Unfortunately, the connection between childhood trauma and addiction is one known to many. Many people who suffer from addiction struggle with this disease as a result of negative childhood experiences.
Those who experience emotionally, physically, and/or mentally disturbing situations during childhood may find themselves searching for peace of mind as they grow older. Sadly, countless people have turned to drugs and alcohol to try to find that peace. But, substance use only brings temporary relief from the vivid memories, challenging thoughts, and negative emotions.
For those who are dealing with the effects of childhood trauma and addiction, treatment is important and even necessary. At Free by the Sea, we strive to help those who are facing the impact of trauma while going through addiction recovery.
There is an underlying relationship formed between childhood trauma and addiction. In order to better understand the two, both should be defined. Childhood trauma occurs as the result of life-threatening, scary, and dangerous events that a child experiences. In other words, trauma is considered an event that a person is unlikely to forget.
Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone from any walk of life. Drug abuse has the ability to completely alter how a person thinks and behaves. As time goes on, an individual’s entire life can become consumed by the overall idea of drugs and utilizing them as an attempt to relieve pain and stress. The fundamental question remains: What makes some individuals more vulnerable to addiction than others? Some research suggests a specific connection between trauma and addiction recovery.
Many different factors can contribute to an individual having a higher chance of engaging in drug and alcohol abuse. There could be social or biological reasons. When it specifically comes to abuse and trauma during an individual’s childhood, there is a direct relationship between childhood trauma and addiction.
A child’s past experiences can have a huge impact on their thought processes and brain development as they grow and mature. Particular events such as childhood trauma can negatively impact how a brain develops. Furthermore, the brain has a natural feature called plasticity that answers and adapts to the environment that is around you.
As time goes on, the brain will begin to be strengthened for neutral connections to be created. Our experiences as adults and children can affect how we develop which is similar to how we walk or talk. Overall, the connection between childhood trauma and addiction along with its vulnerability can be best understood once the importance of the brain’s development is understood.
Furthermore, connections or neurotransmitters between the neurons form, develop further, or even break during childhood trauma. The brain’s development and the physical design are fundamentally influenced by an individual’s encounters, both negative and positive.
In addition, upon the assessment of individuals who have experienced childhood trauma or mistreatment, there was an examination that discovered that being abused during childhood caused continual and shockingly significant degrees of stress that hampered typical brain development. Constant pressure from encountering endless mistreatment. The maltreatment initially started the psychological pressures that gradually caused underlying interruptions.
The above-mentioned underlying interruptions were noticed in various neurological sweeps and are likely making victims of childhood trauma more vulnerable to substance abuse disorders. It’s essential to remember that when an individual experiences trauma, it can lead to severe levels of stress which can affect the brain’s growth. As the maltreatment persists, so do the negative effects on the child’s brain. Eventually, it can lead an individual to develop structural difficulties in the brain. In the long run, this creates more of a direct connection between childhood trauma and addiction.
Researchers have investigated the connection between adult and childhood trauma and addiction in order to understand why there are various alcohol and medication abusers that have experienced chronicles of traumatic experiences.
Overall, the structural disturbances in the brain can create a specific connection between childhood trauma and addiction. These demanding experiences can result in an individual turning to alcohol or drugs and oftentimes it can make them more susceptible to addiction. The specific events can be particularly demanding and traumatic for children, and oftentimes, the child doesn’t know how to cope with these emotions without the proper help or guidance.
Childhood trauma can come in several forms and doesn’t necessarily need to be from physical child abuse. Numerous events can cause pain and distress in a child’s life and mind. As time goes on, this can fester and therefore, form into an addiction down the line in various cases.
A few of the most common forms of childhood trauma include:
These traumatic experiences and events can increase an individual’s vulnerability to engage in drug use and addiction. In addition, an individual has a greater chance of developing compulsive sexual behaviors or an eating disorder. Though it’s unfortunate, it’s true that childhood trauma and addiction are a reality for many individuals who have undergone these specific childhood experiences.
Childhood trauma relates to an addition in several ways. When a couple of individuals are making an attempt to manage their trauma and the impact on their lives, they might turn to alcohol and medications to try to self sedate for something specific. For example, PTSD symptoms such as the following might appear to be more achievable to use energizing and stabilizing medications to rely on manifestation.
Addiction has the ability to strike before long and can quickly become one more matter in the child/adult trauma survivor’s life to deal with. Utilizing alcohol and drugs isn’t a great “fix” and instead causes or creates undeniable more agony for that individual. Another reason that childhood trauma and addiction relate is when a substance user’s life puts them more at risk than a non-dependent person.
For example, that might look like unappealing friends, high-risk neighborhoods, draining driving, and various viewpoints can be commonly connected with alcohol abuse and medication. These factors can undeniably dispose substance users to be traumatized by the following factors:
Initially, when children have traumatic experiences, they aren’t able to process them as an adult would. For that reason, traumatic events can be even more scarring and traumatic for a child. At a child’s stage of development, the brain is still developing and has more of a limited perspective on the world around them.
It can be much more difficult to fully interpret events as a child would. Unfortunately, this can definitely fester as time goes on and trickle into some serious stress for adulthood. So, it’s common that an adult will turn to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to cope.
Drugs might seem inviting or a method to cope with the stress of past events or ease past traumas, but they will only make the problems worse. Generally, more problems begin to surface as the individual continues engaging in alcohol and drug use. Childhood trauma and addiction are specifically so intertwined for those reasons.
To add to the vulnerable state of the child being traumatized is the substance use that can be passed down from generation to generation. At an early age, children typically will mirror what their parents do, even if it’s their unhealthy drug use. Once this occurs, a full-scale addiction can happen.
It’s important to understand this quote, “Trauma is not your fault, but healing is your responsibility.” -Theo Fleury. Even though you can’t control what happened in your past, you can make a change for a better future. The specific change you need can look like contacting one of our treatment facilities to start your sober journey today.
Childhood trauma and addiction can certainly be a problematic combination to address, but it’s not impossible. The road it can lead a person down can result in pain, stress, and many physical matters. There are numerous red flags and symptoms to look out for that can indicate a bigger problem if you suspect that your loved one is engaging in alcohol and drug use.
If you are looking to end this brutal cycle of substance abuse and/or drug use, we can help. Don’t allow addiction to have a say on your health, relationships, opportunities, and life. We can help you transform your body and mind into a happier and healthier journey.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.