Why Trauma is at the Heart of Addiction

You may have heard the term “trauma” used in many areas of your life. News stories discuss military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, while trauma counseling for tragic events has become commonplace. But how does the concept of trauma fit into addiction and recovery?

Let’s start with a definition of trauma itself.

What is trauma?

At its root, trauma is a deep psychological wound caused by an experience (or series of experiences) that has lasting effects. Trauma can take many forms and there’s no one experience that can cause it. For some, trauma can be caused by childhood tragedies or abuse, for others, trauma can happen due to injury, illness, loss, or violence. But regardless of what causes it, trauma is lasting and can be a major influence on behavior throughout life.

How does trauma affect addiction?

As Dr. Karen Khaleghi notes, trauma actually changes the way the brain works by causing very strong reactions to stress and anxiety, particularly anything that triggers past memories of the traumatic events. These reactions can include volatile emotions, flashbacks and hallucinations, and a desire to escape reality.

As a result, trauma sufferers are more likely to seek out addictive substances to cope with these strong physical and emotional reactions. When using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, many people suffering from trauma become addicted to both the physical and mental relief that these substances give them.

How can trauma and addiction be treated?

We have helped 1000’s at our drug rehabs Southern California addiction treatment centers. Addiction is frequently fueled by trauma, whether the person struggling with addiction realizes it or not. This means trauma must be addressed during addiction treatment. As Dr. Khaleghi notes, “efforts at recovery are doomed to failure unless and until the underlying cause is addressed.”

At Triumph, we focus first on the trauma that is motivating addictive behaviors, helping our clients understand and manage their traumatic experiences and reactions. Only then can we begin to effectively address addiction for lasting recovery.

If we can help you or a loved one move towards recovery from trauma and addiction, please call us to get started.