The word trauma refers to an event (or set of circumstances) that leaves lasting effects on your emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and social well-being. While most people associate trauma and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) with military service or dangerous professions, the reality is that most average Americans will experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives.
Types of trauma include…
- Physical or sexual assault
- Emotional or verbal abuse
- Neglect in childhood
- Being the victim of a crime
- Death of a loved one
- Bullying and harassment
- Loss of a job or relationship
- Sudden accidents (automobile accidents, fires)
- Domestic violence
- Natural disasters (wildfires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes)
- Diagnosis of a terminal illness
As you can see, while one-time events can certainly be distressing (such as those resulting in injury, death of a loved one, or the loss of personal property), long-term circumstances can also leave deep emotional scars behind. Living in poverty, dealing with parental neglect, and being the victim of abuse can all lead to lifelong difficulties.
However, many people go through these things and do not experience negative effects in the long term. How do you know if you are dealing with trauma?
Signs of Trauma
Often, victims of trauma go months or years without receiving the appropriate care for their condition. This happens for a variety of reasons. For example, men who have experienced a negative life event may believe that they should “man up” and ignore any lingering anxiety. Others might not know that the things they are feeling are signs that something is deeply wrong. We hope that by learning the symptoms of trauma, you will be better to identify it in yourself and your loved ones.
Signs that someone has experienced a traumatic event include…
- Hypervigilance (edginess or seeming on guard at all times)
- Rapid mood swings
- Persistent anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Memory loss
- Intrusive thoughts
- Isolation or disconnection from loved ones
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- Sleep problems and fatigue
- Constant tension (unable to relax)
- Exaggerated startle response
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Self-destructive behavior
- Increased substance use
The Connection Between Trauma and Addiction
For months or even years after a traumatic event, victims are stuck on a rollercoaster of emotions and physical problems. They may struggle with sleepless nights, health issues, or panic attacks. The tension and anxiety common to those with PTSD can also prompt them to seek a way to relax and forget their troubles.
For many people, a drink or smoke break after a stressful day can become an active path to escapism. Over time, individuals with trauma may seek to mask their symptoms by drinking or using drugs at problematic levels. Whenever they feel stressed or experience a flashback, they turn to their substance of choice. This is the exact situation in which a substance use disorder develops.
This pattern of substance use isn’t just a bad coping mechanism – it can be life-threatening. While drugs and alcohol may seem to offer respite from trauma, they only create a dangerous cycle of using a substance to avoid dealing with one’s problems.
The reverse is also possible; at The Augustine, we believe that trauma is inherent to the experience of addiction. A person using something outside of themselves (drugs, alcohol, or any number of process addictions) has felt trauma when they could not get their fix. Beyond this, the experiences of hiding one’s substance use, sustaining it, and doing things against their character can cause lasting pain. Secret-keeping, anxiety, and social isolation become indispensable.
Substance use disorders can quickly unravel a person’s life, resulting in the loss of one’s job, relationships, and financial stability. For these reasons, it is vital that those dealing with trauma and addiction seek professional help as soon as possible.
PTSD and Addiction: Dual Diagnosis Treatment
When a person suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a substance use disorder, they are said to have a dual diagnosis. Fortunately, comprehensive treatment is available for these conditions. In order to successfully recover from a dual diagnosis, both concerns must be addressed simultaneously. At The Augustine, we provide integrated recovery services which help those struggling with trauma and addiction.
Informed by leading-edge research and evidence-based modalities, our recovery community provides individual and group sessions to those dealing with a dual diagnosis. One of our key approaches is EMDR: eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. This powerful psychotherapeutic method has helped people of all ages to relieve the psychological distress associated with traumatic events. Through EMDR, each client is able to quickly and efficiently reprocess their memories, resulting in improved emotional wellbeing.
At The Augustine, we help to heal all of your wounds, negative beliefs, and harmful habits. Our addiction specialists utilize trauma-informed care along with the 12 Steps to facilitate lasting sobriety and emotional health. To learn more about our approach to dual diagnosis, please contact us today.