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Did Trauma Cause My Addiction?

Traumatic experiences can have a high correlation with substance abuse later on in life. These experiences often happen in childhood, but they can also occur in the teenage and adult years. In order to heal from addiction, it’s important to get to the root cause, which is often trauma.

What Is Trauma?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as “an event or circumstance resulting in physical harm, emotional harm, and/or life-threatening harm.” Trauma is extremely personal for each individual, so it’s important to treat it on a highly individualized basis.

Trauma and Addiction

According to a 2010 study in Wiley Depression and Anxiety, “Exposure to traumatic experiences, especially those occurring in childhood, has been linked to substance use disorders (SUDs), including abuse and dependence.” The study points to evidence that has shown that “childhood trauma compromises neural structure and function, rendering an individual susceptible to later cognitive deficits and psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.”

Trauma Isn’t Limited to Childhood

Even though many links have been found between traumatic experiences in childhood and SUD, these experiences can also occur well into adulthood. A 2016 study in Current Psychiatry Reports states that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) “co-occurs with SUD among roughly 40 percent of civilians and veterans.” PTSD may be a result of childhood trauma, but it can also be a consequence of war, abuse, violence, or any other event that changes the shape of one’s life. Anything at all that has negatively affected an individual can be considered a traumatic experience.


Traumatic experiences can lead to anxiety, depression, and many other mental health disorders. As a way to cope, many people will try to self-medicate with illicit substances. The 2016 study in Current Psychiatry Reports notes that several theories have been proposed to explain the link between PTSD and SUD, but the “self-medication theory” is the one that has received the most empirical support.

Uncovering Past Trauma

Often, people experiencing SUD may not realize that a traumatic experience could be the source of it. However, many people will seek treatment for SUD and uncover past trauma in the process. It’s important to be gentle with yourself and take everything one day at a time. The more you focus on your recovery, you will start building healthy habits to replace harmful ones.

Treatment at The Guest House

At The Guest House, our mission is to help you uncover trauma and the underlying cause of your addiction. We offer a variety of both traditional therapies and holistic practices that can help you heal your whole mind, body, and soul. Our programs are designed to help you restore confidence and leave self-destructive behaviors behind. With a wide variety of options, you can find out what works best for you along your personal journey of healing.

Traumatic experiences can occur at any time in your life. It can lead to many conditions like depression, anxiety, and even substance use disorder (SUD). Here at The Guest House, we understand the strong link between trauma and addiction. Our programs are designed to help you get to the root of your trauma so you can find true joy in life and long-lasting sobriety. We offer a variety of healing modalities that will help you find the tools and processes that work best for you. For more information, call us at (855) 483-7800.