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The Role of Trauma in Mental Health and Addiction

The Role of Trauma in Mental Health and Addiction

Trauma is typically the root cause of many types of mental disorders and substance abuse disorders. This blog will discuss the role of trauma and how it impacts a person’s mental health, as well as how it is treated. With more education comes the lessening of stigmas surrounding this common, but potentially devastating, experience.

What Causes Trauma

Trauma is the result of events that negatively affect a person due to how shocking, grief-inducing, and scary it can be.

Some examples include:

  • Surviving a natural disaster.
  • Discovering or witnessing the death of a loved one.
  • Experiencing war and combat.
  • Being attacked by a person or animal.
  • Undergoing invasive medical procedures.

Trauma is something that can happen to anyone and anytime regardless of race, age, gender, or nationality. Trauma often can result in the development of a mental disorder, perhaps the most commonly known disorder being Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can also result in anxiety disorders and even the development of a substance use disorder.

The Need To Self Medicate

Coping with a traumatic event can be difficult for those who were never taught the tools and habits needed to properly handle the influx of emotions as a result of the traumatic event. Therefore, people try to cope with the pain on their own and often turn to self-medication to numb or deal with the pain. This often develops into a substance use disorder, as more of the substance is needed to remove the negative feelings resulting from trauma.

This can also become a dual diagnosis, as more mental health disorders can develop during that time which is another result of underlying trauma. The most common types of mental disorders that preclude or develop after a substance use disorder are depression and anxiety disorders. A dual diagnosis requires special treatment to achieve recovery, and recovery cannot be obtained until the underlying trauma is treated.

Trauma Can Be Isolating

Trauma has a habit of making the person struggling with it feel alone and powerless. A person may be experiencing survivor’s guilt and may feel they deserve the pain they are feeling. Some may feel ashamed or scared to seek help because they are afraid of being seen as the cause of their trauma. Some may believe that they just need to ‘pull up their boot straps’ and recover on their own, or else be seen as weak and worthless. Some may think that others might have it worse and thus have no right to acknowledge their trauma.

All of these are isolating thoughts, and prevent many people from reaching out for help. When people are alone, negative thoughts tend to spiral and make a big problem even worse. Many sink into depression as a result. Some might develop a disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to prevent the trauma from happening again, no matter how detrimental the perceived ritual to do so may be. Being alone is not the right answer to dealing with trauma and can worsen the negative effects on a person’s mind.

How Trauma Is Treated

Trauma can be a difficult thing to treat, but it can be done with time and reassurance. Often, trauma is treated through forms of psychotherapy, also known as ‘talk’ therapy. This helps untangle the events that happened and remind the person who experienced them that what happened was not their fault. Internalizing these lessons can take time and repetition, so therapy may be needed for a varied amount of time.

Those with severe trauma or that have a substance use disorder will often benefit from residential treatment programs. These programs give the patient a large support network, and most importantly keep the patient from becoming isolated again. Those that feel they do not need the intensity of a residential treatment program may find outpatient or partial hospitalization programs to be more effective. Sometimes a person may be prescribed medication to help lessen the symptoms of trauma, such as intense panic, fear, and depression. It can take some time for individuals to find the right medication for them, but the results can be well worth it.

Trauma Takes Time

Recovering from a traumatic event is an ongoing process. It is more about learning how to cope and live with the event as opposed to completely erasing the experience from one’s mind. Over time with treatment, individuals will be able to look back on the experience and see it for what it is; a tragic event that they have lived through.

The pain individuals feel will begin to lessen with treatment until there is a day that it does not negatively impact their daily lives. It is not a process to rush, as rushing can sometimes cause treatment to not work. With time, it is possible to achieve a state of recovery. With a support network individuals can trust, they can learn to enjoy life again, without pain and fear.

Trauma can affect anyone from all walks of life. However, it is important to know that the traumatic event was not your fault, and you deserve to be helped and treated with kindness. At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we have talented professionals waiting to help you get through the pain of trauma.

You will face no judgment for what you have gone through. Here, you will learn important skills needed to cope with traumatic events healthily and productively. Experiencing a traumatic event and having negative feelings, as a result, does not make you weak or unworthy of support. Everyone deserves to live a life free of pain and full of joy, no matter what they have gone through.

If you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event, please call (949) 866-3881 to speak with one of our trained staff members on what to do next.


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