Makana Path Blog

February 26, 2021

Trauma and Addiction: Breaking the Painful Cycle

trauma and addiction - breaking the painful cycle

Without proper treatment, trauma can be debilitating. When you experience a traumatic event, it could lead to many other struggles in your life, including substance abuse. Breaking the painful cycle of trauma and addiction is possible and, in fact, is necessary for you to truly recover and be able to live your life fully again.

Was It Trauma?

You may have just been through a challenging experience and now you are asking, “Was it trauma?” Stressful events, even those that create a heightened sense of anxiety, are relatively common. You may have mental and physical symptoms as a result of the stressful event, such as a pounding heart and thoughts of fear and uncertainty, but they typically pass as soon as the event is over.

However, when that event or series of events causes a significant amount of stress and your response to it lasts for weeks or months, you have probably experienced trauma. Traumatic events can make you feel helpless, can cause serious injury or the threat of injury or death, and can instill in you a sense of horror. These events can affect survivors, as well as first responders and other rescue workers, and even your friends and loved ones.

Your response to trauma can vary and can include feelings of grief, depression, and fear. Physical responses can involve changes in appetite and sleep patterns, nausea, dizziness, and withdrawal from your normal, daily activities.

PTSD

When your trauma symptoms persist or get worse in the weeks and months after the event, you might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD can include severe anxiety, persistent memories of the event, and traumatic flashbacks. You might also find that you try to avoid thinking about the event or avoid the place where the event occurred.

Types of Trauma

You can experience trauma from a single event or from a series of events. Types of trauma include acute trauma, which results from a single event; chronic trauma, a result of repeated and prolonged exposure to extremely stressful events; and complex trauma, which results from being exposed to multiple traumatic events. Traumatic events can include physical assault, sexual abuse, bullying, harassment, psychological or emotional abuse, traffic accidents, the sudden loss of a loved one, a violent attack, or natural disasters.

There is a form of trauma that can affect your friends or family members when you experience a traumatic event, known as secondary or vicarious trauma. Anyone who cares for you as you recover from such an event could experience vicarious trauma, including mental health and medical professionals.

Substance Abuse and Trauma

Researchers have found a clear link between trauma and substance use. When you have experienced a traumatic event, you may be tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol in an effort to manage your stress and other symptoms. In fact, trauma and addiction are part of a painful cycle. People with substance use disorders are at a higher risk of developing PTSD. The cycle continues when substance use increases trauma risk and exposure to trauma escalates substance use to manage the painful symptoms.

Trauma and addiction are often intertwined. The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) has found that:

  • One-quarter to three-quarters of people who have survived abusive or violent traumatic experiences report problematic alcohol use.
  • One-tenth to one-third of people who survive accident-, illness-, or disaster related trauma report problematic alcohol use, especially if troubled by persistent health problems or pain.
  • Women exposed to traumatic life events show an increased risk for an alcohol use disorder.
  • Men and women reporting sexual abuse have higher rates of alcohol and drug use disorders than other men and women.

Breaking the painful cycle of trauma and addiction is critical to your mental and physical health. Substance abuse reduces your ability to concentrate, to be productive in work and life in general, to sleep restfully, and to cope with traumatic memories and external stressors. An addiction to drugs or alcohol can increase many of the symptoms of trauma, including emotional numbing, social isolation, anger and irritability, depression, and the feeling of needing to be on guard.

Treatment is the Key to Recovery

Trauma and addiction can be treated successfully and should be treated together. Many people who participate in treatment for substance abuse do not do the work to address the effects of trauma. However, the trauma work can literally be a matter of life and death, which is one of the main reasons that Makana Path was created.

Healing Starts at Makana Path

Breaking the painful cycle of trauma and addiction is possible. At Makana Path, we work with you to safely reprocess your trauma so you can regain control over your life. We’ll address the emotional, physical, and sexual trauma that have led you to your addiction.

We also understand the challenges of staying at home and social distancing during COVID-19 and remain open to provide the help you need during these challenging times. To learn more about trauma-informed treatment, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-313-0978.

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