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The Link Between Trauma and Addiction

Trauma and addiction are directly linked and can begin as early as childhood and adolescence. Unresolved trauma can impact a person for life and contribute to the development of substance use disorders. Trauma therapies have proven valuable in addressing past trauma in people working on their sober goals. Origins offers our patients evidence-based trauma therapies, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), to help process trauma.

Traumatic experiences early in life can play a significant role long after childhood ends. Even people who have forgotten specific details of the trauma may be influenced by it well into adulthood. For someone struggling with addiction, uncovering the connection to painful incidents can help us understand the long-term side effects of trauma and create a sustainable form of recovery.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma can be a single event or a series of situations that has a long-lasting impact on a person’s physical and mental health and social and emotional well-being. It’s important to point out that two people can experience the same event, with only one being traumatized by it. Some people will remember the trauma in great detail, while others may largely forget specific details of the painful experience.

Types Of Trauma

Types of trauma include harmful experiences caused by other people and ones created by outside forces. It doesn’t matter if the harm was intentional or not if it’s still having a negative effect years later.

  • Domestic Violence: “Domestic” implies abuse from any person you live with, often a close family member. For example, a person with a history of domestic violence may be abused by a spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling, or anyone living with them at the time.
  • Emotional or Verbal Abuse: This type of trauma comes from a person who threatened, controlled, manipulated, humiliated, insulted, and/or frequently monitored their victim. A person who’s suffered emotional or verbal abuse may struggle with a sense of self-worth and identity.
  • Physical Assault: Physical injury and the threat of physical harm are part of this type of trauma. The assault could be a one-time incident or have happened multiple times by the same person or different people.
  • Sexual Assault: Unwelcome touching or forced sexual acts are part of this type of trauma. The perpetrator may be a stranger or someone familiar.
  • Rape: Rape is defined as “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception.” Trauma from rape can have long-term effects on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being and social development.
  • Parental Neglect: Neglect involves a parent failing to provide proper childcare. Not feeding a child or giving adequate clothing or medicine when needed are forms of parental neglect. A lack of supervision that leads to safety risks is another kind of parental neglect.
  • Bullying and Harassment: This type of trauma often comes from people within the same peer group. The threats can happen in person regularly and carry over onto social media platforms.
  • Natural Disasters and Accidents: Forces outside of our control can create traumatic experiences. Losing a home in a hurricane or surviving a rollover crash, for example, can be traumatic.

Signs Of Trauma

Signs of trauma can appear immediately or reveal themselves after someone has been reminded of the past trauma. Sudden mood shifts and erratic behaviors are both signs of trauma.

A person showing signs of trauma may constantly appear anxious or nervous. They may show fear regularly. Their emotions may seem excessive at times or even inappropriate for the situation. Being passive and timid is another possible result of unresolved trauma.

People still suffering from past trauma may struggle to maintain relationships at work and in their personal lives. Remembering the painful experiences may turn into reliving them. They may attempt to avoid any people, places, or events that will remind them of their trauma.

Trauma’s Long-Term Effects

Unresolved trauma can have an impact on a person’s entire life. You may feel constantly fatigued for no apparent reason, suffer from sleep disorders, and experience nightmares routinely. Anxiety can develop as you attempt to manage your life to avoid anything that reminds you of past trauma. You may become depressed as well.

The long-term effects of trauma are not necessarily evident to a person who’s experienced that trauma. They may not notice their habit of avoiding trauma-related emotions, sensations, and activities. They may assume it’s just “who they are” and “who they’ve always been.”

Trauma’s Link To Addiction

Consider the long-term effects listed above. Living with any of these issues is exhausting and challenging. You do whatever you can to manage trauma symptoms, even if it’s ultimately detrimental to your health.

Living in “survival mode” can make a person turn to substances to quiet the noise in their mind. They may drink excessively or misuse prescription drugs. They may even turn to recreational drugs at times.

The development of addiction can begin early in life. For example, a teen who suffered physical abuse from a parent may cope with resentment and anger by using drugs as an escape. The teen may not fully be aware of how the trauma is affecting them when their new drug habit begins.

Finding Help For Trauma and Addiction at Origins

Trauma and addiction are a connection that’s very familiar among the treatment teams at Origins. In many cases, people who attempted to get sober in the past were unaware of their trauma’s role in their substance use. Trauma treatment is a valuable component of creating a life that can sustain sobriety beyond a treatment center stay.

Trauma therapies at Origins include a variety of evidence-based interventions. They include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), biofeedback, neurofeedback, meditation and mindfulness training, and group and individual therapy.


Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.