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The Role Of Trauma Therapy In Addiction Treatment

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When someone experiences a traumatic event, it can affect how they perceive different situations. They can also relieve the even repeatedly either in nightmares or from various triggers. Unfortunately, some people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their traumatic experiences, leading to addiction. Fortunately, when they decide to get help, their treatment plan can include addiction and trauma therapy.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a response to a terrible event that triggers the body’s natural “flight or fight” response, such as:

  • Sexual Assault
  • Natural Disaster
  • Physical Abuse
  • Psychological Abuse
  • War and Combat
  • Unexpected Death

There are three general categories of trauma one can experience:

  1. Acute Trauma – The individual is exposed to a single traumatic experience.
  2. Chronic Trauma – The individual is exposed to prolonged or repeated traumatic events, such as growing up in a dangerous neighborhood.
  3. Complex Trauma – The individual is exposed to several traumatic events by someone they know, such as being physically and sexually abused multiple times by a relative or friend of the family. 

The Signs and Symptoms of Trauma

Some of the more common signs and symptoms of trauma include reliving the event through flashbacks, nightmares, exposure to triggers that remind you of the event, and the inability to stop recurring memories. 

Another symptom can include avoidance, where you withdraw socially from people, places, or activities that remind you of the event. You can also feel ashamed, embarrassed, and blame yourself.

Other common signs and symptoms can include:

  • Easily being frightened or startled
  • Problems forming relationships with others
  • Difficulties expressing emotions
  • Changes in eating habits that result in weight gain or weight loss
  • Problems sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Being overly cautious and guarded when around others
  • Feeling anger, aggression, or irritability
  • Engaging in self-destructive and risky behaviors
  • Turning to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism

The Connection Between Addiction and Trauma

There is well-documented research that shows there is a connection between addiction and trauma, including:

  • For each traumatic event, the risk of developing an alcohol or substance use disorder is four times more likely.
  • People who have experienced five or more traumatic events are ten times more likely to misuse substances.
  • Approximately 66% of intravenous drug users experienced traumatic or abusive childhood experiences.
  • Between 70-80% of men and women in addiction treatment programs have histories of traumatic and abusive events. 
  • Between 30-40% of people in rehab have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
  • Men in rehab have higher incidents of trauma and abuse that led to addiction than women. 

The connection between addiction and trauma occurs when someone turns to drugs and alcohol to alleviate their symptoms and attempt to feel more normal. Yet, alcohol and substance use can also increase the risk of re-experiencing the traumatic event because they are engaging in self-destructive and risky behaviors. 

Sadly, the person can get into a cycle where they drink or use drugs to attempt to deal with the trauma, only to find they are putting themselves into the same situations that caused the traumatic event in the first place. It is worth mentioning not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop an addiction, especially when they seek professional help following the experience. 

What is Trauma Therapy in Addiction Treatment?

Trauma therapy in addiction treatment focuses on using several therapeutic methods. These can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), to help the individual better understand their traumatic experience by focusing on the negative feelings and emotions of the event and replacing those gradually with positive ones. These therapeutic methods help the individual uncover different types of triggers, either related to the traumatic event or their addiction, and then develop positive coping skills. It is equally essential to treat the addiction simultaneously using the appropriate methods.  

Components of Trauma Therapy in Addiction Treatment

There are several components of trauma therapy in addiction treatment. First, they help individuals focus on their strengths and develop skills to identify their weaknesses, challenges, and problems in overcoming their traumatic experiences.

These components incorporate several core principles, including:

  • Safety – Creating a safe environment where the person feels emotionally and physically safe.
  • Trust – Developing trust between the individual and the therapist by establishing clearly defined roles, boundaries, and objectives.
  • Choice – Enabling the individual to determine what forms of therapy will best help them overcome their trauma and addiction.
  • Decision Making – Working collaboratively with the therapist, who gives advice but ultimately encourages the individual to make their own decisions about their care and treatment. 
  • Empowerment – Helping the individual realize their strengths and abilities and use those to develop and build coping skills they can use to manage their triggers. 

Trauma Therapy and Addiction Treatment in Orange County, CA

When you have attempted to face your trauma using drugs and alcohol and want help overcoming your trauma and addiction, Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, CA, is here to help. We offer customizable addiction and trauma therapy treatment programs that fit your specific objectives in a safe, secure, caring, and supportive environment. To learn more about our trauma therapy and addiction treatment programs, visit our admissions page today. 

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