Any time a person fears for their safety, experiences intense pain or witnesses a tragic event, they are said to have gone through a traumatic experience. Trauma comes in all different forms, and levels of resiliency vary among people. This is why two people can go through the same situation and have very different outcomes.
While traumatic experiences can happen to anyone of any age, children often have a harder time managing the pain that comes with trauma, especially if it’s ongoing or repeated. If these feelings are not resolved, long-term problems can develop over time. One of them is substance abuse and the need for drug or alcohol rehab in Denver.
The Link Between Trauma and Substance Abuse
Researchers have been studying the connection between trauma and substance abuse for many years. The reason for this is because many people who struggle with addiction also have a history of trauma. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study looked at data from 17,000 patients. What they found was eye opening.
According to the data, a child who experiences five or more traumatic experiences is seven to 10 times more likely to become a substance abuser. It takes just three or more traumatic childhood experiences to raise the risk for depression, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases and heart disease. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of intravenous drug users report traumatic experiences from their childhood.
Other studies have had similar findings, including research from the Veterans Administration. On average, studies report that between 35-70 percent of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) abuse drugs and alcohol.
Why Does Trauma Increase the Risk for Addiction?
The relationship between trauma and addiction is complex. Denver rehab centers often find that people who experienced trauma in their childhoods did not receive the help they needed at the time. This is the case when children experience prolonged and repeated abuse, neglect or abandonment. They likely had no advocate, leaving them to suffer alone.
As a result, trauma victims often grow up feeling hopeless and vulnerable. They try hard to be accepted, even if it involves risk-taking behaviors. They’re usually dealing with painful memories and experiences that haven’t been resolved, making them more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol for self-medication and distraction.
Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone, but it paints a picture for how traumatic experiences can surface in later life. We are complex human beings with many layers, and the experiences we go through “live” in our bodies. If painful experiences are not resolved, they can drive the urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
How to Determine When Trauma is Involved
Not everyone is aware of their trauma or how their body has processed it. This is especially true for children who experienced abuse or neglect but thought it was normal. Because of this, some people turn to drugs and alcohol without realizing their motivation for doing so. Maybe they’re stressed or unhappy, so they self-medicate to feel better. But they don’t realize that there’s trauma at the root of it all.
When the substance abuse starts causing problems, this is all anyone sees. As a result, substance abuse appears to be the problem and not the trauma. So how can you tell if you or someone else has suppressed or ignored traumatic experiences? Here are some signs that may help you recognize trauma. For a diagnosis, please consult with a medical professional.
- Sleep difficulties. Problems may include falling asleep, staying asleep or having frequent nightmares.
- Reliving the trauma. PTSD patients tend to relive the trauma they experienced. These flashbacks can feel just like the original time and surface in the mind even when you don’t want them to.
- Anger. People who have experienced trauma often feel irritable or experience frequent outbursts that are difficult to control.
- Disconnected. Trauma victims often feel isolated and disconnected from others. They may have a hard time relating to others.
- Depression. Trauma can make a person feel depressed. Common symptoms include sadness, lethargy, a loss of pleasure and hopelessness.
- Anxiety. Chronic anxiety can also be a sign of underlying trauma. Individuals often have a hard time relaxing or unwinding.
- Feeling unsafe. People who can’t feel safe, even when there’s no danger present, have often been through painful experiences.
Furthermore, trauma victims often struggle in their personal relationships, have problems with their self-esteem and practice ineffective and sometimes destructive coping mechanisms.
Seeking Help for Trauma and Addiction
As difficult as it is to have two problems on your plate – a history of trauma and an addiction – help is available. Dual diagnosis treatment centers in Colorado will address the trauma, the substance abuse and any underlying mental health issues. This type of treatment is comprehensive and allows you to heal on all levels – mind, body and spirit.
There are a variety of treatment options used in dual diagnosis treatment, allowing rehab centers to create the best regimen for you. For example, individual counseling may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) or both. Trauma victims with substance abuse issues also do well with group therapy and holistic healing practices.
There is a great deal of work involved in dual diagnosis treatment because you must work through your internal struggles, process them in a healthy manner and discover new ways to manage stressful situations. At the same time, you’ll be working on your sobriety as well. But by working on multiple things simultaneously, you can reach full healing.
Contact Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado
No longer does your past have to define your future. Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado is an excellent place to start your treatment. Our outpatient addiction treatment centers in Denver will help heal your mind so that you can move forward in your life. At the same time, you can address your substance abuse issues and break the cycle of self-medication. Contact Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado to learn more about our flexible, effective outpatient treatment programs.