Trauma and Addiction Essay Sample

Published: 2022-11-14
Trauma and Addiction Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Depression Anxiety disorder Post traumatic stress disorder Drug abuse
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1592 words
14 min read

When people, particularly children, experience traumatic events, they exhibit long-lasting effects that inform their detrimental behaviors, thoughts, and emotions throughout their lifetime (Mandavia et al., 2016). It is worthy to note that traumatic events include, but not limited to, fatal road carnage, sexual assault, police brutality, bullying, and death of a family member. In most cases, people who have experienced trauma are addicted to drugs in a bid to forget their stressful and bad past. Therefore, it is important to understand trauma, how it causes addiction, and the necessary remedy to alleviate the two conditions.

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Trauma refers to damage to the mind that happens when a person is exposed to distressing events in life (Cook et al., 2017). Usually, trauma results when the amount of stress that accompanies an event is too overwhelming for the affected individual to integrate his or her emotions or cope with the experience. It is essential to note that different people are exposed to different traumatic conditions that affect their wellbeing and health. These traumatic conditions may cause intense pain or unnecessary cause of fear for safety, and so on. Also, it is worthy to pinpoint that different people have diverse resiliency levels, and so is their reactions to events that cause trauma (Cook et al., 2017).

Noteworthy, these frightening experiences have an impact on people across ages. However, adults are more likely to go over these experiences than children or adolescents. Also, people who have experienced traumatic conditions in their adulthood are less likely to abuse drugs or be addicted to them as compared to individuals who have had these distressing events in their childhood (Cook et al., 2017). Besides, some traumatic experiences are ongoing or repeated in a person's lifetime. Examples of these traumas include military combat or child abuse. Other forms of traumas like growing up in a financially unstable family may end as soon as the person becomes independent economically. Notably, if traumatic conditions are not resolved, victims may suffer from long-term issues that may be detrimental to their health and wellbeing. The ramification for this is that victims engage in substance abuse in a bid to block traumatic memories, improve self-esteem and self-worth, deal with loneliness and feelings of isolation, and to cope with mental ill-health.

Psychological Disorders Related to Trauma


Anxiety is regarded as an extreme emotional state resulting in persistent and excessive worry. Mostly, survivors of traumatic events worry that the same experiences could occur to them again. For this reason, they end up avoiding public places or being in solitude in a bid to avoid future re-occurrences. Other people may experience panic attacks which may cause physiological reactions like difficulty breathing and rapid heartbeats.


Victims of traumatic events usually have persistent feelings of abysmal wretchedness. Prolonged sadness or wretchedness may result in emotional apathy, weight gain or loss, lack of interest, and feelings of hopelessness among others. Subsequently, depression affects work and school performance negatively, causes relationship and friendship problems, and so on.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

People who have experienced traumatic conditions usually develop PTSD symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks among others which trigger memories and cause bodily reactions. According to Khoury et al. (2010), this implies that PTSD causes a person to develop negative changes in mood and thinking, have intrusive memories, and change in emotional and physical reactions. The worst implication of this disorder may be the development of suicidal thoughts which may lead to the abrupt termination of the victim's life. The ramification for this is that victims of these extreme experiences will engage in substance abuse to forget these experiences.


Dissociation is defined as a feeling of disconnectedness from a person's body, and it affects the victim's ability to function, concentrate, or focus for a given period. Usually, individuals learn to numb themselves from the physical and the mental pain to dissociate from trauma. This is known as avoidance coping because it is a mechanism that survivors of traumatic experiences use to detach themselves from their past.

The Link between Trauma and Addiction

Studies have revealed that most people who are addicted to drugs, gambling, or sex once experienced traumatic conditions in their lifetime (Khoury et al., 2010). In this regard, they have had to deal with the physical pain and psychological effects associated with trauma such as feelings of depression, loneliness, worthlessness, and anger among others by using alcohol or engaging in other addictive activities. The link between addiction and trauma has prompted scientists to explore scientific evidence in a bid to establish why this relationship exists. It is imperative to elucidate that researchers have tried to relate trauma and addiction by explaining activities associated with the brain of a trauma victim.

Trauma diminishes the grey and white matter of the survivor's brain. According to Kasai et al. (2008), this subsequently affects neural networks and critical process of the brain. Research reveals that children who have experienced trauma have connectivity problem in most of their brain areas. Urger et al. (2015) explain that one such affected area is the "superior longitudinal fasciculus" (SLF) that helps in behavior planning. Another area affected is the "right cingulum-hippocampus projection" (CGH-R). Trauma leads to white matter loss in CGH-R, which consequently affects abstract thought and emotional processing (Zhao, Cai, Li, & Ji, 2017). Scientists noted that these changes in the brain have a direct correlation with substance use disorder development. Thus, it is worthy to explain that traumatic experiences cause addiction by meddling with vital logistical and emotional processes such as impulse control and emotional regulation. These processes if not interfered with would otherwise prevent people or victims from engaging in substance abuse or other addictive activities.

Treatment Plan

The treatment process for addiction related to trauma is designed to assist victims in avoiding dependence on drugs by distracting negative behavior, emotion, or thought associated with such experiences. Additionally, it is aimed at creating healthy and new patterns which will be instrumental in helping survivors of traumatic events to stay sober (Carruth & Burke, 2013). Thus, the focus of addiction treatment is on neurological and psychological underpinnings of the affected persons. In particular, the treatment focuses on trauma-focused therapies through dual diagnosis program. These therapies are tailored to helping victims explore their past detrimental experiences with the aid of trained and experienced counselors. These counselors guide the addicted survivors of trauma productively, safely, and collaboratively through the application of experiential, group, and individual therapies to prevent re-traumatization.

Moreover, therapists help survivors to develop self-knowledge which helps in challenging detrimental narratives linked to trauma. This therapeutic intervention enables victims to express their fear, anger, or sadness using non-destructive processes and methods. Since trauma negatively impacts brain areas, therapists should pay attention to deficits aimed at boosting neural connections of victims. Additionally, they should treat psychotic symptoms related to traumatic experiences such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression among others. By so doing, therapists will be helpful in reducing or alleviating relapse risks linked to trauma by instigating skills and insights needed to avoid substance abuse in the future.

In general, dual diagnosis treatment encompasses the exploration of the past to prevent addiction and re-occurrence of traumatic experiences. It helps victims to understand their self-worth and discover their true self devoid of substance abuse and addiction. Furthermore, this treatment plan helps victims to experience joy, connection, confidence, and resilience in the world. Also, it enables survivors to discover potential empowering possibilities (Carruth & Burke, 2013).


Trauma and addiction are interlinked since researchers have established that most people who are addicted to drugs have been victims of horrible experiences in the past. These traumatic experiences include being victims of rape or sexual assault, witnessing grisly road accident, being a survivor of a terror attack, and growing up in a low-income family among others. These experiences cause not only physical pain to its victims but also mental and psychological problems. Some of the psychotic problems include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so on. People who have had traumatic experiences usually engage in substance abuse in a bid to erase bad memories, a situation that leads to addiction. Noteworthy, addiction is linked to the diminishing of SLF and CGH-R parts of the brain. Dual diagnosis treatment should, therefore, be used to help victims explore their past and prevent addiction.


Carruth, B., & Burke, M. S. W. (2013). Psychological trauma and addiction treatment. In Psychological Trauma and Addiction Treatment (pp. 15-28). Routledge.

Cook, A., Spinazzola, J., Ford, J., Lanktree, C., Blaustein, M., Cloitre, M., ... & Mallah, K. (2017). Complex trauma in children and adolescents. Psychiatric Annals, 35(5), 390-398.

Kasai, K., Yamasue, H., Gilbertson, M. W., Shenton, M. E., Rauch, S. L., & Pitman, R. K. (2008). Evidence for acquired pregenual anterior cingulate gray matter loss from a twin study of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder. Biological Psychiatry, 63(6), 550-556.

Khoury, L., Tang, Y. L., Bradley, B., Cubells, J. F., & Ressler, K. J. (2010). Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and posttraumatic stress disorder in an urban civilian population. Depression and Anxiety, 27(12), 1077-1086.

Mandavia, A., Robinson, G. G., Bradley, B., Ressler, K. J., & Powers, A. (2016). Exposure to childhood abuse and later substance use: Indirect effects of emotion dysregulation and exposure to trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 29(5), 422-429.

Urger, S. E., De Bellis, M. D., Hooper, S. R., Woolley, D. P., Chen, S. D., & Provenzale, J. (2015). The superior longitudinal fasciculus in typically developing children and adolescents: diffusion tensor imaging and neuropsychological correlates. Journal of Child Neurology, 30(1), 9-20.

Zhao, W., Cai, Y., Li, Z., & Ji, S. (2017). Injury prediction and vulnerability assessment using strain and susceptibility measures of the deep white matter. Biomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology, 16(5), 1709-1727.

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