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Trauma and Addiction

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Trauma and Addiction

Working Towards Understanding and Empathy

 
 
Addiction is a concept that can be extremely difficult to understand, for both those in it’s grasp and those observing it’s destruction. Understanding and treating addiction can be overwhelming and complex. Oftentimes we don’t know where to begin. In my experience over the last ten years working in the mental health field, I’ve learned about the important role that trauma plays in developing addiction, whether that be to a substance or destructive behavior. As a result, I’m a firm believer that one can’t find themselves addicted without first experiencing some level of trauma.
 
CREATES THE PERFECT STORM”Oftentimes we view trauma as something dramatic and in your face. We conjure up images of war, death and violent assaults. But the reality is that the majority of trauma is much more insidious and understated. Having a parent who sent you the message that nothing you did was ever good enough. Never feeling like you really fit in growing up. The loss of a serious romantic relationship. I’ve heard trauma described as “anything less than nurturing”. If that is true, we have all experienced trauma at some point in our lives. And if this trauma hasn’t been processed, we are walking around with an open wound.
 
 
 
Trauma can be far reaching in its influence on one’s life. Trauma can impact our beliefs about ourselves, the quality of our relationships, even how our brain biology works. It can lead to feelings of low self worth, chronic hypervigilance and can result in self destructive behaviors. Addiction can be understood as an attempt to cope with the discomfort of trauma, to escape and deny the painful reality of what one has experienced, to create a false confidence when inside one is falling apart or questioning their worth. Addiction is utilized as a chemical solution to a soul problem. And trauma creates the perfect storm for desperation to feel better, any way that we can. Thus, the addiction isn’t necessarily the problem, but the attempted solution to the real problem. And if we aren’t treating the real problem, our trauma, we aren’t treating our addiction.
 

 



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