The Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

The Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

The link between childhood trauma and addiction is not only common but is almost guaranteed in most cases of someone struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Many forms of trauma can have a negative effect on our mental health as we enter adolescence and adulthood. Everyone has a different way of coping, but more often than not, self-medicating is how we learn to deal with it. So, what exactly do we mean by trauma?

Trauma is a term used to describe the emotional reaction to a one-off or frequent event that has caused us physical or psychological damage. It refers to being incapable of processing or moving on from the event without reliving the pain that it has caused. This inability to move forward usually increases the chance of suffering from mental illness that often leads to drug and alcohol abuse.

No set event can cause childhood trauma; often, the trauma can remain unidentified; it is believed that much more of us suffer from undiagnosed childhood trauma than we think. Trauma can occur when someone has felt abandoned, abused, neglected, bullied, suffered loss, or been seriously injured. It can sometimes be challenging to identify the cause of the trauma without the right sort of therapy, but it is good to have a better understanding of what can be the root cause of addiction. Today we will talk about the causes of trauma, coping mechanisms, its long-lasting effects, and how drug rehabilitation can help heal someone who is suffering from childhood trauma.

Understanding Trauma

Up until the age of 6 or 7 is the most likely time for someone to suffer from childhood trauma. This is due to the development of the brain in those early stages of life. The brain is constantly growing, creating and strengthening its neural network. When a traumatic event occurs, it can impair or slow down this development, resulting in a lack of behavioural and cognitive ability. Dealing with these high-stress levels will trigger physical or psychological stress responses and increase the chance of disruptions in the brain’s structure. This can then lead to the formation of habits to bridge the gaps in its neurological network.

What constitutes trauma?

When we think of childhood trauma, it is often categorised as sexual or physical abuse, but it can come in many more forms. When we are children, we rely on the people we love to support us through difficult times, but when these people are the root of the event, it leaves us with no network to give us the emotional support we need. Quite often, a traumatic event in our childhood would be much easier to process and deal with if it happened to us as adults. There are too many causes of trauma to mention, but here is a list of some of the most common forms of childhood trauma that can lead to drug and alcohol addiction, along with many other compulsions during adulthood.

  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical assault of any kind
  • Witnessing domestic violence or aggression
  • Parental separation
  • Any form of bullying
  • Accidents such as being in a car crash, a bad injury, or a house fire
  • Feeling neglected by parents or struggling with abandonment

All of these events can cause trauma, whether they are singular or reoccurring. It is all down to the brain development of the child at the age of the incident. It can sometimes be challenging to pinpoint the cause of the trauma as it is something that most people haven’t been able to process or even acknowledge. It is also important to remember that it doesn’t need to be something that a family member or loved one has done. For instance, if the trauma was caused by sexual abuse that occurred outside of the home, it would be extremely difficult for a child to talk about as their brain isn’t at the stage of understanding precisely what happened, and this will often result in a feeling of shame or embarrassment.

What coping mechanisms can adults develop to deal with childhood trauma?

Hindrances in the early development of the brain can result in a number of different coping mechanisms. Though addiction is very common, there can be other forms of compulsive behaviour that develop in later life, often alongside self-medicating using drugs and alcohol. Here are some of the common emotional and physical responses to childhood trauma.

Relationship issues – People who have suffered childhood trauma, particularly sexual, emotional, or physical abuse, tend to struggle to develop healthy and trusting relationships. This goes for both romantic and social relationships.
The trauma can lead to a lack of self-worth and confidence issues that can have many adverse consequences when it comes to forming relationships. This could range from compulsive sexual behaviour, avoidance of relationships, an attraction to destructive relationships, struggles with sexual identity, and much more.
Eating disorders – All eating disorders, whether it is a compulsion to binge eat, bulimia, or anorexia, are usually a result of some form of childhood abuse. Unhealthy relationships can develop with food because it is one of the only things in life that we have control over; it can sometimes feel like it is safer to trust food than people and that it is the only relationship that adheres to our needs.
Eating disorders usually start as a coping mechanism during childhood as a short-term way to cope with the stress of abuse, but if they are untreated or unidentified, they can live on through adulthood.
Workplace struggles – It is also common for trauma sufferers to struggle to relate to other people. This can impact our professional life too. People who have suffered childhood trauma might struggle to hold down jobs and lack motivation to work.
On top of these sorts of physical and emotional reactions to childhood trauma, there are also many behavioural side effects. For example, in most cases of childhood trauma, the impaired development of the brain can result in one or more of the following.

  • Easily irritable and agitated
  • Mood swings and dramatic changes in behaviour
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds them of traumatic events.
  • A lack of confidence
  • Nervousness
  • Strong emotional displays
  • Perpetually reliving the incident(s)

We are here to help

If you or anyone you know is suffering from addiction or childhood trauma, don’t spend a moment hesitating and contact Calm Rehab today. At our drug rehab in Bali, we are here to provide a supportive environment and help our clients get over addiction and process their childhood trauma. It is never too late to ask for help, so let’s work towards creating the best version of yourself now.

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