What is Trauma?
Trauma is an event or experience that overwhelms and impacts a person’s sense of security/coping ability. Traumas vary from person to person and vary in severity. What one person might forget another person may be scarred by. Trauma can be a distressing event or something more mundane like their parents divorcing. These traumas can lead to years of repressed feelings and stress in a person’s life.
Common traumas a person may experience may include:
- Death of a loved one, close friend, or friend
- Witnessing violence or abuse (themselves or loved one)
- Living in a household with an addicted or abusive parent
- Illness and disease (life-threatening)
- War experiences
- Sexual assault or abuse
- Witnessing or being involved in a severe accident
- Witnessing a death
- Natural disasters
In reality, a traumatic experience can be anything at all. The main impact is how a person reacts to this trauma in their life. Many people tend to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with these memories and past traumas. This can end up leading to dependence and addiction in the long run. When people get the treatment it’s important to approach it with the lens of trauma-informed care. This means looking at trauma as part of addiction treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Trauma
Trauma can end up leading to more intense conditions such as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can be accompanied by depression and anxiety. A person’s trauma can lead to several different symptoms and problems in a person’s life. Some of the most common symptoms of trauma and PTSD include:
- Avoiding certain events associated with a traumatic event
- Flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event
- Hopelessness and despair
- Memory loss
If you or a loved one is frequently experiencing these symptoms they may be dealing with PTSD.
Trauma and Addiction
The symptoms and emotions of these past traumas can be tough for a person to handle and cope with. They may seem overwhelming and distressing (sometimes frequently). As a result, people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with the effects and to self-medicate. Self-medicating like this can be seen in those who struggle with mental disorders as well. This is usually a temporary solution and ends up causing more problems in the long run.
This is why trauma and addiction treatment should be treated together. Understanding that a person has had a traumatic experience in the past and is drinking because of it can make treatment more effective. Practicing trauma-informed care helps pinpoint the exact reasons why a person began drinking, to begin with. By coming to terms and coping with these feelings, a person can focus on getting help both mentally and physically.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
In 1998 a study was conducted by the CDC (Centers for Diseases Control) to see the effects of adverse childhood experiences on a person’s health in the long-term. This study (as well as many future studies) showed that children with traumatic childhoods have an increased risk of developing drug and alcohol disorders as adults The study was called the ACE study and several of the experiences identified as traumatic included:
- Divorced parents
- Neglect (physical or emotional)
- Racism and bullying
- Living in foster homes
- Experiencing violence
- Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
- Domestic violence
- Living with a parent struggling with a mental illness or substance problem
- Growing up in an unsafe neighborhood
The study determined that if a child experienced at least four of these they had an increased rate of developing depression, alcohol/drug abuse, and anxiety (among other conditions). Unfortunately, the trauma continues to affect thousands of children every year. Cases of trauma can negatively change how a person’s mind grows and develops.
Trauma-Informed Care and Addiction Treatment
Luckily, many addiction treatment centers like Granite Mountain can integrate treatment for both addiction and trauma/PTSD. This is considered a case of co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders (also known as dual diagnosis) occur when a person is dealing with both an addiction and a mental disorder (in this case PTSD). These cases can be very problematic if left untreated. As mentioned, trauma can be the reason why someone abuses drugs – in turn, their symptoms worsen which circles back to more drug use. It’s because of this that trauma and addiction treatment should be guided together.
Trauma-informed care is a vital part of the process and allows for the best chances of recovery as well as a better life. The trauma-informed approach takes into account the past traumas and negative experiences in a recovering addict’s life. By creating a comprehensive treatment plan and following the principles of trauma-informed care.
How Does Trauma-informed Care Work?
Trauma-informed care uses several principles to help a person cope and understand their past traumas while tackling addiction. This is a process that requires both the therapist and the patient. Let’s take a look at the different principles of trauma-informed care during treatment:
- Safety – The therapist needs to create a safe and open environment for the person, this is crucial to the success
- Transparency/Trustworthiness – Before a person can open up about their past traumas there must be a certain level of trust in the therapist and the rehab center as well. A center like Granite can provide an extensive level of care and transparency.
- Collaboration and Mutual help – No matter who is getting treatment, a collaboration between other peers, therapists, and the staff is crucial. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of trust.
- Peer Support – Sharing your story with others who have experienced trauma (as well as hearing their stories) is a very effective way to work through your feelings. Peer support is a vital part of almost all trauma and addiction treatment cases.
- Cultural, Gender, and Other Issues – Understanding topics of race, gender, age, religion, identity, ethnicity, and geography should be set as the ground rules. With this in mind, it’s important to honor and value these topics respectfully and openly – as these could be related to the trauma as well.
- Empowering voice and choice – Part of the journey should be to reward and recognize the strength of those willing to battle their trauma (as well as recovering from addiction). Promoting the healing promise and empowering those who are struggling is a vital part of the process.
There should be a strong relationship between the therapist and the person getting help. This should be a relationship of trust, professionalism, and support from beginning to end. No matter how bad things may appear, with the right help, you can overcome addiction and trauma. Trauma-informed care should be practiced with care and respect to achieve all goals set by the therapist and person struggling with the trauma.
Receiving Trauma and Addiction Treatment
Approaching addiction takes a qualified and supportive team of specialists, that’s where our team at Granite Mountain comes in. The process of dealing with trauma and addiction involves multiple elements such as therapy, detox, and medication in some cases. Getting addiction treatment usually starts with detox and moves onto more quality treatment such as inpatient or outpatient treatment (depending on the case at hand).
Start the Journey at Granite Behavioral Healthcare
Dealing with trauma and substance abuse can be a tricky and stressful situation. However, trauma and addiction treatment is an option. At Granite, our incredible staff is ready to help you overcome those hurdles with a trauma-informed care approach and a supportive environment the whole way. Don’t let addiction and past trauma ruin your life any longer, take the first step towards sobriety and a better life. Contact us today to learn about our addiction treatment options and mental health services.