Behavioral Health Trauma and Addiction Connection, Types, Signs, Treatments

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Connection Between Primary Mental Health Trauma And Secondary Addiction Disorders

Trauma – shock – emotional wounds and their stressors are severe psychological responses that emerge in some people following a traumatic or very stressful experience. These experiences can include childhood neglect, childhood physical/sexual abuse, combat, physical assault, sexual assault, natural disaster, an accident, or torture. It is well known that vulnerability to traumatic episodes, especially warfare, severely affects some people. In acting irregularly and expressing severe fear, and anxiety coupled with negative thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. These behaviors are clinically considered to be Trauma induced mental illness which often time leads its victims to self-medicate by abusing alcohol & drugs. Resulting in secondary co-occurring addiction disorders.

Emotional and Mental Factors Driving Co-occurring Substance Abuse

There is a strong connection between trauma and addiction. Many people who have experienced disasters, child abuse, criminal attack, war, or other traumatic situations turn to alcohol or drugs to help them deal with emotional pain, guilt, bad memories, poor sleep, anxiety, shame, or terror. People with drug or alcohol use problems are more likely to experience traumatic events than those without these problems.

Behind most addictions, there are emotional and mental factors that drive a person to abuse substances in the first place. There is a distinct connection between trauma and addiction, particularly childhood trauma. After all, the events of a person’s childhood play an important role in his or her mental and emotional development. Traumatic experiences often have profound effects on how a person copes with their emotions and reacts to situations.

Evidence has shown that the connection between trauma and addiction or substance abuse is particularly strong for young people with PTSD. Up to 59% of adolescents with PTSD subsequently develop substance abuse problems. Others found that drug and alcohol use was connected with greater PTSD symptoms one year after a disaster. Moreover, women who used drugs were discovered to have significantly higher mean scores for total PTSD symptom severity and were more likely to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD compared to non-users. This is according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)[1].

We Level Up Florida is an accredited Treatment Center that helps heal the connection between trauma and addiction.
They say the people who exhibit the most kindness have experienced a lot of pain. The ones who act like they don’t need love are the ones that need it more. The ones who take care of everyone else’s needs are the ones who need it most. And the people who smile a lot may be the ones who cry when there is no one around.

Statistics On The Connection Between Trauma And Addiction

Depression, suicide, hallucinations, substance abuse, multiple sex partners and, lung and autoimmune disease are but a few of the consequences of early traumatic experiences. This is why it is crucial to recognize the importance of addressing trauma and addiction in our prevention, treatment, and recovery interventions. This is according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration [2].

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) [3]:

  • Seventy-five percent of women and men in substance abuse treatment report histories of abuse and trauma.
  • Ninety-seven percent of homeless women with mental illness report severe physical or sexual abuse.
  • Twelve to thirty-four percent of individuals in substance abuse treatment have PTSD.
  • Around one-third of people exposed to trauma develop PTSD. Men report higher incidences of trauma, but women are more likely to develop PTSD.
  • Men who abuse substances are at high risk of committing violence against women and children.
  • Women who use substances are more at risk for being abused because of relationships with others who abuse substances, impaired judgment while using alcohol or drugs, and being in risky and violence-prone situations.
  • Alcohol and drug use by trauma survivors can be adaptive at first. Some victims use substances to numb psychological effects of the trauma.

The Connection Between Childhood Trauma And Addiction In Adulthood

According to the National Institute of Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [4], there is a strong connection between childhood traumatization and substance use disorders and their common associations with PTSD outcomes. Furthermore, enough evidence has shown that childhood trauma compromises neural structure and function, rendering an individual susceptible to later cognitive deficits and psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.

The brain of a child is much more sensitive to the environment around them. New neural structures are forming in a young brain constantly. This development is called neuroplasticity and refers to the ability of the neurons, which are the building blocks of the brain, to change and adapt. This connection between child abuse and drugs happens due to the fact that childhood trauma and maltreatment may be the cause behind abnormalities in the brain structure. These irregularities can cause many problems with behavior and cognition. High levels of cortisol and other stress hormones common to childhood trauma prevent normal brain development.

Alcohol and drug dependency takes many forms, and many of them are often linked to trauma sustained in developmental years. Whether we develop a crippling alcohol addiction out of a need for social acceptance or any other reason; start smoking marijuana to escape our everyday reality; start shooting heroin or taking painkillers to avoid memories of deep-rooted abuse or anything else.

Many people do not even realize that childhood trauma has led them to addiction. People may attempt to suppress memories of abuse, which can further advance to anxiety and depression. In some instances, the victim may be embarrassed or ashamed to admit the abuse or talk about it with others. Repressing these memories can lead to the escape into drugs or alcohol in an effort to reduce their suffering. The short-term, immediate relief in abusing these substances may briefly ease the symptoms for those suffering from PTSD. However, the consequences of the overuse of these substances worsen their problems instead of dealing with the source.

Common Types Of Trauma

Shown with a list of 11 types of traumatic experiences and a 12th “other” category, 51.2 percent of women and 60.7 percent of men reported experiencing at least one trauma in their lifetime. According to NCBI [5]:

  • The most common trauma was seeing someone being killed or badly injured (mentioned by 14.5 percent of women and 35.6 percent of men).
  • The second most common trauma was being involved in a flood, fire, or other natural disasters (mentioned by 15.2 percent of women and 18.9 percent of men).
  • The third most common trauma was a life-threatening assault/accident, such as a gunshot, an automobile accident, or a fall (cited by 25 percent of men and 13.8 percent of women).

We Level Up Florida is an accredited Treatment Center that helps heal the connection between trauma and addiction.
We Level Up Florida is an accredited Treatment Center that helps heal the connection between trauma and addiction.

Signs Of Trauma

People who’ve endured childhood trauma experience a wide range of side effects, both behavioral and psychological. Sometimes the mind can try to cope with trauma by covering it up, but the signs of the event still come out. Some of the symptoms you can experience as a result of a traumatic experience include:

  • Erratic behavior
  • Dramatic mood shifts
  • Excessive or inappropriate displays of emotions
  • Ongoing anxiety, nervousness, or fear
  • Prolonged irritability or agitation
  • Eating disorders
  • Lack of confidence (timidity)
  • Continually reliving the event
  • Avoiding things that remind you of your traumatic experience
  • Problems with how you relate with others in your professional life
  • Romantic and social relationship issues

People who sustain a traumatic experience in their childhood are also at extremely great risk of developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Addiction and Trauma Treatment

Trauma is a contributing factor in developing substance use disorder that might lead to addiction. In fact, many people who have experienced a criminal attack, child abuse, natural disasters, war, or other traumatic events turn to drugs or alcohol to help them deal with emotional pain, bad memories, poor sleep, guilt, shame, anxiety, or terror. While the relief from substance abuse may work temporarily, this is an unhealthy way to cope with emotions. Sometimes, this substance abuse becomes compulsive and habitual. As a result, a person who abuses drugs or alcohol to cope with trauma can quickly become addicted.

Without professional treatment that helps heal the connection between trauma and addiction, trauma along with addiction can be destructive.  Simply put, trauma puts people at risk for substance abuse and substance abuse puts people at risk for trauma. This can either be a direct result of addiction or due to the impact that substance abuse and addiction have on the brain’s ability to deal with stress. People who are already victims of substance abuse or addiction are less able to cope with trauma in a healthy way.

There is a way to end trauma and substance abuse. It is incredibly important that those suffering from trauma and addiction are treated properly for their trauma. Otherwise, their chances of relapsing are awfully high. Co-occurring disorders are one of the leading causes of addiction and thus must be treated alongside addiction. The connection between trauma and addiction is complex and both have a great impact on the brain. Therefore, it’s crucial to treat both at the same time to undo this damage. For people with trauma, substance use is not the answer to remove distress. Specialized Trauma treatment and Substance Abuse programs can help people cope.

Find The Right Treatment Plan At We Level Up Florida Primary Mental Health Center

If you or someone you know someone is suffering from trauma and engaging in co-occurring secondary substance abuse, it is crucial to seek immediate treatment. Mental health trauma treatment is critical for recovery. Moreover, if the underlying factors that are causing these disorders are not treated, the individual will lack essential recovery skills and resources. To get better and feel healthier using learned coping skills. Stop the cycle that facilitates the connection between trauma and addiction.

To learn more about primary trauma mental health treatment with co-occurring dual diagnosis integrated mental health therapy, contact us today. At the We Level Up Florida Treatment Facility, we provide primary mental health treatment for the entirety of all underlying disorders for lasting recovery. We offer an enhanced opportunity to return to a fulfilling and productive life.

Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab Center. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first.  If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.


[1] NCBI –

[2] SAMHSA –

[3] SAMHSA –

[4] NCBI –

[5] NCBI –

[6] Trauma and AddictionWe Level Up