The connection between trauma and addiction (commonly referred to as substance use disorders) is substantial. Decades of research and hundreds of research studies have shown a direct correlation between trauma and the development of drug or alcohol addictions. Data from a 2018 study found that more than 20 million Americans over the age of 12 met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder in 2018. Although this number is high, it is far lower than the staggering number of individuals who struggle with a history of trauma. The same survey showed that approximately 70% of adults (more than 220 million people) struggle with symptoms stemming from a traumatic event.

The risk factors for developing a substance use disorder will almost always include trauma. It is not uncommon for exposure to trauma to lead to substance use disorders, and conversely, individuals with substance use disorders to have a greater likelihood of experiencing trauma. Although women are statistically more likely to experience trauma than men, it does not mean men are immune to trauma-related substance use struggles.

What is Trauma?

The American Psychological Association defines trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster.” Depending on the individual, symptoms of trauma exposure may occur immediately following the event or, it may take time for outward signs that a friend or loved one is struggling with trauma to appear. Often, in the hours and days immediately following the event, shock and denial are two of the most common symptoms one experiences. However, other reactions such as flashbacks, physical symptoms such as headaches and nausea, and unpredictable mood swings or emotions may also occur as trauma victim struggles to process their emotions.

What Causes Trauma?

There are several primary sources of trauma. In general, trauma directly results from someone experiencing or witnessing a painful or overwhelmingly negative event or situation. A traumatic event causes a lasting and sometimes overwhelming impact on one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Trauma sources can be violent or psychological. Some common sources of trauma include domestic violence, natural disasters, the death of a loved one, witnessing a traumatic event, rape, and severe illness or injury.

It is important to note that one does not need to be a direct witness to or victim of trauma to struggle with trauma symptoms. It is possible to struggle with trauma after learning of harm that occurred to a loved one. This is common in children who witness harm happening to a parent or sibling. The most effective way to navigate trauma symptoms is to seek mental health treatment.

How Does Trauma Relate to Addiction?

There are several links between trauma and addiction. The most common is self-medication. When you or a loved one experiences painful or unpleasant symptoms linked to trauma, it is not uncommon to use drugs or alcohol as a way to numb the physical or emotional pain. Although substances are successful for a short time, the effects inevitably wear off, leaving you to struggle with your symptoms once more. This leads many to begin using or drinking at higher amounts and more frequent intervals to achieve a lasting escape from symptoms. Unfortunately, this dependency on drugs and alcohol is a step on the road to addiction.

The Best Women’s Trauma Recovery Program in Santa Barbara, CA

The best way to put struggles with trauma-related addiction in the past is to seek help at the best women’s trauma recovery program in Santa Barbara, CA. At Casa Serena, members of our treatment team will work with you to ensure you receive the most comprehensive, compassionate treatment possible. We understand that the journey to overcoming trauma is not without challenges. Revisiting and talking about the difficulties that led to addiction can be emotionally and spiritually challenging. We are here to provide support and guidance throughout each step.Beginning supported detox and continuing through detailed aftercare planning, we are here to help you learn more about the role trauma plays in addiction and how you can put both in the past. If you or a loved one are ready to begin your recovery and lasting wellness journey, contact us at Casa Serena for more information about our women’s rehab in Santa Barbara.

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