Childhood Trauma and Substance Addiction
It is widely known that people with a history of trauma tend to develop conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Mental health conditions caused by trauma can be amplified if the person experienced trauma as a child. Children’s brains are in the earliest stages of development, and traumatic experiences leave a larger impact. People living in the shadow of childhood trauma are more susceptible to substance addiction.
Negative Consequences of Trauma
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma is defined as an impact resulting from “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”
Trauma is subjective. Some examples of traumatic incidents include physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, untreated mental illness in the home, and the loss of a caregiver. The negative impact of trauma on individuals and families has been a behavioral health concern that requires a long healing process. But many people who experience a traumatic event will go on with their lives without the awareness that they need mental health intervention. The lack of mental health awareness and trauma-informed care may lead to worsening conditions, including substance use and risky behaviors such as self-injury.
Health Outcomes of Childhood Trauma
Children are more susceptible to the negative effects of trauma because their brains are growing and developing at a quicker pace. Because of strong neuroplasticity, new experiences tend to have a formative impact on the brain. Individuals who experience childhood trauma may undergo disrupted neurodevelopment, social and emotional impairment, cognitive disabilities, substance use and addiction, self-harm tendencies, and even early death.
Research shows that children with traumatic experiences are 4 to 12 times more likely to develop substance addiction when they grow up. The relationship between childhood trauma and substance use is certainly complex because there are many factors playing into it. One impact indicator is low self-esteem. Generally speaking, individuals with untreated childhood trauma are more incentivized to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.
Traumatic Stress and Changes in the Brain
The brain’s limbic system has five parts that may be directly affected by traumatic experiences. First of all, the amygdala, which is responsible for detecting threats, begins to have heightened sensitivity. This part of the brain becomes difficult to be calmed. This is why memories of past trauma may still trigger a physical fight or flight response.
Next, as the brain’s learning center, the hippocampus may become highly sensitive to stress. Exposure to trauma may cause structural changes in this part of the brain, leading to cognitive difficulties in life. This explains why people have trouble recalling painful memories. Processing new information can also become challenging. Individuals that go through traumatic situations tend to be less trusting of others as a result.
Other parts of the brain that tend to be impacted by trauma are the thalamus, the hypothalamus, and the nucleus accumbens. These are aspects of the brain’s relay station, regulation hub, and reward system. Trauma heightens sensory data processing, increases activity in bodily function regulation, and hijacks the brain’s reward system. Consequently, people tend to look for external means to self-medicate.
Individuals with untreated childhood trauma are susceptible to developing a wide range of addictions other than substance-related ones. Behavioral addictions include gambling, sex, relationships, work, food, social media, and even self-harm. These behaviors may initially develop as an individual learns how to cope with stress on their own.
People who have suffered trauma will often find it near impossible to be at peace with themselves. Their behaviors essentially become a way of not being still, and they try to escape their base essence of being. Unfortunately, different types of addiction only worsen their psychological conditions. Trauma and addiction may become a vicious cycle.
Finding Trauma-Informed Care
People struggling with trauma, PTSD, and addiction need to find detox centers that offer trauma-informed care. Even if they are open to treatment, working with health professionals may not get to the root causes, which are crucial for relapse prevention. Without using a trauma-informed approach, sometimes re-traumatizing scenarios may happen.
It is important for recovering individuals to feel that they are safe in the treatment environment. Also, many trauma survivors feel guilt and shame and are afraid to talk about their past. But bottling up their emotions about traumatic experiences is not conducive to long-term recovery. Trauma-informed care raises a high bar for therapists to be highly sensitive and yet still capable of revising the past with patients.
People struggling with trauma, PTSD, or addiction should look for trauma-informed care. Even if they are open to treatment, health professionals may not get to the root cause, which is crucial for relapse prevention. If you are looking for a compassionate team that uses trauma-informed care, look no further. We at Capo Canyon Recovery, near Mission Viejo, CA. take pride in our holistic healing path, which is incremental to a sustainable, long-term recovery. We focus on each stage of recovery for your physical health and mental health. Our inpatient residential care and outpatient long-term care programs offer unmatched benefits and results. We provide excess comfort with an in-house chef, luxurious beds, and an onsite organic garden during your sobriety journey. With Capo Canyon Recovery, you can rely on us to help you achieve long-term recovery. Call us at (800) 804-8714. With our help, you can enjoy your new beginning..