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Connection Between Childhood Trauma And Addiction

Last Updated: Sep 14th 2022

Reviewed by North Jersey Recovery Center

Unresolved trauma and addiction can shape the course of someone’s life. When someone endures a traumatic situation, they are more likely to self-medicate, which can lead to a developing addiction. This is why trauma therapy treatment is a quintessential component for recovery. Traumatic situations change how people view themselves and how they interact with the world. Adding addiction into the fray can result in issues with maintaining or growing relationships of all kinds. North Jersey Recovery Center’s addiction treatment center in Fair Lawn NJ will guide you in the journey of getting to the root of your trauma. For today’s topic of discussion, we will cover the connection between childhood trauma and addiction. 

Where Does Trauma Take Root?

The term trauma is defined as an adverse and malignant emotional reaction to a singular or repetitive event that causes immense physical or psychological harm. It’s characterized by a patient’s inability to move past and process the experience without reliving it over and over again. Trauma victims will typically develop serious mental illness which makes them turn to drugs and alcohol. According to data published in JAMA Psychiatry, more than 30% of all PTSD sufferers develop a major depressive disorder, and the Department of Veterans Affairs reports that ten percent of Americans suffer from trauma-related depressions each year.

Our addiction treatment center in Fair Lawn NJ recognizes that trauma is a broad term that is used to depict a wide range of incidents, with the most common including:

  • Rape or sexual assault
  • General physical assault
  • Domestic or intimate partner violence
  • Extreme verbal and emotional abuse
  • Bullying and repeated harassment of all kinds
  • Natural disasters
  • Terminal illness
  • Accidents like fires or car crashes
  • Parental neglect

The reality of trauma is that it can come from anywhere and manifest in a variety of physical and psychological symptoms.

Understanding The Correlation Between Trauma And Addiction

In some cases, it’s not easy to discern the connection between childhood trauma and addiction. Drinking too much after a series of unfortunate events or medicating with painkillers after an accident are not hard to unpack because there is less time involved between events. Childhood trauma is one of those things that remains unresolved and is typically buried, all while forsaking a proper mental health routine. Our brains are some of the most adaptive organs in existence. It responds and adapts to anything you experience during the course of your life, but sometimes, it needs help. If you don’t address it, your childhood trauma can affect your life today. 

It may lead to inappropriately handling reactions to some situations, sensitivity to topics, and even with the development of addictions. We consider this the through-line that runs from childhood trauma to substance use disorders. Trauma of any kind, not just those that stem from youth, can lead to a smattering of long-term mental health issues, including PTSD. These mental health ailments make self-medication much more likely, serving as a foundation for addiction to fester.

Psychological And Behavioral Trauma Symptoms

People who are dealing with childhood trauma may deal with a number of short and long term psychological and behavioral symptoms that can include the following:

  • Prolonged agitation and irritability
  • Avoidance of things that remind them about the trauma
  • Erratic changes in behavior and mood
  • Consistent fear of nervousness
  • Timid and lack of confidence
  • Continually relieving the events
  • Excessive and inappropriate displays of emotion

Negative Impact On Quality Of Life In Adulthood That Stems From Childhood Trauma

Trauma symptoms that develop in childhood often have a severe impact on quality of life in adulthood, affecting a diverse range of areas.

Professional Life Problems

Data indicates that lingering effects of childhood trauma can later turn up as conflict in the workplace. Trauma experienced in childhood has a direct effect on how sufferers perceive and process the adversity, trust and relate to others, dealing with responsibility, and so on, and so forth. These are all factors with which adults are expected to control in the work environment, each and every day. The inability to process trauma can take a toll on professional mobility and quality of life.

Romantic And Social Issues

Survivors of childhood trauma, especially for those who unfortunately have to deal with sexual trauma or any other kind of physical or emotional abuse, will often have debilitating intimacy issues that create many barriers to forming healthy romantic relationships. This can include how we form general and sexual identity, trust others, develop self-worth, assert our confidence, avoid or embrace destructive relationships, and much more.

Developing Eating Disorders

Binge-eating disorders, bulimia, and anorexia are psychological illnesses that come about from childhood abuse. According to The New York Center For Eating Disorders, 50% of all patients dealing with eating disorders are victims of childhood assault. For many of these individuals, trusting food is safer than confiding in people! It never abuses you, ridicules you, or abandons you. It’s the only constant where you get to say where, when, and how much. In their mind, no other relationship complies with these needs in the same way. 

After all, food is the cheapest and most widely available, mood-altering drug on the market. A good amount of patients saw it as a way to manage unbearable emotions following sexual trauma. The comfort of compulsive overeating, vomiting, laxatives, or self-starvation as well as the numbing effects of the drug of food, can be a short term solution to the pain, grief, and rage of abuse and continue to live on as a coping mechanism in adulthood. 

Is It Possible To Simultaneously Heal From Unresolved Trauma And Addiction?

When dealing with the combined effects of childhood trauma and addiction, you must seek healing for both at the same time. If you work on one issue while casting the other to the wayside, not only will you have a harder time healing, but the symptoms of the untreated issue will continue to drag you down. Say, for instance, you are suffering from PTSD and addiction as a dual diagnosis, PTSD symptoms may trigger a relapse. For this case, you would greatly benefit from a trauma and addiction treatment program. A trauma therapy program is ideal for patients only dealing with a single mental health issue. A dual diagnosis program, as we’ve previously covered, treats both co-occurring mental health issues and helps clients discover the connection between these dual issues. This realization is the commencement of true healing for co-occurring mental health ailments.

In addition to this, an addiction treatment center in Fair Lawn NJ will also medically supervise detoxification, followed by focused and customized behavioral rehab. While each patient’s addiction will vary based on their level of trauma and the scope of their substance abuse, addressing both of these factors is critical to successful management of stress and maintaining your recovery. 

Don’t Let Your Past Dictate Your Future: Get Help From Our Addiction Treatment Center In Fair Lawn NJ

Millions of Americans are struggling with addiction related to one or more traumatic childhood experiences. The difference that determines your life lies in the steps they take to choose their future once they realize they have an issue. Unpacking these issues will not occur overnight. Don’t let your childhood trauma and addiction put you in a corner that you can’t get out of! Get the help you need from our addiction treatment center in Fair Lawn NJ and the surrounding areas. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by North Jersey Recovery Center

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