. Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD
  3. Bipolar disorder
  4. Eating disorders
  5. Personality disorder
  6. Panic disorder
  7. Obsessive compulsive disorder
  8. Depersonalization derealization disorder

There is an understanding that help should be sought for mental illness and substance addiction. But society and our culture downplay the impact that trauma can have on entire lives. Many forget that the stress from trauma alters the brain chemistry, much like disorders and addictions. Stress responses have implications in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. Trauma is also linked to increased releases of cortisol and norepinephrine in the body. It has been found to shrink regions of the brain and impair memory. Trauma is clearly not to be ignored, nor are the potential ramifications of such experiences. It is a medical emergency and demands to be treated as such.

Someone struggling with trauma, mental illness, and substance addiction may feel that they are beyond recovery. But successful overlapping of trauma counseling and addiction rehabilitation can help them to deal with the pain head-on. To tackle the trauma that started everything and put their life on a downward spiral. Trauma does not define anyone, it does not control every aspect of your life. You can assert control over it, as well as your addiction and mental health.

Contact Sunlight Recovery

Many began abusing because they feel that self-medicating will help them to forget the trauma that has happened so they can function in daily life. As addiction progresses, however, it becomes difficult to manage and consumes every aspect of life. Therefore, both trauma counseling and addiction rehab need to go hand-in-hand if addicts are to truly achieve sobriety. Addiction rehab can by itself help patients get clean, but if they encounter triggers after treatment relapse will occur and so it becomes harder to quit substances completely. If you or someone you know wants to find out more about trauma counseling and addiction rehab, contact us at 844-426-0790.