How often do you hear someone say they had a rough day and need a drink? What about, do you go to a party to hang out, have a good time, and forget about the world? They want to escape a rough day is only natural.
Research has proven time and again, how stress, trauma, and substance abuse go hand-in-hand. Alcohol and drugs may mask feelings, but only for a short time.
Not one person enjoys stress. Major stressors creep up on us because we adjust to a high level of stress. Instead of having complete awareness of the stress we’re experiencing, we rarely feel its effects until later.
If you are worried a stressful experience has fueled your addiction, give us a call today at 706-480-8733. We can help you process these stressful times and guide you to a substance-free life.
Do trauma and substance abuse share a connection? Learn about everything you need here. CLick a link below to jump to that section.
The Addiction and Trauma Connection
No surprise here. Trauma and addiction are connected. People with alcohol or substance issues are more likely to have a history of trauma. Research repeatedly proves excessive stress is the main trigger for addiction. Often, individuals who have suffered: childhood violence, assault, catastrophe, war, or any other stressful events, use alcohol or drugs. Frequently, these people are looking for help coping with emotional pain. Traumatized individuals may experience uncomfortable memories, sleeping difficulties, guilt, anxiety, and fear.
Stress from these events builds until they consume the individual, and they will do anything to escape this feeling. Stressors are intense, demanding moments that come from an event or your environment.
Stress usually affects individuals unpredictably and can show up in many ways. Stress often comes from loss, abuse, hostility, loneliness, and trauma.
The set of symptoms people face after a traumatic event are part of Acute Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Characteristics of Acute Stress Disorder include:
- Experiences of dissociation
- Repetitive thoughts or images
- Attempts to prevent memories of triggering event
- Distress that comes in the month following the event
Once these symptoms pass the one-month mark, a potential diagnosis of PTSD is impending.
The more stress or trauma a person experiences, the more likely they are to have an addiction.
People who have a history of trauma and substance abuse may have experiences with mood disorders like:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Antisocial Personality
The individual may also experience other addictive habits. They also tend to have physical health issues, along with chronic health issues. Frequently, they can experience heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, and chronic pain.
Using alcohol or drugs may supply moments of temporary comfort and relaxation. However, this is only temporary relief. This form of relief is dangerous and potentially deadly.
Trauma is Different for Everyone
Trauma is a diagnosis with no clear cut lines. You can experience trauma even when you are not the immediate victim. You may be an observer and still end up with trauma.
Some of the well-known categories for trauma include:
- Sexual Abuse
- Domestic Violence
- Witnessing a violent crime
- Being the victim of a violent crime
- Near-death experience
- Childhood Abuse
- Experiencing bullying
- Natural Disasters
Trauma occurs whenever you feel intensely threatened by an event—whether you are a direct victim or a witness. While it may seem wrong to be affected by trauma if you weren’t the direct victim, it is not unusual. For instance, having a family member kidnapped can create trauma. You may experience paranoia, difficulty sleeping, and a general increase in worry as a result. Many times you won’t know who to trust anymore. You might be afraid of being caught off guard.
The Suffocating Feelings of Truama
Trauma feels different for everyone. However, there are some reasonably universal feelings trauma victims experience. Some of these feelings look like:
- Feeling trapped
- Feeling like your chest growing so tight, and it’s hard to breathe.
- Your muscles stiffen like you’re getting ready to run or fight.
- Mind spirals out of control, focusing on anything and everything.
- You’re unable to sleep because of persistent thoughts.
- You have knots in your stomach.
- Clenching teeth
The Vicious Cycle of Addiction and Stress
Many people are in a never-ending circle. Traumatic events lead to using alcohol and narcotics. Alcohol and narcotics lead to new traumatic events. These recent traumatic events lead to further use of narcotics, and the circle starts all over again.
Like stressful events and drug use occur together, as do stressful symptoms and the use of drugs.
Although trauma and substance use can occur at any point during a person’s lifetime, substance abuse tends to begin in adolescence. Adolescence is also when the first symptoms of mental illness typically appear.
Individuals with more than one problem will need structured support to handle difficult changes in school, employment. Additionally, they will need help with relationships as they transition to adulthood.
Part of the researchers’ problem is not knowing if the mental health issues happened before or after the substance use disorder. Many people do not acknowledge their previous trauma. Sometimes this is by choice, and other times, they have been suppressing the memory for so long they forget it ever happened to them.
Sometimes, behavioral or emotional problems are so mild they can avoid being acknowledged or diagnosed. However, mild behavioral and emotional issues can still cause substance abuse even if they never received a diagnosis.
Trauma and Addictions: A Path to Self-Medicating
Many people have a stressful day or event and look forward to a drink. People who experience continuous stress might start drinking or using more. The more they drink, the stronger they will start to want their alcohol. Once they find this relief, no matter how short-lived it may be, they will try to find it again. Before they know it, they are navigating their way through addiction.
Doctors already know stress increases physical health problems. They also know it’s a cause for addiction in many cases. Stress not only paves the way to addiction; it is also a steppingstone to a relapse.
A traumatized person’s binge drinking or drug use may be a well-meaning shot at self-medicating. However, self-medicating ultimately ends up being self-destructive. Dealing with trauma alone is a huge task to take on. Once someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it can begin to feel impossible to stop.
The Problem with Self-Medicating
Using drugs to self-medicate can help with one problem. Still, it will create another. Substance abuse might temporarily decrease the intensity of chilling nightmares, but it will increase irritability and hyper-vigilance.
Recently, researchers began looking at people with a history of drug use and the stressful events they have experienced. There was a specific focus on serious illness, death among family or friends, financial crisis, loss of a job, and arrests.
Researchers found that those who reported traumatic events were 20% more likely to have abused drugs that year. Those who avoided drugs and alcohol for the year reported an average of 2.7 stressful events. People who were drug-dependent reported an average of 4.7 stressful events.
Those who were partway through recovery averaged four traumatic incidents.
Drug use creates a stressful life for more than just the person who is using it. The effects of drugs may also impact the individual’s friends and families.
Many individuals with substance use disorders also have additional mental illness diagnosis. Likewise, many individuals with an additional mental illness may receive a substance use disorder diagnosis.
Substance abuse affects a person’s ability to focus, get a restful night’s sleep, be effective at work or in life, cope with painful memories, and handle other stressors.
Substance abuse can increase emotional numbing, social isolation, rage, irritability, depression, and the feeling of being on guard.
Trauma and Addiction Vulnerabilities
Since we know that it’s not always easy to determine if the addiction or trauma came first, some other factors specialists will consider.
Researchers estimate 40-60% of a person’s vulnerability to addiction is due to genetics. An individual with a family history of addiction is more likely to abuse drugs than someone who does not.
Brain Regions Involved
Both substance use and mental illness affect many different areas in the brain. Often, the areas responsible for decision making, impulse control, and emotions are affected by substance abuse. Furthermore, many receptors in the brain responsible for releasing dopamine, serotonin, and other brain chemicals will be interrupted by substance abuse. Basically, the brain will become off-balance and trigger the chemical reactions that occur in mental illness. The trigger is another reason why it can be hard to tell if the trauma happened before addiction or as a result of habit.
As discussed earlier, stress is a known risk factor for a variety of mental health concerns when you have difficult life stressors, the perfect opportunity for substance and alcohol abuse.
Environmental influences include chronic stress, trauma, childhood trauma, and exposure. We can help you resolve these before alcohol or drug addictions begin. However, these problems can come back later in life and feed an addiction.
When someone experiences trauma during their childhood, the probability of developing a substance use disorder later in life is high. Many of these children receive a PTSD diagnosis at some point. These individuals often use substances in an attempt to help manage their anxiety. Childhood trauma and addiction to substances that might help avoid trauma memories and any other stressors their memories trigger.
Beat Trauma AND Addiction
Stress, trauma, and addiction clearly affect those with an addiction. People with substance use disorders, and trauma-related conditions, such as PTSD and depression, are easily recognizable.
Stopping addiction is far more complicated than simply quitting—especially when trauma is involved. It is important to get a consultation from a mental health professional. This person will be able to pick up current and past patterns. They will create a treatment plan to cover everything from addiction to stress, frustration, anxiety, depression, and other life difficulties. Treatment for trauma and drug abuse disorders needs to be comprehensive in order to have the best results.
It is important to start healing by handling your addiction first. Once your addiction is in check, your mind will be clearer. You will be ready to work on the trauma leading to your addiction or face the trauma that is occurring because of your addiction. When you are ready to start facing your addiction and trauma concerns, we are here for you at the number below.