in Los Angeles
The Connection Between Trauma & Addiction
Traumatic experiences are formative. They shape who you are and how you react and interact with the world.
Trauma touches every part of your life, creating cracks in what makes you, you. The longer it’s left unrecognized and unexamined, the deeper and bigger those cracks become. Almost like the proverbial fork in the road, trauma changes you from the point it happens going forward, having profound effects on you and your ability to function normally.
A traumatic experience can generate feelings of exaggerated fear, often referred to as hyperarousal or a sense of being in danger known as hypervigilance and recurring intrusive memories. You may feel numb or unable to concentrate on simple tasks or struggle to maintain intimate, close relationships.
It can create upsetting emotions, feelings of disconnection from others or even from yourself. To the point that you’re actively avoiding people, places or circumstances out of fear or discomfort which can turn into a pattern of escalating avoidance and ultimately a profound sense of loneliness. Like no one gets it and no one is there to help.
Troublingly, it doesn’t matter whether trauma is a recent experience or a past situation. It’s not necessarily something you can just “get over” no matter how many times you’ve heard that before.
It stays with you and damages your ability to trust. The long-lasting effects are compounded by feelings of low self-worth, with a study finding that “persons who reported physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect in childhood had significantly lower mean self-esteem than those who did not report these events”.
Trauma, of course, encompasses more than physical and sexual abuse or childhood neglect and can be precipitated by many things. It can be a car accident, combat experience, serious illness, divorce, death of someone you love, loss of a job, being caught in a natural disaster, seeing a crime and more. It’s in the eye of the beholder.
What may seem mundane or easy to overcome for some, can be insurmountable and debilitating for you or someone you love.
Trauma diminishes your outlook for the future, putting a cloud right over it, and becomes a major hurdle to leading a fulfilling life. For that reason, even if you scoffed in the past, it’s imperative to try to be there for that person in your life dealing with trauma now. You might not fully understand it but being there and respecting their experience is crucial.
The hopelessness of going through it alone, or feeling like you’re going through it alone, is a factor in why many people reach for substances.
They need a coping mechanism to soften the constant effects of trauma on their psyche. To try to alleviate the accompanying anxiety, shame, depression, and anger that comes with it.
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Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment is
Needed to Heal
The Department of Health and Human Services lays it out succinctly saying that “mental health problems can sometimes lead to alcohol or drug use, as some people with a mental health problem may misuse these substances as a form of self-medication”.
As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) adds, “there is clearly a correlation between trauma (including individual, group, or mass trauma) and substance use as well as the presence of posttraumatic stress (and other trauma-related disorders) and substance use disorders. Alcohol and drug use can be, for some, an effort to manage traumatic stress and specific PTSD symptoms”, and in a cruel twist, one can feed the other, “likewise, people with substance use disorders are at higher risk of developing PTSD than people who do not abuse substances”.
The statistics bear that out with the National Comorbidity Survey showing that individuals with PTSD were 2 to 4 times more likely than those without it to meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.
The truth is though, substances, be they drugs or alcohol, only provide the illusion of relief and it’s a brief one at that.
Over time, as dependency and addiction grab hold, they serve to magnify the emotional pain of your traumatic experience. The temporary, fleeting nature of a high or of drinking quickly gives way to the reality that your trauma never really left, which leads you right back to the drink or the drugs, creating a vicious cycle.
Since they both work off each other, to get past the trauma and beat your addiction you must deal with both issues simultaneously with dual diagnosis treatment. Treating one without addressing the other leaves you vulnerable to a relapse.
Co-Occurring Disorders We Treat
Anger in individuals dependent on drugs and/or alcohol or other compulsive behaviors is often the result of overreactions to everyday stressors. Feelings resulting from the false meaning or interpretation given to these events (not from the event itself), trigger an exaggerated reaction.
Many people feel down or fatigued sometimes in their lives, but generally for short periods. When these feelings persist and the grey fog that seems to permeate your brain does not lift, you may be struggling with clinical depression.
Many of you take the painful experiences and situations in your life that cause discomfort and place them away hoping that the old adage out ‘of sight, out of mind’ would work. Alas, what happens is both emotional and physical.
Fear is felt by most people in varying degrees. When it becomes paralyzing and substances become the method of emotional management, it is time to reach for help.
Although a natural response to loss, grief brings forward emotional suffering connected to losing something or someone of extreme value.
The impact of trauma may cause profound affects on people and the ability to function normally in their lives. A traumatic experience can create upsetting emotions, feelings of being disconnected from others or self, hyper-vigilance and ongoing intrusive memories.
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Shame & Guilt
When we engage in acts or behaviors that violate principles in which we believe, guilt arises like an internal compass telling us we are heading in the wrong direction.
Because stress is part of everyday life, learning the most effective way to deal with it is critical, especially for people who have become dependent upon alcohol, drugs or other compulsive behaviors to help them cope.
Our Dual Diagnosis Program in Los Angeles
At Inneractions, a dual diagnosis rehab in Los Angeles, our professional therapists are here to assist you in letting go of the emotional bonds caused by your traumatic experience. We’ll walk you through the memories in a gentle, safe way, offering you the opportunity to make sense of what happened. To work through the emotions holding you back and, at the same time, our addiction specialists help you develop healthy coping mechanisms for substance use.
The aim is to move you forward in life, free of trauma and substances.