Trauma and Addiction

By: Anita Lui

Published for Salt Lake City, Utah

Trauma and Addiction

Addiction and trauma disorders are very closely linked. Recent studies have found that between 50% and 96% of treatment-seeking substance abusers reported experiencing a major traumatic event in their lifetime.

Trauma can be a single event or a series of events that cause an individual to become overwhelmed with painful emotions. Trauma survivors may have experienced emotional childhood trauma from an abusive parent, loved one, or family friend. The trauma may have been verbal attacks, or physical or sexual abuse. No matter what type of trauma was experienced, the negative impact on the victim runs deep.

People react differently to traumatic experiences. While one person may find the ability to cope with the traumatic event or events, another person may be unable to deal with the trauma. When a person is unable to deal with traumatic events, he or she often feels alone while struggling with feelings of fear and worthlessness. No longer capable of experiencing joy, the person feels hopelessness and despair. Due to the effects of the trauma, sufferers often have difficulty in relationships and suffer low self-esteem.

Many who suffer from trauma choose to deal with their thoughts and feelings alone rather than reach out to those who might be able to help. They may turn to substance abuse to dull the feelings and pain associated with the trauma. It is very common for trauma survivors to have issues with addictions of all kinds, including drugs and alcohol, as they attempt to cope. Addiction coupled with symptoms of trauma is especially complex.

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