Coping With Addiction and Trauma


Addiction and trauma often go hand in hand. Almost half of addicts report having been victims of childhood abuse. Trauma is one of the leading reasons for developing an addiction in adulthood.

This makes trauma and its treatment a vital issue to discuss regarding addiction. Yet, the complex intertwinement between the two topics makes it a complicated subject to touch on without fear of setting things off for your loved one.

Understanding the connection between addiction and trauma and its psychological implications is essential to avoid making things worse. Keep reading for the things you have to know.

What Is Addiction?

An addiction is an intense craving for a specific drug or activity. This can result in negative actions and outcomes.

An addiction can cause problems in all areas of a person’s life, including work, relationships, and health. It can be tough to overcome, but it is possible with the help of treatment and support.

Types of Addiction

There are many different types of addiction, and each one can be devastating in its way. Some of the most common types of addiction include substance abuse, gambling, shopping, and sex.

Each type of addiction can have different signs and symptoms, but all of them can be incredibly harmful. Getting help as soon as possible is crucial if you or someone you love is battling addiction.

Many resources are available to those who need them, and addiction doesn’t have to be a life sentence. With the right help, recovery is possible.

What Is Trauma?

When a person experiences something life-threatening or traumatic, it can have a lasting effect on their mental and emotional health. This is because the event can overwhelm the person’s ability to cope.

The traumatic event can be something that happened to them personally or they witnessed. It can be a one-time event or something that happens repeatedly.

Trauma can have short- and long-term effects. In the short term, a person may have trouble sleeping, irritability, or difficulty concentrating. They may also startle easily or be constantly on guard.

In the long term, a person may experience flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, or depression. They may also have trouble trusting people or feel hopeless and alienated.

Trauma can be complicated to deal with, but there are ways to get help. Talking to a therapist can be the first step in healing.

Types of Trauma

When it comes to trauma, there are a few different types that a person can experience. The first type is known as actual event trauma. This is when a person experiences a single, powerful event that is so traumatic it has a lasting impact on their life.

The second type of trauma is known as complex trauma. This is when a person experiences multiple traumatic events, often over a long period. This can be especially damaging because it can lead to hopelessness and despair.

The third type of trauma is known as vicarious trauma. This is when a person witnesses or hears about a traumatic event.

Even if they did not experience it, it could be just as damaging as experiencing the event firsthand. No matter what type of trauma a person experiences, it can have a lasting impact on their life.

The Relationship Between Addiction and Trauma

There is a close connection between addiction and trauma. Many people who have experienced trauma turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their pain. This is because substances can help to numb the emotions and memories associated with the trauma.

However, this numbing effect can quickly become an addiction, compounding trauma-related problems. It is essential to understand this connection to better support people struggling with addiction and trauma.

Childhood Trauma Survivors Can Develop Addiction Later On

There is a clear connection between addiction and trauma, especially for survivors of childhood trauma. These individuals are at a higher risk for developing addiction later in life due to how trauma affects their brain development and physiology.

Addictive substances and behaviors offer a way to cope with the pain and trauma of their past, but ultimately only serve to make things worse. People with addiction and trauma often turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain. This might offer some relief in the short term, but it only exacerbates the problem in the long run.

Trauma-informed care is essential for treating addiction in this population, as it considers the unique needs and experiences of survivors of childhood trauma. With the right support, these individuals can heal the trauma and build a healthy, addiction-free life.

PTSD and Addiction Share Many Common Symptoms

PTSD and addiction share many common symptoms, making it difficult to recover from both. It can be challenging to know which came first, the PTSD or the addiction, as they can lead to each other.

Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, and isolation. Signs of addiction can include cravings, using despite adverse consequences, and feeling unable to function without the substance.

PTSD and addiction can lead to problems with work, relationships, and finances problems. Treatment for both often includes addiction therapy and medication.

The Shame and Stigma Surrounding Addiction

There is a lot of shame and stigma surrounding addiction, making it difficult for trauma survivors to seek help. Many people feel weak or responsible for their addiction, which can keep them from reaching out for help.

Additionally, there is a lot of shame and stigma around mental health. This makes it hard for people to seek help for any mental health issue, let alone one seen as particularly taboo, like an addiction.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease, and no one is responsible for contracting it. If you are a trauma survivor struggling with addiction, please reach out for help. Some people care about you and want to help you get better.

Trauma Survivors Self-Medicate With Drugs or Alcohol 

Many trauma survivors self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to numb their pain. While this may provide temporary relief, it can also lead to long-term problems.

Self-medication is the use of drugs without the supervision of a healthcare professional. It can be dangerous because people may not use the correct dose, may not take the drug for the right length of time, or may not follow other instructions from the manufacturer.

Also, self-medicating can lead to addiction and make it challenging to address the underlying trauma. Trauma survivors need help from a qualified professional who can help them heal healthily.

How Trauma Can Lead to Addiction

When someone experiences a traumatic event can have a profound and lasting effect on their mental and physical health. Trauma can lead to a wide range of mental health problems.

Physical Changes in the Brain

When a person experiences trauma, the physical changes in the brain can be long-lasting. The most common physical change is a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

This size decrease can lead to memory, concentration, and emotional regulation problems. Other physical changes that can occur are increases in the size of the amygdala, which is responsible for fear and anxiety, and changes in the structure of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and impulsivity.

These changes can make it difficult for people to cope with their emotions and make good decisions. It’ll also be hard to control their behavior.

Psychological Changes

Trauma can lead to psychological changes in individuals. These changes can be short-term or long-term, depending on the severity of the trauma.

Some changes may occur, like feeling isolated and alone, confused and disoriented, numb and detached, and afraid and panicked. These are just a few examples of how trauma can change someone psychologically.

Trauma Can Disrupt a Person’s Social And Family Life

Trauma can undoubtedly disrupt a person’s social and family life. It can be challenging to feel safe and connected when faced with daily reminders of a traumatic event. It’s not uncommon for people who have experienced trauma to feel isolated and alone, even within their own families.

Family members may also have difficulty coping with the aftermath of trauma, which can further strain relationships. It’s essential to seek help from professionals and support groups if trauma affects your social and family life. With time and patience, it can heal the wounds of trauma and rebuild your life.

Sense of Hopelessness and Despair 

Trauma can create a sense of hopelessness and despair, leading a person to believe that substance use is their only option. This is because trauma can cause a person to feel like they are not in control of their life and powerless to change their circumstances.

When a person feels like this, they may turn to substances as a way to escape their reality and numb their pain. Unfortunately, this can lead to a spiral of addiction and further trauma. It is vital for people who have experienced trauma to get the help they need to heal and move on from their trauma.

Coping With Addiction and Trauma 

The good news is that effective treatments are available for addiction and trauma. While there is no “cure” for addiction, recovery is possible. And although you can’t completely erase trauma, there are ways to manage and cope with the memories and feelings.

Don’t lose hope if you or someone you care about is battling trauma and addiction. These conditions are complex, but addiction treatment can make a big difference. Seek professional help, and take things one day at a time.


A therapist can help you understand your addiction and trauma. They can develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Therapists can treat trauma with various approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and exposure therapy. These therapies can help you manage your symptoms and heal the underlying causes of your trauma.


Many different types of medications can be used to treat addiction and trauma. These include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.

You can use these medications to help stabilize an individual’s mood, reduce anxiety, and help with sleep. You can also use medications to help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Support Groups

There are many treatments for addiction and trauma, but one of the most effective is support groups. Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment for people to share their experiences and learn from others who have been through similar things.

They can help people to understand their addiction and trauma and to develop positive coping strategies. Support groups can be essential to recovery from addiction and trauma and help people stay on track.


Many programs for teens save lives. They are available to help people, especially teenagers, to cope with addiction and trauma. Some programs are inpatient, while others are outpatient.

Some programs are short-term, while others are long-term. Some programs are residential, while others are not.

There are also many 12-step programs available. The most important thing is to find a program that fits your needs.

Healthy Diet

Some general guidelines can help you create a healthy diet that supports your recovery. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. These foods provide essential nutrients that help your body heal and cope with stress.

Avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar, fat, and sodium, as these can trigger cravings and contribute to unhealthy behaviors. Instead, focus on eating healthy, balanced meals to support your recovery.

Seek Professional Help!

There are many adverse effects of addiction and trauma. They can cause physical and mental health problems and lead to relationships, work, and school problems.

Although addiction and trauma may seem unrelated, they are very much connected. Addiction can be a way of coping with trauma, and trauma can be a trigger for addiction.

Understanding this connection can help people who are struggling with both issues. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and trauma, resources are available to help.

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