The Legacy of Trauma
Understanding the role and impact of Trauma in Addictions and Compulsive Behaviours
The Interplay Of Trauma And Addiction
While everyone deserves a positive childhood in a family that is loving, caring and supportive, this is not the reality for too many people. Trauma in childhood, particularly sustained, disturbing and negative types of events or situations, can create negative messages, thoughts and beliefs that are held deep in the subconscious.
This type of trauma can result from situations such as absent or negligent parents or parents that were critical, over-controlling or emotionally closed to children. It may also include issues such as alcoholism or drug use in the family, constant fighting and hostility in the parent relationship or perhaps incidents of domestic violence between the parents - or between adults that may have entered into the child's life and left just as quickly.
The Impact of Trauma
Extensive research has shown that children raised in traumatic environments, which can include the home as well as the community, develop different brain responses to real or perceived threats.
They can become hypersensitive to things in their current environment; they may be highly sensitive to perceived criticism, rejection, or how others see them. They are also at higher risk of experiencing future problems with interpersonal relationships, depression, anxiety and addictions.
The use of alcohol and drugs, either legal or illegal, is linked to the attempt to self-medicate or escape from those negative messages. When using, addicts and alcoholics are able to suspend reality and to escape from the feelings of hurt, loneliness, lack of relationships and even low self-esteem and high levels of self-doubt.
The need to escape drives the use of the substance, and as the need for more and more to achieve the same escape happens, alcoholism or drug addiction is just a very short step away.
The Impact of Addiction
There is another aspect of the link between addiction and trauma that needs to be considered; not only does trauma cause addiction, but those that are addicted put themselves in environments and situations will expose them to trauma.
Addiction to drugs or alcohol puts an individual at greater risk of being hurt, arrested, losing a job, losing a relationship or even causing harm to someone else. These are all situations which then become traumatic, creating a vicious cycle that will continue to spiral downwards until it is stopped.
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