Trauma is a common cause and symptom of addictive disorders and mental health conditions. The correlation between trauma and addiction is so strong that the treatment of trauma has become one of the most significant advances in the field of addiction treatment.
Traumatic life experiences and the way we internalize their effects can fundamentally change the way we think and behave. Trauma is a personal experience. The same experience may be considered highly traumatic to one person, but non-traumatic to another. A multifaceted set of personal beliefs, experiences, and environmental conditions determine whether we perceive experiences as traumatic or not. Trauma is also perceived as a matter of degrees. Events, like armed conflict experiences, assaults, major accidents, and sexual violence produce a significant traumatic response from most people. However, many everyday negative experiences can also cause people to experience trauma. People may suffer from unaddressed trauma without ever having experienced a single major physical event.
Trauma plays a foundational role in the development of addictive behaviors because untreated traumatic events create negative self-perceptions from which we feel the need to escape through self-medication. Whether a combat veteran unable to process her negative experiences in theater, or a father who has not acknowledged childhood sexual assault, one’s inability to address, process, and treat the impressions of negative experience perpetuates profoundly negative and persistent thinking about one’s safety and worldview.
Identifying and treating the traumatic life experiences that may trigger self-medication and mental illness is an essential part of effective treatment.
Anyone can suffer from trauma, and anyone can lead a seemingly normal and productive life while suffering from undiagnosed and unaddressed trauma. Certain groups, such as first-responders and military, are particularly susceptible to developing mental health conditions due to frequent trauma exposure. Those who dedicate their lives to helping others deal with trauma are often the ones most affected by it. Police, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, emergency doctors, and others who regularly experience the results of traumatic events need to suppress their natural reactions in order to do their jobs. Ensuring that professionals and other exposed to trauma are able to acknowledge, understand, and process their trauma is essential to good mental health.
Specialized trauma treatment at Futures is designed to help patients for whom trauma plays a major role in dual-diagnosis conditions. Patients with trauma receive all core medical, clinical, and wellness services, but with an intensified and specialized focus on trauma-specific therapies. Specialized trauma therapies include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), dialectical behavioral therapy, and a trauma-specific program called Seeking Safety.