From Heartache to Hope

Life with the Alcoholic/Addict

Trauma; Can Such an Event Turn into Addiction?

An incident of trauma can be the perfect escape to drugs/alcohol and addiction.

Trauma is an incident or occurrence that happens inexplicably or without warning. It is categorized as an over whelming life-changing experience. It is typically a physical and/or emotional shock to the very fiber of one’s being.

Trauma presents an imbalance to our emotional or mental system that is far beyond the norm. Plane crash, automobile fatality, sudden or near death experience or major life alterations can all be considered traumatic whether experienced or witnessed. A person's response can result in intense fear, helplessness or horror.

Though one may have a substance abuse issue before trauma strikes, trauma often paves the way from abuse to addiction. Substance abuse addiction resulting from trauma is unlike the other triggers or gateways, where there is more of a conscious intent on deliberately getting "high" or intoxicated.

Everyone has varying degrees of trauma in their life. Depending on the person and their ability to handle traumatic situations, these experiences can range from shock-wave shivers when re-living the incident to an almost out of body experience due to the lack of acceptance from the event. Similar to depression, trauma can lead to self medication (prescription or otherwise) to numb the pain in an attempt to dilute the reality of the occurrence; which in turn can lead to dependency and/or addiction.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real and professional diagnosis categorized under Anxiety Disorders. One has acute PTSD if the duration of symptoms is less than 3 months, and it becomes chronic if over 3 months.

Some of the emotional symptoms associated with PTSD are:

• Avoiding conversations associated with the trauma and not dealing with or confronting emotions and feelings.

• Avoiding certain people or places that may arouse memories of the incident.

• Feeling detached or estranged from society and friends. Interests, hobbies or activities are considered unimportant and not worth any effort to reincorporate into their life.

• Difficulty in having or continuing with intimate relationships. This is especially true if a sexual or physical violation upon the person is the reason for the trauma.

Some of the physical symptoms associated with PTSD are:

• Difficulty relaxing, or sleeping soundly.

• Easily agitated or irritable. Mercurial behavior or mood swings.

• Concentration or commitment to a task is short lived.

When traumatic events occur such as killings on school grounds, bombings, airline crashes or other disasters of great magnitude, a triage of therapists are immediately assembled at the scene. They

provide assistance to help with the psychological impact of the trauma that has just unfolded before the injured parties can seek their own personal professional help.

While the trauma is still fresh, it is imperative to locate a highly trained PTSD specialist before this horrific experience can burrow and establish psychological roots. Careful, gentle and consistent therapy can work wonders with anyone willing to be open and honest.

Do not give the trauma a chance to ferment, or the injured party could take their recovery into their own hands with self medication, which could lead to addiction. They may not be able or willing to stop the self medicating once it starts. If this addictive behavior becomes a reality, the injured party now has two issues to deal with; the unfinished traumatic incident as well as the likely hood of substance addiction.

Trauma should never be taken lightly, but especially if it involves a child. For a youngster, trauma can be anything from bathroom accidents at home or in school to being picked on for something that might catch the amusement of fellow classmates. It does not have to be of such magnitude as listed above, but to a child many events in their formative years become larger than life and therefore traumatic.

If trauma has happened to a child; parents, friends or guardians, must take the appropriate action to insure that the child is in the best professional hands possible to talk about their experiences in a safe, comfortable environment.

Parents frequently deny that their child has experienced any trauma, of they may down play its significance, or simply wish/believe the child is over it. You don't know what could be rumbling around due to shame or embarrassment that might make it hard for your child to share it with you.

Regardless of child or adult, if these traumas are not dealt with in their infancy, it can result in unfinished business and could rear its ugly head later in life in the form of addictive behavior. Remember that self medication in an attempt to take away the pain can easily turn into addiction from wounds that turn into scars.

If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.com and I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcoholic/Addict. It can be purchased through PayPal or at Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio through PayPal only.

Carole Bennett, M.A., is a family substance abuse counselor, lecturer, columnist and author based at her Family Recovery Solutions Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, CA.

more...

Subscribe to From Heartache to Hope

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?