Childhood Trauma and Addiction

By The Valor Team
Monday, February 3, 2020 at 9:55 am in
girl with teddy bear

Childhood trauma can have lasting effects that continue to influence your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors well into adulthood. Because childhood trauma can lead to addiction, it is recognized that addressing these experiences is an essential part of the addiction treatment process.

In order to prevent your own relapse and find lasting recovery, it is important to seek out true dual diagnosis treatment to address your childhood trauma.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, “Individual trauma results from an event, a series of events, or a set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening, and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”

This trauma can include, among others:
•    Physical or sexual violence
•    Emotional abuse and neglect
•    Major accidents, illnesses, or medical procedures
•    Witnessing violence
•    Bullying
•    Natural disasters
•    Forced displacement
•    Traumatic grief, particularly following the death of a family member, separation from a parent, or divorce of parents

Some of these events are so commonplace that their traumatic nature becomes invisible to those who experience it. Events such as the divorce of parents or childhood bullying, for example, can have a deep and lasting psychological impact, but are too often not understood as trauma the way sexual or physical abuse is. 

Recognizing your experiences for what they are is the first step to understanding how your childhood experiences have shaped you and how they connect to your substance use.

What makes drugs and alcohol so attractive to survivors of childhood trauma? 

Many now believe that it has to do with the impact of such trauma on the brain. A child has certain fundamental needs for emotional development and brain development. The human brain develops under the impact of the environment. The brain’s reward circuitry needs the support of the environment for healthy development, and the result of childhood abuse leads to underdeveloped reward circuits in the brain.

According to brain imaging studies, those who experience childhood trauma may have diminished white and grey matter, potentially impacting a host of critical processes involved in planning behavior, emotional processing and abstract thought; factors that were found to correlate to the development of substance use disorders and depression. 

How is childhood trauma addressed in addiction treatment?

The addiction treatment process is designed to help you break through your dependence on drugs and alcohol by identifying triggers, disrupting negative patterns of thought, and creating new, healthy patterns that will help you stay sober. 

As our understanding of addiction has grown, it has become clear that simply focusing on the addiction in isolation is unlikely to produce durable healing. 
Addiction treatment is more effective when it focuses on the needs of the whole person and targets the psychological and neurological underpinnings of addictive behaviors. For people who have experienced childhood trauma, this includes addressing those traumatic experiences through trauma-focused therapies in the context of a dual diagnosis treatment program.

Trauma-focused therapies are designed to help you explore trauma with the support of therapists who have the training and experience necessary to guide you through the therapeutic process safely, collaboratively, and productively. 

By investigating your experiences and understanding the link to your addiction, you can learn how to express your emotions in non-destructive ways. This includes treating any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be connected to your traumatic experiences, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Dual diagnosis treatment is not just about looking back and focusing on addiction and trauma. It is a chance to discover who you can be without substance abuse and what you can do when you are no longer locked in a traumatic state. With the support of compassionate clinicians, you can learn how to have rewarding experiences without the use of drugs and alcohol and move toward increased connection with the world around you.

Valor Recovery Center offers evidence-based comprehensive treatment that is personalized to meet the needs of each patient, integrated to address co-occurring mental health concerns, and aimed at achieving long-term sobriety. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.

Call 330-330-8777 today.