trauma and addiction

The Surprising Link Between Trauma and Addiction: How to Get Help Before It’s Too Late

Both drugs and alcohol addiction have been consistently on the rise in the United States for the past several years. 

No matter what kind of addiction you’re struggling with, we understand that the idea of getting help can feel as scary and overwhelming as it does appealing. 

This is especially true if you suspect that your mental illness has something to do with your addiction. In fact, using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate is one of the most common signs of symptoms of childhood trauma in adults.

In other words? 

There is a definite link between trauma and addiction

To get a better understanding of how that link works, and to learn how addiction treatment for dual diagnosis works, keep on reading this post. 

Understanding Dual Diagnosis

To fully grasp the link between trauma and addiction, you need to understand the concept of what’s referred to as “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorders.”

In short, this is a term used in addiction treatment and psychology that indicates that someone has both a mental health condition and problems with substance abuse and addiction. 

It doesn’t matter what kind of specific mental health struggle or disorder you’re struggling with, or the kind of substance you abuse. The important thing here is that these two issues influence and feed off of one another. 

For example, you might have bipolar disorder, and use illegal drugs incredibly recklessly when you’re in the manic phase. You may have depression or anxiety, and use alcohol as a coping mechanism or as a way to numb the pain. 

You may or may not have been diagnosed with a mental illness before you decide to enter into trauma and addiction recovery. However, as a part of your treatment process, you’ll undergo therapy to help you understand your mental illness and how it can impact your overall addiction. 

If you have a dual diagnosis, you are in no way alone. About 8 million Americans struggle with both addiction and a mental health condition. 

Now, let’s talk about what you can expect from treatment and why it’s so important to act quickly. 

Trauma and Addiction Treatment: What You Need to Know

We know you’re anxious to understand how the trauma and addiction recovery process works. 

First of all, understand that, as someone with both mental illness and addiction struggles, you’re a high-risk patient. 

While the vast majority of people with co-occurring disorders do not take their own lives, the fact of the matter is that those with a dual diagnosis do have a much higher risk of attempting suicide.

Even if you’re not feeling suicidal when you use or decide to enter treatment, getting help as early as you can will stop those suicidal thoughts from appearing in the first place. 

When you’re so depressed that you can’t get out of bed, it becomes even harder to convince yourself that you need — and are worthy of — help. 

Your treatment team will work with you to determine which came first: your addiction or your mental health issues. Look for programs that offer integrated treatment. These are facilities that can help you to manage your mental health and treat your addiction at the same time. 

Understand that, because you have mental health issues, your team may elect to give you psychological medication in addition to talk therapy and standard addiction treatment.

Additionally, you may need to stay in recovery for a bit longer than those who are suffering from addiction alone. You’re an especially excellent candidate for a sober living facility after completing treatment, as well. 

How Therapy Helps

It’s no secret that therapy is a huge part of any addiction and trauma recovery process. 

But if you’re struggling with a co-occurring disorder, it’s even more essential. Especially if you experienced trauma in childhood, you may have buried these painful experiences for a long time, instead of addressing them. 

But these pent-up memories find another way to come out: often, through substance abuse or alcoholism. 

Additionally, you may have even become addicted to medications like benzos, which were meant to help you to manage the symptoms of your illness in the first place. 

You need therapy to help you cope without an excessive amount of medication, or to help you to understand why you’re so driven to use. 

Dual diagnosis treatment involves individual and group therapy, and you and your team will work to find the best type of therapy for you. 

You may find that dialectical behavior therapy, (DBT) cognitive-behavioral therapy, (CBT) or even motivational interviewing and other experiential therapies are the most effective for you.  

Are You Ready to Get Help for Trauma and Addiction?

We hope that this post has helped you to not only get a better understanding of the link between trauma and addiction but also to learn why getting help as soon as possible is so important. 

In order to get the level of help you need, we suggest that you look into a treatment facility with a specialization in treating patients with a dual diagnosis.

That’s where we come in. 

Our incredible counselors will help you to address long-held traumas and mental health issues that have made you more susceptible to addiction. You’ll learn healthier coping mechanisms, and how to stop letting both addiction and your mental health rule your life. 

Reach out to us today to learn more.

Remember, even just by reading this article, you’ve already taken your first step towards recovery. 

Together, let’s take the next one. 

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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