Many people experience traumatic events in their lives. For some, the aftermath of trauma can disrupt their mental, emotional, and daily life functions. Every person will react to a traumatic experience differently, and some will develop serious issues such as anxiety and insomnia. Some people may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where the after-effects of a traumatic experience cause severe symptoms that disrupt a person’s daily life.
The Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as an event someone experiences where they feel that they are in immediate danger. Many different experiences can be considered trauma, and it has consequences for the lives of people who experience it. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we provide our clients with different types of therapy to help them overcome their trauma so they can live happy, healthy lives in recovery.
What is Trauma?
People experience trauma as a result of exposure to a disturbing, horrific, or life-threatening event. Some people may feel less distress as a result, while some people may struggle with the psychological impact and develop life-altering symptoms.
Trauma can occur at any time in a person’s life. Children may have a particular vulnerability to trauma because they cannot fight back or escape from a dangerous situation. Situations that can cause psychological trauma can include natural disasters, accidental or intentional human-made destruction, assault, rape, witnessing harm or death of another person, or a near-death event. Long-term physical, psychological, and emotional abuse can lead to PTSD and an increased risk of acquiring a substance use disorder.
Common symptoms of people who experience trauma include:
People who have experienced trauma may avoid places, people, or sounds that trigger memories of the event. This can limit their ability to function in daily life. Some people also experience flashbacks, where a triggering event causes them to have vivid feelings of being back in the moment where they experienced the trauma.
People who survive an experience where others die may experience a reaction called survivor’s guilt. For these people, they must cope with the trauma of a near-death experience and cope with the guilt of why they survived when others did not. People also feel guilt and shame after a traumatic experience because they begin to think about what they could have done differently or how they could have responded better.
Some types of trauma can feel especially shameful or painful to people who feel like they allowed the event to happen. Others feel like the shame of experiencing the event must stay buried instead of treated. With regards to rape and the the moral judgments that can go with it, it can cause victims of rape to feel both trauma and fear of speaking out.
Trauma can happen as one event or over a long time.
Different types of Trauma include:
Acute trauma is a response to an event that makes the person feel at risk of injury or death. This may be one moment or an event like a natural disaster. Response to an acute trauma may develop right away, or people may feel numb or in shock. After an event, some people may develop a trauma response while others do not. Each person processes experiences differently.
Often experienced by children or other long-term abuse victims, chronic trauma happens over time, often years. Survivors can develop a host of other mental and substance use disorders as a result. Victims of chronic trauma may live in situations where they never know when to expect more harm, so they become hypervigilant and may have serious issues with trust.
When a person experiences separate traumatic events more than once in their life, they may develop complex trauma. Those with complex trauma have multiple traumatic experiences to cope with. Complex trauma may come from experiencing numerous traumatic events at different times. Individuals may also work in fields where they act as first responders to accidents and disasters. These individuals have regular exposure to difficult sights and experience repeated trauma.
Often experienced by trauma therapists or loved ones of a person coping with trauma, secondary trauma develops when people have constant exposure to others’ trauma experiences. Working with trauma victims or supporting a loved one coping with trauma becomes exhausting and emotionally draining. Hearing about the traumatic experience many times can traumatize the support person as well.
Trauma and Substance Use Disorder
Many people turn to substances to help them cope with experiences of trauma. According to SAMHSA, over 60% of people seeking treatment for substance abuse also reported at least one traumatic experience.
Many people report childhood trauma from a parent with a substance use disorder. Research has indicated that parents with a substance use disorder have a three times greater risk of abusing their children.
In many cases, these parents also grew up with parents who used substances and abused them. In this way, substance abuse and childhood trauma become a cycle that reaches across generations.
People with any type of trauma may use a substance to mask the pain, control the symptoms, or feel normal again for a while. This self-medicating becomes a substance use disorder when substance use becomes the only way a person can function and control their symptoms. At this point, the person has developed a dependence on the substance for medicating their trauma symptoms.
People in recovery must receive treatment for any past trauma that contributed to their substance use disorder to heal fully. Recovery becomes more complicated if the factors that drove the person to use substances remain untreated. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we ensure our clients receive the care they need for their trauma to experience lasting recovery.
If you or your loved one have experienced trauma and are suffering from a substance use disorder, please reach out to our compassionate admissions staff at Everlast Recovery Centers so that we can help you or your loved one find the treatment they need.