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How Trauma and Substance Abuse Go Together

Traumatic events change your life, whether they occurred long ago in youth or recently in your adult years. Unfortunately, it is common for people suffering troublesome events to start self-medicating through substance abuse. In fact, this self-medication is often where alcoholism and drug addiction begin. This is just one reason why it is so important to start healing from your painful past in trauma therapy.

There is a proven link between trauma and increased substance abuse. If you find yourself drinking more often or turning to drugs for self-medication after traumatic events or because of your memories, you can get help. Through trauma therapy you can slow your progression through substance abuse and toward addiction. At the same time, you can help yourself recover from the negative occurrences for the more fulfilling future you deserve.

What causes psychological trauma?

Psychological trauma occurs from a negative event or long-term exposure to difficult circumstances that impact your well-being. As a result of these events, you experience lasting mental stress and physical changes that can affect your long-term health. 

These stress responses are designed to keep you safe as part of a natural fight-or-flight response. But after the emergency is over, the helpful responses become harmful. Just thinking about your troublesome past can trigger an unnecessary fight-or-flight response. Being stuck in this cycle and not processing your memories and feelings can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

PTSD can occur from many different types of trauma. These include:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Physical assault
  • Military combat
  • Domestic violence
  • Parental neglect
  • Bullying
  • Accidents
  • Injury or terminal illness
  • Natural disasters

Of course, these are only several examples of what causes PTSD. Trauma's causes and effects are highly individualized. You can suffer symptoms as a result of any event that makes you feel your life is in danger.

Symptoms of Trauma

Experiencing traumatic events can lead to a wide range of symptoms. Many people try to stifle these signs. But the symptoms typically manifest and continue until you experience healing such as through trauma therapy.

Symptoms commonly occurring as a result of a traumatic experience include:

  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Excessive emotions
  • Lasting anxiety or fear
  • Ongoing irritability, agitation or aggression
  • Lost self-confidence
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems and nightmares
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Flashbacks 
  • Relationship problems
  • Eating disorders

People who have suffered a traumatic event or experience are at a higher risk for substance abuse and addiction, too.

How Trauma and Substance Abuse Go Together

Your brain is wired to adapt and overcome just about anything you can encounter in your life. This capability is plasticity. It enables you to constantly learn new things. It also enables you to develop memories. 

All of your experiences impact your brain's neurons, enabling them to evolve, grow or break. In essence, your brain does what it can to keep you functioning despite your circumstances. 

Traumatic events create many of the symptoms listed in the section above. You also carry forward the memories of these events. They change your thoughts, behaviors and reactions to the world around you and even the people you love. Unfortunately, despite your brain's efforts to keep you functioning, these events can cause many problems in how you think and behave. As a result of your trauma, you can experience long-term mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder. 

About two-thirds of people suffering drug or alcohol addiction have a traumatic past. Because of the daily struggles symptoms of trauma create, it is easy to fall into a pattern of substance abuse. Initially, drinking or using drugs can bring some symptom relief. But as time goes on and the substance abuse continues, self-medication only makes things worse.  

Trauma Therapy at Greene Psychology Group in Raleigh

If you find yourself or a loved one attempting to self-medicate the long-term effects of your past trauma or just struggling to deal with your past, you may benefit from trauma therapy. Through therapy, you can find healing from your painful memories, intrusive thoughts and negative behaviors. You can even stop turning to drugs or alcohol to soothe your mental anguish.

Greene Psychology Group provides teletherapy for residents of North Carolina. We also provide face-to-face trauma therapy in our Raleigh office. Call us today at 919-205-5339 for scheduling.

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