The links between trauma and addiction are well-documented. While not everyone who has an addiction has experienced trauma, and not everyone who has had a traumatic experience will develop a substance use disorder, trauma is a common factor in addiction. One study found that 70% of adolescents in treatment for addiction had a history of trauma exposure.
Traumatic events have a dramatic effect on the body and mind. Numerous changes occur in the brain during the event that activate the “fight-or-flight” response. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol flow through the body. Chronic trauma means that these systems stay on high alert.
Trauma can lead to anxiety, depression, or PTSD. People who are struggling with the effects of trauma, or reliving the experience itself, may self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Traumatic events can deactivate the left side of the brain—which helps people process experiences through language—and activate the right side, which is more emotional and intuitive. People may have trouble putting into words what happened to them, and instead try to numb the intense emotions.
Trauma therapy can help people work through their experiences in a safe space. Expressive therapies can be helpful as well, because they allow a person to process the traumatic event non-verbally. The same neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change throughout the lifetime—that makes trauma alter the brain can help a person recover.
If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, these is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. We offer trauma therapy and expressive therapy to help you process traumatic experiences and build a life in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.