What is the Link Between Trauma and Addiction?

A clear link between trauma and addiction has been revealed after years of studies and inquiries, although it remains only one of many explanations for it. Addiction is one of the most difficult disorders to understand. . People blame it on everything from a lack of morals to heredity, thrill-seeking to escape reality, immaturity, selfishness – the list is nearly endless because it’s human nature to want a reason for everything, particularly negative experiences.

In reality, the causes of addiction are as varied as the people who suffer from them. 

Alcohol Addiction Study Results 

The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Department of Veterans Affairs issued an in-depth report with statistics that demonstrate compelling associations linking trauma and addiction to alcohol. Comparable research connecting trauma and addiction has also indicated trauma is often the trigger for other addictions, including drugs and eating disorders.

  • Major accidents resulting in serious injuries and devastating natural disasters such as destructive fires, floods, and earthquakes are linked to between 10 and 33 percent of survivors abusing alcohol or developing an addiction to it.
  • Between 25 and 75 percent of people who have been victims of brutal trauma and/or abuse are reported to develop serious abuse of alcohol.
  • Females who have endured trauma who do not develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are more likely to become addicted to alcohol.
  • Men, as well as women, who suffer from PTSD, are at a significantly higher risk of abusing alcohol.
  • Rates of both alcohol and drug addiction are elevated among males and females who have been sexually abused.

Trauma and Addiction: Influence on the Brain

Trauma has been shown to impact brain processes in a variety of ways, in addition to the detrimental consequences, it may have on your body, heart, and soul. If the trauma causes any or all of these changes in brain function, you’re more likely to become addicted to substances or behaviors that help you disregard the malfunctions instead of finding a way to fix them. Ignoring substance abuse or addiction may lead you to seek help at local centers such as Huntington Beach drug rehab facilities. If addiction escalates, you may require services like those available at detox centers in Orange County.

Memory Processing 

Trauma can slow down your ability to normally place memories in the correct categories. Instead of storing old memories in one section and more current recollections in another, trauma and addiction can skew the process.

Risk Assessment

Normally functioning brains have different levels of the “flee or fight” instincts as well as the intuition that prevent you from walking alone down dark alleys or disarming criminals. Trauma can cause brain dysfunction that makes you paranoid as well as brings on panic attacks, instill feelings of groundless fear, and elevate vulnerability.

trauma and addiction

Behavior Control

When your brain is healthy and functioning normally, you are inclined to make sound decisions. Trauma frequently scrambles those instincts and inhibits cognitive processing, impairs logical thought development, and makes you unable to control your behavior, including the abuse of substances or self-destructive acts like anorexia and physical self-harming.

Addiction as Survival

Contrary to popular thinking, many people who have experienced severe trauma become abusers and addicts, not for recreation but simply to survive. When you feel the world has gone mad and you don’t want to be a victim of the insanity surrounding you, safety and control seem like the perfect solutions to your problems.

Trauma frequently generates feelings of frustration, embarrassment, shame, or other depressing emotions. Addiction is often the result of your desire to protect yourself, to “fix” things. Your intentions are good but your judgment is clouded.
There are seven common thoughts that can lead to addiction stemming from trauma.

Pain Relief 

Ingesting substances that alter your reality often results in adrenaline rushes that mask pain and give you relief from the pain of remembering the trauma.

Feeling Safe 

The euphoric effects of drugs and alcohol instill a sense of safety and security because they let you forget, even for a short time, the vulnerability of being a victim.

Build an Alternate Universe

Trauma victims often live in a world full of horrible memories. Maintaining a mental state through substance abuse creates a more manageable world free of bad memories.

What Do You Deserve?

If you have survived trauma, you are inclined to feel cheated, like you got the short end of the stick in life. Addiction is often viewed as your chance to get what you deserve.

Control is King in Trauma and addiction 

Even though control is admired and often overrated, abusive victims are prone to see it as an antidote to being persecuted. Ingesting mind-altering substances creates delusions of strength and courage many trauma sufferers see as the key to happiness.

A New You

The effects of trauma never disappear. Even if you appear emotionally healthy and self-assured, you’ll frequently have spells of feeling worthless and alone. Immersing yourself in addiction can make you feel accepted and part of a group you can identify with.

Stop Remembering 

People who haven’t been traumatized generally relish the memories of their lives. Trauma victims spend endless hours trying to forget. Substance abuse is a quick and easy way to quash memories.

If you or a loved one needs help, call us at  949-625-4019.


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