What Is Trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response to stressful or disturbing events that shatter a sense of security. Situations that create trauma include threats to safety or life, but may also be situations that involve feelings of isolation or high levels of anxiety. Individuals may feel cognitively, emotionally or physically overwhelmed.
What Causes Trauma
The definition of trauma is broad and encompasses both one-time incidents (accidents, death, loss) or chronic circumstances (child abuse, neglect, combat). Trauma is also subjective, as everyone processes events differently.
In other words, what matters most is the individual’s internal beliefs and their innate sensitivity to stress. Trauma is especially common in the lives of people struggling with substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Trauma and Addiction
Research indicates an increased likelihood for certain chronic physical conditions and behavioral health conditions among people who experience trauma, particularly during childhood. Traumatic experience has been linked to substance use, mental health disorders and increased instances of risky behaviors.
In the Journal of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental, a study was done that directly linked childhood trauma and alcoholism. The study “reports that “a child with four or more adverse childhood experiences is five times more likely to become alcoholic and 60 percent more likely to become obese, and a boy with 4 or more of these adverse experiences is 46 times more likely to become an injection user than others.”
It is important to understand that experiencing trauma does not guarantee a person will develop an addiction. However, research indicates that trauma is certainly an underlying factor as a source of addiction.
Trauma is also correlated with chronic pain, which may be another trigger for substance abuse disorders. Again, research shows how chronic pain may originally stem from trauma and fuel addiction.
Some statistics from US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health:
- With or without back surgery, nearly 76% of patients with chronic lower back pain report having had at least one trauma in their past.
- Upwards of 90% of women with fibromyalgia syndrome report trauma in either their childhood or adulthood.
- 60% of those with arthritis report a traumatic history.
- 66% of women with chronic headache report a past history of physical or sexual abuse.
- Among men and women, 58% of those with migraines report histories of childhood physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
- Women with chronic pelvic pain also report high rates of sexual abuse in their past, upwards of 56%.
Trauma and Interventions
The correlation between trauma and addiction is so strong, all therapeutic interventions should be facilitated from a trauma-informed approach. That’s why I use a Biopsychosocial approach, which examines addiction as the product of biological, psychological, social and cultural influences. By looking at a robust picture of a client, what they are doing and where they came from, an interventionist can create determine which problem to tackle first.
In the past, interventions and addiction treatment focused solely on getting the individual to sobriety. However, trauma brings intense feelings of discomfort and people often turn to substances to try and numb them. In trying to avoid that pain, they may create new problems with addiction.
In removing the substance abuse, the root issue of the trauma has still not been addressed.
An experienced interventionist will recommend a treatment plan that recognizes trauma and substance abuse often go hand in hand.
It’s important to meet the needs of the individual in a safe and informed way, providing them hope for healing and recovery.
Articles About Trauma
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post. Over the last couple years, more and more treatment centers have started saying they specialize in “Trauma Informed Therapies.” We marvel over this, as clearly indigenous to substance abuse, mental health and...
In my article for the Huffington Post in 2015, I addressed something I called the Triple Threat. Here is an excerpt from that article Until the ‘80s, it used to be that clients coming in for treatment were typically corralled into two discrete camps: the mentally ill...
Dr. Louise talks with Charles from Stigma of Addiction Hello and welcome to Author’s Promoter, today we have the privilege of introducing you to Dr. Louise Stanger and we will be talking about her book Falling Up a Memoir of Renewal. How are you today Dr. Louise...
This article was originally posted on TheBabySpot.ca The little toy dog is covered with dust, But sturdy and stanch he stands; And the little toy solider is red with rust, And his musket moulds his hands. Time was when the little toy dog was new, And the...
An Interview with Dr. Louise Stanger: The Triple Threat of Addiction, Mental Illness, and Tertiary Issues
People think that anybody can do an intervention. On TV it only takes 53 minutes: addiction, conflict, intervention, treatment. If only it was that simple. Here's an excerpt from my recent interview with the Alta Mira team. The Reality of Interventions “The clients...
Just under a year ago, I wrote a Huffington Post article that focused on the complicated cases I was seeing around the country. Not only was I seeing folks that experienced mental health and substance abuse and /or process disorders, they were also experiencing...