Does Trauma Cause Addiction?

trauma and addiction
Every year, millions of Americans will experience a traumatic event. These instances can be difficult to overcome; without proper treatment, some people struggle to cope with the flashbacks, anxieties, and other symptoms that can emerge after a trauma. This may result in attempted self-medication through drugs and alcohol. To more thoroughly understand the relationship between trauma and addiction, please read on.

The Basics of Trauma: Signs, Symptoms, & Common Causes

The first thing to know about trauma is that it is fully individual – if two people are in the same car crash, for example, one may be fine while the other refuses to drive a vehicle again. Both of these responses are valid; there is no “right” way to respond to an event like this. First, let’s discuss the most common traumatic events. Unfortunately, many people begin displaying signs of trauma after experiencing…
  • Abuse (domestic violence, rape, harassment)
  • The end of a significant relationship (divorce, breakup, adultery)
  • Abandonment or neglect
  • Violence in the line of duty (first responders, military)
  • Sudden accidents or injuries
  • The death of a loved one
  • A crime (robbery, assault, kidnapping)
  • Severe illness (terminal diagnosis, sudden sickness)
  • Natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes)
It is important to note that merely witnessing any of the above can create a trauma response. In addition, one’s living situation can be harmful; being raised in poverty or an alcoholic household may provide a certain level of trauma. This can lead to potential difficulty with trauma and addiction. If you are unsure whether you (or someone you love) have developed a negative response to such an event, we invite you to read the following list. These symptoms are commonly recognized in the trauma treatment community. If you know someone who exhibits any of the below, we encourage you to seek professional help. Signs to look for include…
  • Hypervigilance (extreme alertness)
  • Difficulty concentrating (brain fog)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Feeling “out of control” or hopeless
  • Emotional numbing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Muscle tension (inability to relax)
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty sleeping, eating well, or taking care of themselves
  • Nightmares
  • Fatigue (low energy)
  • Tension
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • Recurring, intrusive thoughts about the incident
  • Avoiding reminders of what happened
  • Self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse

Trauma as a Contributing Factor to Addiction

As you can imagine, the bulleted items listed above have the potential to create an addictive cycle of behavior. When a person can’t stop thinking about the terrible things that have happened to them, they may try to numb themselves through drinking or drug use. The victim of a home invasion may begin by drinking a glass of wine before bed in an attempt to fall asleep. When one glass isn’t enough, they’ll drink more – over time, they will develop a tolerance to their substance of choice. This means that they will need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects. Eventually, they will find themselves dealing with an emotional and physical dependence. This situation requires a unique treatment approach tailored to the needs of a person with significant psychological trauma and addiction.  

Addiction Can Cause Trauma

In addition to being at higher risk for mental illness and physical injury, people with addiction may also experience trauma more often than the general population. A life of substance abuse leads to many events with traumatic potential. For example, a person who drinks and drives is more likely to crash their vehicle; car accidents can cause lifelong anxieties about riding in a car. As another example, someone who is arrested as a consequence of their addiction may have a series of negative experiences while incarcerated. These events are impactful and can often carry ramifications that last a lifetime. Because trauma and addiction are intertwined, it is crucial for both conditions to be treated in tandem. At Augustine Recovery, we have developed a program especially for people in this situation.  

Our Trauma Program

In the words of our Director of Development, David Cunningham, “Treatment is unlikely to be effective unless it addresses the trauma in conjunction with the addiction.” That is why we have created a curriculum that reaches far beyond the usual “trauma-informed treatment” programs. Each person who walks through our doors has access to the highest quality of psychological services, ranging from specialty therapies to one-on-one sessions with licensed counselors. Our residents participate in individual and group therapy on a daily basis. One of our most popular offerings is EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This unique approach was developed in the 1980s for the treatment of people with severe trauma; expert tout it as an effective way to resolve anxiety, panic, persistent negative thoughts, post-traumatic stress, and other concerns. Augustine Recovery is one of a handful of American clinics specializing in this groundbreaking therapy. This is especially helpful for the treatment of trauma and addiction. In addition to providing a safe place to recover (and an array of psychological resources), Augustine Recovery focuses on the physical aspects of trauma. Our 90-day programs equip individuals to feel at home in their bodies, practice self-care, prepare nutritious meals, and find a fitness regime that speaks to them. At our facility in St. Augustine, we help you to take your life back. To learn more about trauma treatment in conjunction with rehab, please contact us today. Our admissions team will craft a treatment plan tailored to your needs.