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How Trauma is Linked to Addictive Behavior

Traumatic experiences and events can be difficult to process. Regulating your emotions following an adverse experience can be overwhelming. Therefore, if you are feeling overwhelmed by feelings and thoughts surrounding trauma, it can lead you to self-medicate with substances.

The Relationship Between Trauma and Substance Use Disorder

According to a publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma can impact the way you see and engage with the world like a foreshortened future. A foreshortened perception may include loss of hope, fear that life will end abruptly, or normal life events will not occur. Therefore, the psychological distress that stems from traumatic experiences can lead to substance use disorder (SUD) from self-medicating. Self-medicating with substances is used to avoid or displace difficult-to-process emotions.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

As noted in an article from Depression and Anxiety, there is a strong correlation between adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and substance use. In addition, as SAMHSA notes, the lingering effects of child traumatic stress can include:

  • Learning difficulties, such as low academic achievement
  • Frequent use of mental health services
  • Increased contact with government systems
  • Long-term health problems

Moreover, not only can trauma increase your risk for SUD, but it can also significantly impact your mental health.

Co-Occurrence With Mental Health Disorders

As noted by SAMHSA, without healthy coping strategies, prolonged symptoms of trauma can persist and develop into acute stress disorder (ASD), along with mood and anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Due to the correlation between adverse experiences and co-occurring mental health disorders, you may experience a wide range of psychological and physical symptoms including:

  • Difficulties regulating emotions:
    • Anger
    • Anxiety
    • Sadness
    • Self-injurious behaviors
    • Disordered eating
    • Repression/denial of emotions
  • Emotional extremes:
    • Overwhelmed
    • Numb
  • Physical symptoms of emotional distress

Therefore, it is important for your long-term well-being to build support tools to process the psychological ramifications of ACEs and other traumatic experiences in your life.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders With Trauma-Specific Treatment

The co-occurring mental health disorders and SUDs that often develop from adverse experiences speak to the need for care that addresses the role of trauma in healing. As noted in a guide from SAMHSA, a trauma-specific approach to care is grounded in six key principles:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
  5. Empowerment, voice, and choice
  6. Cultural, historical, and gender issues

With these six principles in mind, our work at The Guest House is deeply rooted in providing a safe judgment-free space where we can uncover and process the core of your self-defeating behaviors. Moreover, we specialize in trauma, which allows us to provide a wide range of therapeutic modalities from a trauma-specific perspective. Therefore, when you come to us you can uncover how your past has informed your present, and truly start to dismantle the self-defeating behaviors and patterns it has led to in your life.

Unaddressed trauma can lead to co-occurring SUD and mental health disorders. Without healthy coping skills, you may turn to substances in an attempt to self-medicate your mental and emotional distress. However, acknowledging and addressing the impact of trauma on your mental well-being can support long-term recovery. At The Guest House, we specialize in treating trauma because we know that the core of self-defeating behavior is unaddressed trauma. Therefore, through a wide range of holistic treatments, we can support your healing journey. To learn more, call (855) 483-7800.