Committing to a program of drug and alcohol recovery requires you to address the root causes of why you developed a substance misuse disorder to begin with. Those reasons are different for everyone, but for many people trapped in the cycle of substance abuse, there is a clear-cut connection between trauma and addiction.
How Does Trauma Lead to Addiction?
To begin to appreciate the link between addiction and trauma, you need a clear understanding of what trauma is. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes trauma as any event or set of circumstances someone views as dangerous or life-threatening. This trauma has lasting effects on their ability to function socially, mentally, physically, spiritually or emotionally.
It’s essential to note that an event you perceive as traumatic may not deeply affect someone else. Understanding the definition is different for everyone can help shift the public stigma that still surrounds trauma. Domestic abuse, sexual assault, robbery, natural disasters and the loss of a loved one are some examples of traumatic events, but there are many forms of trauma.
Why Do Some Trauma Victims Turn to Substance Abuse?
Because of how trauma affects sufferers over the long term, it can be challenging to cope with the negative emotions and stressors that accompany it. This struggle can lead people to turn to unhealthy outlets, including substance abuse. In one study, 90% of residents in a behavioral health care setting reported having experienced trauma. For many, this trauma is often chronic and recurs over several years.
After experiencing a traumatic event, many people may view drugs and alcohol as a way to help mask symptoms like hypersensitivity, social withdrawal, depression and insomnia. At first, these substances may give you some semblance of control, but addiction will gradually inhibit your ability to heal and move forward. Over time, the would-be “cure” causes you just as much physical and emotional damage – if not more – as the original trauma itself.
How to Treat Trauma and Addiction
Trauma and substance abuse are co-occurring disorders that require simultaneous treatment to make a full recovery. In recent years, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has emerged as a promising way for addressing trauma. During EMDR sessions, your therapist will ask you to briefly relive stressful or triggering memories while they direct your eye movements.
The prevailing hypothesis about what makes EMDR effective is that remembering troubling events can be less distressing while you are focusing your attention elsewhere. Over time, the technique helps desensitize you to the impact the memories have on you.
Other effective techniques for treating trauma include dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing.
Trauma-Focused Treatment for Women
A trauma-informed treatment program is the ideal choice for anyone dealing with the dual diagnosis of addiction and trauma. In providing women’s-only rehabilitation, Canyon Crossing’s mental health professionals create a space where our clients can learn to feel comfortable being open about their struggles.
If you need to rebuild your life and feel empowered again after experiencing the emotional and physical ravages of trauma and addiction, contact us today to learn more about our holistic approach.