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, causes for addiction are as varied as the people who suffer from them. However, years of study and investigation have shown a definite relationship between trauma and addiction, although it remains only one of many explanations for it.
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 of alcohol. Comparable research connecting trauma and addiction have 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 a 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
Besides the negative effects, trauma can have on your body, heart, and soul, it has also been found to actually alter brain functions in a variety of ways. 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 a Huntington Beach drug rehab facility. If addiction escalates, you may require services like those available at detox centers in Orange County.
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.
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 bring on panic attacks, instill feelings of groundless fear, and elevate vulnerability.
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.
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.
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, chronic fear, and constant anxiety.
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
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.
While 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.