The Relationship Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Addiction is challenging for those suffering from it and their loved ones. As if understanding the struggle of addiction and the process of recovery wasn’t discouraging enough, there’s still a lot of mystery and stigma surrounding why people become addicted in the first place. Furthermore, these disillusions increase barriers to accessing addiction treatment.

Certain risk factors like genetics, environment, and mental health can increase a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction. Still, it is often the experiences of childhood trauma that are at the core of addictive behavior. While everyone almost universally experiences some trauma in their lifespan, whether profound or acute, the effects of childhood trauma are extremely damaging long term and, in some cases, complicated to overcome.

In this blog post by GateHouse Treatment, we will explore how early experiences play into childhood trauma and addiction struggles. Additionally, we will offer guidance on ways to find relief through therapeutic services, including options for care with an experienced team like ours here at our GateHouse Treatment.

For more information about us and your options for freedom from dependency and the pain childhood trauma can present, visit us here.

What is Childhood Trauma?

The American Psychological Association characterizes trauma as an emotional reaction to a challenging event. Trauma victims often experience denial and shock after the painful experience. Often trauma is detected by the individual’s inability to move past negative experiences without reliving them. Most commonly, traumatic experiences may include rape/sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, bullying, an accident, natural disaster terminal disease, and neglect.

The distinct characteristics of trauma may include the following:

  • Unpredictable responses
  • Flashbacks
  • Difficult interpersonal relationships
  • Physical symptoms like migraines and digestive issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Childhood trauma is a profoundly distressing kind of trauma that often has long-lasting consequences on a person’s mental and physical health. Childhood trauma refers to any harmful event or abuse during childhood, such as neglect, kidnapping, poverty, exposure to domestic violence, physical, psychological, or emotional abuse, sexual assault, or rape, in addition to the abovementioned events.

Does Childhood Trauma Cause Individuals to Develop Addiction?

Experiencing these traumatic conditions can, in turn, lead individuals to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their internal pain and distress. In many cases, over time, substance misuse develops into an addiction, which affects many areas of life negatively.

By understanding the link between childhood trauma and addiction, we can work to prevent and provide supportive options for those who have experienced various trauma.

Signs of Childhood Trauma

Symptoms of childhood trauma can vary throughout a person’s life. Common childhood trauma symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Disassociation
  • Difficulty regulating emotions
  • Agitation
  • Aggressiveness
  • Regression
  • Forgetfulness
  • Avoidance of triggers
  • Erratic changes in behavior
  • General fearlessness
  • Excessive displays of emotion

It’s essential to recognize that not everyone who experiences childhood trauma will develop an addiction, but it does increase the likelihood. Seeking help from a psychological professional can provide necessary support and coping strategies for those who have experienced childhood trauma and addiction.

Unfortunately, childhood trauma is a more common experience than many realize or expect. As mentioned throughout this article, childhood trauma leads to less than favorable outcomes for many. Challenges later occur because trauma can affect brain chemistry and increase the risk of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among other conditions.

Childhood Trauma Can Lead to Substance Misuse and Chemical Dependency

Childhood trauma often profoundly impacts a person’s life, especially if not processed, detected, or treated correctly. Trauma from childhood experiences can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, hypersensitive, and unable to navigate ordinary experiences. As a result, childhood trauma victims are more vulnerable to turning to chemical solutions to numb the pain and escape reality.

While these chemical substances often temporarily relieve emotional pain, they can lead to a dangerous dependency that is difficult to break. It’s essential to recognize the connection between childhood trauma and addiction so that individuals can receive the practical support and resources they need to heal from their past and prevent further harm.

There is no question that many who experience childhood trauma turn to addiction to cope, despite the risks and potential consequences. To the traumatized individual, sometimes compulsive behaviors become unconscious and natural. These affected individuals do not realize how addiction interferes with everyday life. Often individuals in active addiction remain unaware that seeking relief this way creates an environment of destruction and despair.

Research Explains the Correlation Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Numerous studies indicate a clear correlation between childhood trauma and addiction. Research shows that various traumas follow individuals into maturity. This school of thought has forced experts to consider whether childhood trauma and resulting behaviors should be considered a public health crisis. A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the answer must be “yes.”

Often childhood trauma survivors seek comfort in things outside of themselves that create new internal altered states. This relief can come from alcoholdrugs, gambling, risky or criminal behaviors, reckless sexual behavior, or self-harm.

Additional studies suggest that, in some cases, a lack of sensitive and caring parenting contributes to children seeking chemical solutions later in life. Traumatized children often become adults addicted to substances or behaviors to find short-term solace from experiences that they find unbearable to consider.

With the opioid epidemic we live amidst, now more than ever, the medical community must realize that it must treat childhood trauma and addiction as co-occurring and interrelated disorders. Treatment must be absent of judgment or bias and realistic.

Overcoming Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Addiction recovery can be an expansive and challenging journey. Still, it can be an even heavier process for those who have experienced childhood trauma. That is why finding support in the form that suits you best is vital. In most cases, individuals experiencing substance use disorders (SUD) seek various addiction treatments and attend support groups to take steps toward healing and sobriety.

Addiction recovery can provide the tools and support to sustain healing. Additionally, treatment can come in several forms. Through therapeutic settings and interventions, individuals can learn to identify and manage triggers related to childhood trauma and develop coping mechanisms to avoid relying on substances for comfort.

Some patients elect to attend recovery and rehabilitation facilities like GateHouse Treatment, where patients can receive various levels of care. Usually, these centers provide personalized treatment plans that sometimes involve unique approaches like adventure therapy and family support. Others elect to work with a qualified therapist on their own time.

Support groups can be another remedial option for childhood trauma survivors as they provide a safe and supportive space where survivors can openly discuss their struggles and receive encouragement from others who have walked a similar path. Sharing personal stories and experiences can be cathartic and transformative.

Additionally, support groups often provide access to valuable resources and tools for addiction recovery. By joining a support group, individuals can gain a sense of belonging, which can be instrumental in maintaining sobriety long-term.

Recovery is Possible

Childhood trauma presents many challenges not only for those experiencing it but also for their support systems. From mental health disorders to substance misuse and dependency, individuals dealing with childhood trauma and addiction need help understanding the root cause of their behaviors to develop effective coping strategies.

Fortunately, there is hope and options for treatment. With a commitment to the process, it is possible to heal from childhood trauma and addiction and move towards a healthier, happier life.

GateHouse Treatment Understands the Impact of Childhood Trauma and Addiction

At GateHouse Treatment, we offer therapeutic services like an alcohol detox, Medication-Assisted Therapy, and group or family programs that can help individuals heal from childhood trauma and establish the skills they need to prevent relapse.

Our exceptionally talented addiction specialists dedicate their expertise to helping people with SUDs identify underlying variables contributing to their addiction and receive personalized treatment that brings them closer to their life goals. No one deserves to suffer in silence, so don’t wait any longer. Take a step towards a healthier future.

Call us at (855) 448-3588 or click here today.

Let Us Help

Call (855) 448-3588 or complete the form below. We are available 24/7.

All Calls are Free and Confidential

"(Required)" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Does My Health Insurance Cover Treatment

Check out our free, no obligation confidential consultation on insurance options. A specialist will follow up and explain how we can help.​ We are here for you 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Don’t wait.

Get started on the road to recovery

Find out how we can help you starting today!
Scroll to Top