Those who experience trauma, especially if it involved sexual abuse, can feel ashamed or guilty. Such feelings can prevent them from seeking trauma treatment so they can begin the healing process. Before you can fully take advantage of trauma recovery, you need to understand why your addiction has such a hold on you. Drug and alcohol addictions provide comfort and are driven by desires that involve the following:
- You want to remain safe. After experiencing trauma, you may feel safer being out of touch with reality, which addiction is able to accomplish, even if for a short while.
- You have a desire to escape memories. Trauma has a way of allowing harmful memories to creep in and constantly haunt you. Addiction dulls the senses and suppresses these negative memories.
- You want to soothe your pain. Whether it’s the substances you use or the rush you get from self-destructive behavior, endorphins and dopamine hormones are released, reducing discomfort.
- You need help coping with intense negative feelings. You can experience overwhelming emotions at any time. Addiction can facilitate the release of tension giving you the illusion that you are better able to cope with the world around you.
If you’ve experienced trauma in your life and are now suffering from an addiction, trauma treatment is absolutely necessary. You must address the underlying issues before you start the trauma recovery journey. Although you may feel totally alone in this journey, just remember you are not alone. There are others who will be beside you during your trauma treatment.
About Trauma and Addiction
Trauma and addiction often go hand in hand. Can you think back to a time, maybe even as far back as your childhood, when you experienced a significant event that was less than nurturing? Maybe you had an experience that went beyond your ability to cope. Perhaps you’ve lived through an ordeal that completely changed your perception of the world around you and your place in that world. If you’ve experienced any of these situations, then you’ve experienced trauma. It’s important to identify and acknowledge the trauma you’ve faced because trauma can activate behaviors that promote survival which can lead to addiction.
About PTSD and Addiction
Often described as “shell shock” for veterans returning from war zones, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) now encompasses other trauma-inducing stressors such as sexual violence (actual or threatened), serious injury (actual or not), or threat of death or exposure to it.
Our understanding has evolved sharply in the last few years and it is important to stress that these stressors can be experienced directly or indirectly (by witnessing for example). What is called the “fight-or-flight” response is triggered by the brain in the face of danger. Your body will experience increased blood pressure, heavier respiration, and higher than usual body temperature coupled with an alteration of brain chemicals. Becoming dependent on any substance is widely seen as an attempt at self-regulation.
Patients want to forget the trauma, disconnect from the anxiety they experience and keep intrusive memories at bay. Addiction issues must be treated concurrently with PTSD, otherwise, substance abuse will undermine all the other efforts made by impairing judgment, and also memory and perception. PTSD and addiction have become common co-occurring disorders over the past decades.
PTSD and Addiction Symptoms
There are common PTSD symptoms and when coupled with addictions, you will be able to notice the following:
- More intense drug and alcohol cravings
- Quicker relapse after addiction treatment
- Increased substance abuse when PTSD symptoms are worse than usual
- Widespread suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and suicide attempts among women
- It is also the case in men, and we can add violence against others and HIV risks behaviors in their case.
On the other hand, regular PTSD symptoms are usually as follow:
- Avoidance: not going places that remind you of the event, not visiting people linked to the event
- Experiencing what happened over and over again: flashbacks, bad dreams, scary thoughts
- Altered Cognition and Mood: having a negative image of self, feeling guilty, having issues remembering something, not being interested anymore in the activities that you used to practice before
- Not being able to sleep properly and experiencing angry outbursts