At Addiction Rehab Centers, we recognize that trauma is a sad but undeniable factor in the lives of many of our clients. Some of our clients faced trauma as adults. However, many of our clients had traumatizing childhoods. Unfortunately, there is a significant connection between trauma and addiction, meaning that trauma as a child can lead the adult to abuse drugs and alcohol. However, there is hope at hand. At our Indiana trauma therapy program, we help our clients overcome their past and move into the future. To learn more about our addiction or trauma treatment program, please call Addiction Rehab Centers today at 844.910.0686.
How Childhood Trauma Creates Adult Addicts
Drug and alcohol addiction is exceedingly widespread in the United States, affecting around 22.6 million people. Addiction is usually stigmatized by society and is often depicted as a dangerous habit of criminals and weak-minded people. However, despite being stigmatized, addiction is definitely more intricate than how the media usually portrays it. Its profound association with trauma, especially childhood trauma, is well understood and documented.
Experts suggest that addiction can be an unconscious attempt by the brain to abscond from the pain of trauma. The prevalence of addiction is already high among adult survivors of trauma but is far worse among child survivors. The brains of children are under development and are adaptable. This elasticity allows them to change quickly in order to meet the environment, grow rapidly as they mature, and learn new information. In cases of traumatic events, this same adaptability of the brain becomes dangerous. Children may adopt harmful behaviors and adapt to a negative environment as readily as they may adopt a positive one. If someone you or someone you know has suffered from abuse and became addicted to drugs or alcohol, sexual abuse and trauma therapy can support them as they move through recovery.
The Effect of Trauma on the Brain
Children who have encountered trauma have been shown to develop certain changes in their brains. The development of the brain gets altered and is distorted in abusive and hostile environments. The most well-documented effects are changes in the size of the hippocampus. This area of the brain regulates memory and learning. It also affects the cerebellum, which controls muscle coordination, the corpus callosum, which is responsible for emotional responses, and the prefrontal cortex, which controls cognition, behavior, and emotional regulation.
Trauma during childhood can be in various forms, such as:
- Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
- Loss of loved ones
- Family separation
- Natural disaster
All these forms of trauma alter the children’s stress mechanisms. Consequently, they become more sensitive to stress throughout their adult life. In the long term, stress has been shown to change the shape, size, and frequency of connections inside the brain. As a result, such children are more prone to develop depression and anxiety. They may also be more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction. In one study, more than half of the children who were exposed to trauma under the age of 13 were affected either by alcohol or drug use disorder or by a psychiatric disorder such as depression. Although this study was a small one, it clearly indicates the impact of trauma on the developing brain of children.
Statistical and Causative Link between Trauma and Addiction
Researchers studied the link between trauma and addiction to understand why those battling addictions have a history of traumatic events. Data from around 17 thousand patients in Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences analysis demonstrated that a child who is exposed to four or more traumatic events is up to 46 times more likely to become an injection drug abuser and five times more likely to become an alcoholic.
It is not only young children who experience trauma that may be prone to develop an addiction later in their lives. In 2003, a national survey of adolescents showed that teens who suffered from sexual or physical abuse were three times more likely to report current or past drug abuse than those who did not have any history of trauma. Additionally, in surveys of adolescents who sought treatment for drug abuse, more than 70 percent of the participants gave a history of trauma. Research has also depicted a notable association between drug abuse and trauma in adolescents with PTSD, showing that around 59 percent of the young population with PTSD develop problems related to drug abuse.
Using Substances as a Coping Mechanism
Most of the sufferers of traumatic events begin abusing alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism that allows them to lie to themselves and to others in an effort to run away from facing the truth. They want to escape painful memories, soothe their pain, and create a world around them that they can tolerate – at least in their minds. Facing trauma in childhood does not guarantee that the survivor will develop substance use disorder or addiction. However, it certainly is a significant risk factor for addiction-related behaviors, including alcoholism and drug addiction.
How to Spot Childhood Trauma
In order to spot childhood trauma, we need to identify what can be considered traumatic events for children. These are experiences that cause a child to feel extremely vulnerable, shocked, or terrified. They may think that the situation is life-threatening, whether perceived or real. We also need to acknowledge that different people respond differently to any traumatic event. Signs of possible trauma that need to be noted include:
- Notice personality shifts
- Notice how easily a child becomes upset or irritated
- Watch for regression
- Significant changes in sleep and eating habits
- Unreasonable fear, anger, and rage
- Look for signs of passivity and compliance
- Notice if the child keeps inquiring if the event will reoccur
- Observe if the child fears certain places
- Watch for anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Notice fears that they report
If you’ve noticed one or more of these symptoms in yourself or in someone you love, it is vital to seek treatment as soon as possible.
How to Work with Childhood Trauma: A Practical Technique
Luckily, there is a solution to this suffering. In collaboration with a compassionate friend or a trained therapist, you can work with trauma by exercising the ‘following the energy back” technique. This involves working on the first time you felt that trauma, as all of the subsequent feelings result from re-triggering of that particular pain point. When you can heal the first remembered instance of trauma, you may feel relieved from all the subsequent thoughts and events that occur on a similar line of energy.
Healing from Childhood Trauma and Addiction
Remember that getting angry at your younger self and asking yourself to forget it or get over it will not work. Instead, do the following in order to heal from trauma and addiction:
- Stay in touch with the younger phase of yourself and let yourself express your thoughts and feelings
- Get still, quiet, and centered in your loving heart
- Do re-parenting of your younger frightened self and offer it the compassion you require
- Do the work without any shame, guilt, or judgment
- Keep in mind that this process is not about pushing but praising and motivating
- Take every step with patience; trust the process and in yourself
It is never too late to recover from childhood trauma and addiction as long as you are alive. So, never lose hope.
Seek Treatment at Addiction Rehab Centers
At Addiction Rehab Centers, we understand the challenges you’re facing as you begin the journey to recovery. We want to help you on that journey. To that end, we offer a wide range of therapeutic modalities that can help you understand your trauma and addiction. For instance, our therapeutic options include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Trauma therapy
- Biofeedback therapy
- Experiential therapy
Trauma and addiction have ruled your life long enough. Fortunately, you can take back control. To learn more about our treatment options, please call Addiction Rehab Centers today at 844.910.0686.