A terrible event, such as an accident or a natural disaster, can lead to an emotional response. Immediately, people may experience denial and shock. In the long term, there are often flashbacks and strained relationships. The trauma may even present physically in the form of nausea or headaches.
It is completely normal to have a difficult time or reaction to a traumatic childhood event. It is a problem when these feelings become debilitating and make it hard or impossible for someone to move forward with his or her life.
What Childhood Trauma Is
Children who have experienced trauma can suffer from hyperarousal (a state of being constantly alert) or disassociation (detaching oneself from a situation). Disassociation is more common in younger children since they are the least capable of engaging in either fight or flight behaviors, due to their dependency. When the trauma happens throughout their childhood, it can lead to a sense of having no control over the circumstances of their life, with the impacts felt for decades.
According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, kids who experienced trauma in their youth (such as abuse or neglect) are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment, die younger than their peers and are more likely to develop heart disease and lung disease.
There are many symptoms of trauma. They include anxiety, mood swings, guilt, withdrawal, and denial. Victims of trauma can end up pushing away their loved ones, making it more difficult to help them recover.
Anyone can experience trauma, but people with low levels of cortisol or serotonin might be more susceptible to suffering more greatly.
Substance Abuse and Trauma
People who experience traumatic events during their childhood are many times more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol in their adulthood. For people who have suffered a psychological trauma, these substances can numb their emotions, calm them down, and even make them feel empowered. It can be hard for addicts to have those feelings when they are sober.
The choice of substance varies depending on the addict – they may use marijuana to relax, stimulants to energize, alcohol to function in social settings or opioids for euphoric experiences. However, these benefits do not last long, and people can quickly come to rely on them.
Because people with trauma tend to pull away from those closest to them, it can be more difficult to notice an addiction. However, the symptoms can be clear if you pay attention. They include an avoidance of activities that don’t involve the substance, neglecting physical appearance, and secretive behavior.
Treating a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and a mental disorder is always difficult. It is important to treat both at the same time, to help a person overcome both of these challenges. Usually, treatment involves both psychotherapy and medication. The treatment plan needs to be tailored to the individual and followed carefully to succeed.
If you or someone you know suffered a childhood trauma and is also an addict, our professional team is trained to help.