How Are Trauma and Addiction Related?
There are numerous comparable connections between trauma and addiction, the first of which often occurs early in life. Studies show that 60% of people in the U.S. witnessed or experienced abuse and early life stress in childhood, with 26% of study participants having experienced child abuse before age 4. The effects of trauma, often leading to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can last a lifetime, and most people need some type of therapy or medication to heal.
The need to self-medicate to cope with symptoms of having experienced trauma can lead an individual to drugs and alcohol, many times leading to addiction. Taking a trauma-informed approach to addiction treatment and recovery can greatly improve the chances of staying sober. Read on to learn more about the complex relationship between addiction and trauma and what tools are available to help people recover.
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & Addiction: Their Relationship
Trauma is defined as any adverse life event that creates a feeling of danger in a person. An individual enduring trauma will feel afraid for their life or destruction of their property or unsafe emotionally or physically. While it might seem easy to move forward and away from the danger after an adverse event, the long-lasting effects of trauma can be debilitating. Symptoms of untreated trauma include:
- Anxiety and other forms of mental illness
- Sleep disturbances such as night terrors, sleep paralysis and insomnia
- Feeling numb and emotionally detached from day-to-day experiences, whether positive or negative
- Extreme feelings of anger and sadness
- Emotional dysregulation in the form of uncontrollable outbursts or isolating behaviors
- Feeling shame about the traumatic experience or denying it altogether
- Physical symptoms such as ulcers, liver damage and high blood pressure
In order to cope with the deep-rooted psychological effects of trauma, people often turn to substances in an attempt to self-medicate. One study shows that 59% of youth with PTSD also have a substance abuse disorder. Binge drinking is a common way to self-treat symptoms of childhood trauma. In recent years, binge drinking and drug use have increased. People of all ages, races and educational backgrounds are affected, in every community.
According to a study of New Jersey residents, binge drinking has increased most dramatically among college graduates. Among races, white-identified people binge drink more often than Blacks, Asians and Hispanics.
Recovery at the Crossroads’s programs are specifically tailored for those with past/current trauma and addiction.
The Roles of Trauma and Addiction for Women
Research indicates that young women with PTSD tend to experience higher rates of substance abuse disorders and alcoholism than men in the same age group. What is it that drives women to self-medicate more often than their male counterparts? A significant amount of women who enter substance use treatment programs do so with symptoms of PTSD stemming from physical and sexual abuse.
Research shows anywhere from 55% to 99% of women in rehab have some type of psychological trauma in their background. The effects of childhood trauma are numerous and long-lasting, especially when compounded with addiction and mental illness. In order to recover, women need to be equipped with:
- A deep understanding of the mechanics of addiction, with a holistic view of how the cycle of adult trauma and addictive behaviors begin and the internal processes that perpetuate addiction
- A variety of ways to effectively manage emotions
- Basic coping and life skills
- Relationship-building skills
Many substance abusers turn to rehab to help them learn these things, often discovering in the course of treatment that there are many lacking areas they weren’t even aware existed, such as emotional intelligence. Through an efficient treatment program, patients can learn more about themselves and what satisfies and fulfills them without the need to turn to drug or alcohol abuse.
Recovery at the Crossroads has an intensive outpatient program featuring a woman-only inpatient rehab program at its 4.5 acre Black Horse Acres complex.
Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in the Jewish Community
Drinking alcohol is common in the Jewish tradition, with wine being served at religious gatherings and holidays followed by cheerful shouts of “L’chaim.” In the Jewish faith, it’s commonly believed that consuming alcohol won’t lead to addiction, and one study of New Yorkers showed that members of the community consistently reject the idea of alcoholism. However, studies show up to 20% of North American Jewish households are impacted by alcoholism. Still, most Jewish people will deny they know any heavy drinkers when asked. This widespread denial of an alcohol problem further compounds the issue. Trauma causes immediate psychological harm at the time it occurs, but the long-lasting effects can worsen if actively denied.
It’s one thing to tell yourself there isn’t a problem and you don’t need any therapy, but it can feel impossible to address childhood trauma or substance abuse when your entire community and religion are giving you the same speech. When a people’s history has such dark and horrific periods that generations experience childhood trauma and PTSD symptoms later in life, you might be easily persuaded to try to forget the past and move on instead of addressing the trauma. This style of denial can also apply to events of childhood abuse. But this attitude further perpetuates childhood trauma, giving a person a high risk of experiencing severe anxiety and developing a substance abuse disorder.
Relatives of survivors of the Holocaust experience a special type of trauma that can be hard for those who weren’t affected to understand. Jewish folk can benefit from rehabilitation centers that offer kosher treatment programs and an understanding of generational trauma experienced by those in the community.
Recovery at the Crossroads in Blackwood, New Jersey, has a Jewish Substance Abuse Program with like-minded staff and residents that provides a safe space to speak your truth. Kosher meals are served, and traditional holidays like Yom Tov and the weekly Shabbos are observed.
How EMDR Therapy Helps Fight Substance Abuse
New treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and EMDR have been developed to further minimize current PTSD symptoms and substance use disorders alongside traditional therapies.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a way to reprogram the brain away from trauma-induced thoughts when triggered. It involves moving the eyes rapidly back and forth and tapping the body while viewing images related to your traumatic memories. These can be images associated with childhood trauma or recent traumatic experiences. Through this process, the brain experiences new sensations while engaging in traumatic memories and can reconfigure its responses appropriately. If a person is triggered by sitting near the edge of water, for example, a vision of a river can reprogram emotional responses to feel more neutral instead of upset.
This can be helpful in treating addiction because traumatic memories often trigger the desire to engage in high-risk behavior using various substances to distract the brain. Recovery at the Crossroads offers EMDR therapy in its rehab programs, along with the serene surroundings and structured schedule needed to facilitate recovery.
At Recovery at the Crossroads, we focus on helping patients address negative beliefs and dysfunctional behaviors, giving them the greatest chance at a long-term recovery. Patients who meet the criteria for EMDR therapy work directly with Ann Marie Bescherer, PhD.
Recovery – On Your Terms
Go online or call to speak to a friendly intake specialist who can answer all your questions and listen to your story with compassion. Intensive outpatient rehab programs are offered for those who want to stay in their communities, and inpatient centers are available for those who need more help regaining independence from addiction.
We stand with the residents of New Jersey to ensure they have access to treatments designed with them in mind. Those who struggle with addiction face a daunting task: confronting their trauma & addictions and finding long-term recovery. The best way to make this journey easier is by going through a program that provides support from knowledgeable professionals in the field of psychiatry, psychology & addictions. You will never walk alone in your journey towards sobriety! Contact us today.