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How Trauma Impacts Addiction Treatment and Recovery

How Trauma Impacts Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Previous trauma is a common underlying cause of addiction. As one of the most common co-occurring disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make treatment complicated. This article discusses why Villa Oasis San Diego includes trauma care in its programs and how your traumatic experiences can impact how you get better.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that is an aftereffect of exposure to a traumatic event or a series of traumatic events. Trauma includes any event where your physical or emotional health or well-being was threatened. Examples of trauma include natural disasters, accidents, abuse, war, displacement, and severe illness. People often associate PTSD with the military, but anyone can develop PTSD. Traumatic events don’t have to be extreme for people to have trauma or PTSD. For example, some people have trauma from a divorce or loss.

Not everyone will develop PTSD as a result of experiencing trauma. Whether or not a person develops PTSD depends on their support system, resilience, and their ability to process the difficult event. Unfortunately, some people don’t have the support system, aren’t able to process what’s happened to them, and haven’t developed the tools to be resilient if something happens to them.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms are similar to generalized anxiety, but the most significant distinction is their relation to a traumatic event from the past. If these symptoms seem similar to you or seem like something someone you care about is going through, then there’s a chance you or your loved one might have PTSD.

These symptoms include:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Angry outbursts
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares related to the traumatic event
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed
  • Negative views of the world
  • Always feeling on edge
  • Staying away from people, places, and things that remind you of the event
  • Avoiding talking about the event
  • Trouble remembering key parts of the event
  • Feelings of guilt and blame related to the event

Self-Medication for PTSD

Not everyone is aware that they have PTSD and won’t receive help for their symptoms. Instead, they might seek relief for those symptoms by developing unhealthy coping mechanisms. One of these harmful coping mechanisms is self-medicating. For example, a person might drink alcohol later in the day to deal with symptoms of insomnia or hypervigilance. A person might take drugs to escape flashbacks or feelings of guilt. PTSD is a common underlying condition of addiction. Research shows that over 26% of people who have a substance use disorder have underlying PTSD.

Addiction Is a Form of Trauma on Its Own

Even if a person develops addiction before experiencing trauma, the experience of addiction can be traumatic on its own. When a person is experiencing addiction, they put their body and brain through trauma. Then, the results that often come with addiction can also be traumatic. A person might lose friends and family. They might experience difficulty at work or in school. They might experience severe health problems as a result. Even withdrawal can be a source of trauma for some, especially if they try to quit substance use without the assistance of medical professionals.

The Importance of Trauma-Informed Care

Even if your clinic doesn’t necessarily treat trauma, your approach should have an element of trauma-informed care. Trauma-informed care means that those who are treating addiction lead with the assumption that a person with an addiction has undiagnosed PTSD. Most places will screen for PTSD upon entry, and some will also keep PTSD in mind when it comes to standard treatment practices.

Without trauma-informed care or understanding that the person you are helping has PTSD, there is a high chance that their behavior might be misunderstood. For example, suppose a person at your rehab facility seems like they are acting out or they are secretive about certain things in their life. In that case, this might be taken as being uncooperative or difficult. Trauma-informed care removes that assumption and works to build trust with the person over time.

Retraumatization and How It Impacts Treatment

Another reason why it’s essential for a rehab facility to be aware of a person’s trauma is that if they aren’t careful, they run the risk of exposing the person to more trauma or causing them to relive that trauma. Retraumatization can cause the person to quit treatment early due to discomfort or fear. In addition, it can make the person more likely to relapse down the road because they never learned how to cope with their trauma, and their PTSD is worse because of their experience in treatment.

As long as a treatment team considers a person’s past, they can work to ensure that person isn’t retraumatized and, therefore, worse off than before they came there.

PTSD and addiction commonly occur together. That’s why any place that treats addiction should have an understanding of how trauma can impact addiction and addiction treatment. Villa Oasis San Diego screens for PTSD upon admission and keeps these symptoms in mind when treating a person’s addiction. You don’t need to feel alone in your PTSD symptoms. Having PTSD can feel scary and isolating, but thankfully help is available. Talking about your experiences with someone who’s there for you can go a long way. Many treatments and therapies can alleviate PTSD symptoms and assist your healing journey. If you’re interested in learning more about how Villa Oasis approaches trauma and PTSD, contact us. We treat our residents for addiction and mental health and offer trauma-informed therapy in an intimate and supportive approach. We can answer questions. Get help today at (323) 739-8673