Trauma And Addiction Treatment

Healing Before Suicide Becomes An Option

Addictions don’t just appear out of nowhere. In almost every case of addiction, there are underlying emotional needs that are being self-medicated through substance use. That is not to say that addiction is not a physical addiction and disease just as much as it is an emotional one, but everything in the body is connected. 

If trauma has any place in an addiction, treating an individual without giving that trauma the attention it needs will lead to a failed or incomplete recovery. To fully heal from trauma and addiction, you need to be willing to explore the parts of your heart and mind that are painful. It won’t be easy, but it will always be worth it in the end. 

How Are Trauma And Addiction Connected?

Young Person getting help for traumaYou can have trauma and never develop an addiction. On the flip side, studies have demonstrated that the majority of addiction cases have underlying mental health concerns rooted in traumatic events. Unhealed trauma leads to anxiety, depression, and often an inability to cope with everyday life. 

Unfortunately, substance abuse is a common crutch to help people cope and function. It might start as an occasional way to numb emotional and physical pain associated with trauma but often leads to full-blown addiction. 

The Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACE), run by the CDC, revealed some eye-opening statistics about childhood trauma and its direct correlation to substance abuse disorders. The study found:

  • For each adverse/traumatic event in early life, the likelihood of early substance use increased 4 times
  • People with 5-10 traumatic events in their lives are 10 times more likely to become substance abusers
  • 75% of men and women who are substance abusers report having childhood trauma/abuse

These statistics alone are frightening. What’s even more eye-opening is that the ACE study reported,  “61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs”. That means out of the entire population, 61% of people are inclined to develop substance abuse problems because of unhealed trauma. 

What Does Trauma Look Like? 

Trauma is essentially a psychological and physical response to difficult events. These events triggered something in the brain that gave a message of danger, fear, and anxiety. When the events that instigated the trauma response are built up in the body and not fully healed, the body will continue to experience the trauma response even when the event is over. 

For example, people who are abused as children often develop PTSD and addiction. They live in a constant state of fear because they were forced to always be in fight or flight mode. They have tense muscles, shallow breathing, high anxiety, emotional sensitivity.

At the time, it was a defense mechanism to keep them safe. If the response lingers years later, that means they are physically and emotionally still in that trauma state even though they aren’t in any immediate danger anymore. Coping with these stressful feelings can make people feel the need to rely on external things for comfort and relaxation, like addictive substances. 

Furthermore, when these emotions and physical reactions persist for years, often people stop associating them with their trauma, and begin to think that’s just “how they are”. If this happens, it may cause people to be less inclined to seek emotional help for their addiction. 

Trauma can have symptoms that mimic a million other diseases, conditions, and mental health disorders. This is why getting to the root of the individual’s childhood and past trauma can help uncover what is stemming from it. Some symptoms of trauma include:

  • Severe depression
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • Physical twitching, shaking, and restlessness
  • Over or under eating
  • Emotional Flashbacks
  • Dissociation
  • Suicidal Thoughts/Attempts 
  • Chronic Pain

The list of symptoms keeps going, and it’s different for every person depending on their life experiences and coping mechanisms. The overall understanding should be that trauma can take over your life, and make it difficult to be happy in your mind and body. 

The Trauma Brain

While the initial response to trauma can be a defense mechanism and symptoms listed above, long-term response to unhealed trauma can change the chemical makeup of your body and aspects of your personality. 

Trauma can make you sick and full of disease. Being in a chronic state of fear and protection causes the body to work in overdrive in all of its systems making the brain release certain chemicals that biologically are trying to up your adrenaline (think fight or flight). Exposure to these chemical responses leads to an overall dysregulation of the brain. Hormones, nervous systems, endocrine systems, and the entire mind-body connection are thrown off. 

A trauma brain is a brain under stress. If you’re subconsciously still focused on immediate danger, you’re not giving attention to everyday things like tasks, relaxation, habits, healthy eating, etc. Instead of your body working properly to make everything run happily, its only message is “survive!”. 

The trauma brain leads to chronic illness, disease, and hormone deregulation. But, there is hope. Healing trauma can reverse a lot of negative consequences trauma survivors have endured. 

How Are Trauma, Addiction, And Suicide Connected? 

Trauma is a very complex and overwhelming experience. Trying to cope with everyday life while having an underlying history of trauma can feel nearly impossible. Sadly, a lot of people get to the point of suicidal thoughts or attempts after living with trauma. 

When addiction is also put into the picture, things get even more difficult. Addiction further dis regulates the body and mind, leading to a lot of mental health conditions and depression. Trauma and addiction combined leave little room for mental clarity, but a lot of room for overwhelming emotions. If proper help isn’t given, suicidal thoughts are likely. 

Suicide attempts have risen over the years along with addiction and mental health rates. Suicides have risen 33% and have reached 14 suicides per 100,000 people according to research conducted in 2018. It can be scary having these thoughts or hearing these from a loved one. 

Risk Factors For Suicidal Thoughts

Woman with Suicidal thoughtsUnfortunately, suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. This is especially true for people suffering from an addiction. In a world where self-care is decreasing as stress is increasing, it can be really difficult to stay emotionally sound.

There are a few factors that increase the chances of developing intense depression and suicidal thoughts. If you or a loved one has experienced any of the following, talk to a professional about preventing or stopping these thoughts before any harm is done.

  • Physical or Sexual Abuse
  • Long Term Depression
  • Long Term Substance Abuse 
  • Family Members with Addiction 
  • Family Members with Mental Health Conditions
  • Personally History of Self Harm
  • Poor performance in school 
  • Little to no interest in hobbies, friends, or family activities
  • Bullying
  • Cultural/ religious beliefs such as a belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal problem
  • Harmful or Toxic Relationships 

There are a lot of risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing a mental health condition. Likewise, there are protective factors that can help reduce the intensity or outcome of suicidal thoughts. These include

  • Healthy coping and problem-solving skills
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and instill positivity 
  • Close relationship with friends, family, and community  
  • Supportive relationships with care providers
  • Access to  physical and mental health care
  • Limited access to harmful substances 

Trauma And Addiction Treatment Is Necessary For Long-term Recovery 

Even when you move past suicidal thoughts, there is more healing to be done to prevent those thoughts from returning. 

The first step to healing your trauma is admitting you have it. It can be really painful to admit to others (and yourself) that you went through something hard. It can be even more difficult to admit that it caused you to have uncontrollable emotional and physical reactions. As humans, we like to pretend we always have it together. The truth is, none of us do. It is only when we can admit that we aren’t perfect, we begin to work towards a more stable life. 

It’s common for people to feel guilt surrounding their trauma, but that guilt is misplaced. If you have unhealed trauma, your side effects are not your fault. Your body was doing its job; trying to protect you. Now it’s time to let it know it’s ok to back down and begin to let go. 

Counseling is trauma’s best friend. Sometimes it just needs to be talked about. A professionally trained counselor or psychologist will be able to prompt conversation and thought patterns that will enable trauma survivors to work through their past and see how it affects their mental health and addiction. 

From there, professionals will be able to offer insight and coping skills that enable the individual to start rebuilding their brain and nervous system from a place of peace, forgiveness, and safety. 

There are some things to make a part of your daily routine if you are working on healing your trauma and addiction. Things like journaling, meditating, moderate exercise, and breathwork can all make a huge difference on your path to healing. Spending time with your thoughts in a non-judgemental way will help you release memories and physical feelings you have been holding onto.

Trauma And Addiction Treatment Options 

Today more than ever there are a ton of trauma and addiction treatment options available for people suffering from co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorders and addiction. Most rehab facilities and harm reduction services offer counseling, holistic therapy, and group therapy to assist in working through trauma. 

There may still be some stigma around mental health, but most people understand and have personally experienced mental health conditions at one point or another. Working with professionally trained mental health experts will give you insight into how you can let go of your past to build a new future. 

Typically if you are participating in a full rehab program, you will receive treatment aimed at addressing both your addiction and your mental health. Both conditions affect the other, so it’s important to keep both in mind when figuring out your treatment approach. Some services that will help address both co-occurring PTSD and Addiction include:

Trauma And Addiction Treatment At Miracles Can Help Save Your Life

If you or a loved one is showing signs of co-occurring trauma and addiction, it’s not too late to seek help. Whether you’re ready to enter a full program, or just need someone to talk to-there are endless resources to help you resolve your past and build a bright, healthy, future. For more information on treatment for dual diagnosis of trauma and addiction, contact Miracles Recovery Center today.