According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 50% or more of both men and women experience some type of trauma during their lifetime. Trauma is a health-related issue and is a common experience many of us share.
Trauma can present itself in many different instances in a person’s life. Experiencing trauma does not mean that someone will develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or develop a substance abuse disorder.
Trauma is also something that people can overcome.
What Causes Trauma?
Trauma can be attributed to occurrences in one’s life where an individual feels their life has been threatened, or they have experienced physical, mental, or verbal abuse that negatively impacted their day-to-day lives.
Put simply, traumatic events overwhelm one’s ability to cope. Common sources of trauma include, but are not limited to:
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
- Mental, emotional, or verbal abuse
- Surviving natural disasters
- Death or illness of a friend or loved one
- Childhood neglect
- Witnessing violence against others
- Wartime experiences
You do not have to experience a common type of trauma to be physically, emotionally, or mentally impacted by trauma. Trauma can be anything that has a lasting effect on your ability to live a well-balanced life.
Are Trauma and PTSD the same?
The answer is no. The term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is familiar to many. It is a term widely associated with veterans and active members of the U.S. military forces. However, PTSD can extend beyond this group. While trauma is experienced by a significant portion of the U.S. population, everyone that experiences trauma will not develop PTSD.
Individuals experience and live through traumatic events, sometimes repeatedly, where their life may have been in danger. Remembering those experiences causes a long-term effect on their health and well-being, which is often referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD does not discriminate; it can appear in individuals of all ages and for any length of time.
Does Trauma Lead To Substance Abuse?
Experiencing trauma does not automatically mean that one will develop a substance abuse disorder. However, there is data that does provide a link between the two.
For instance, according to this data on trauma statistics, adults that experience trauma are:
- Four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol
- Four times more likely to inject drugs into their body.
Early childhood trauma can also contribute to a stronger correlation linking trauma with substance abuse. According to information from MentalHealth.gov, early exposure to trauma can be the cause of developing a substance abuse disorder.
Due to the debilitating effect that PTSD can have on someone’s life, individuals suffering from this disorder are up to 14 times more likely to experience a substance abuse disorder than others experiencing or working through traumatic events.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of Trauma
If you are unsure if you or someone you know are experiencing trauma, here are examples of warning signs and symptoms to notice:
- Aggressive and sexualized behavior
- Dissociation with reality
- Extreme sadness or depression
- Constant headaches and body pain with no explanation
- Outbursts filled with anger and rage
- Being easily startled or hypervigilant
- Increased self-isolation
While these are normal reactions to trauma, these signs can help identify if someone is suffering. If someone is experiencing severe trauma, you may notice that they constantly appear to be in a period of distress, seemingly without days of joy or normalcy in between crises.
How to Cope with Trauma and What to Look for in Treatment
There are different ways in which you can cope with trauma. Some examples include:
- Practicing self-care
- Finding activities you enjoy refocuses one’s energy away from the stress and anxiety of the trauma (i.e. exercising, meditation)
- Avoiding the use of stimulants or caffeine
- Setting goals and making note of personal accomplishments
- Finding gratitude in everyday activities
- Connect with others that have similar experiences
Also, talk to a healthcare professional. Be truthful and inform them of the trauma you are experiencing. There is no shame or judgment in seeking help for trauma. Ask your doctor or insurance company for referrals for local therapists that specialize in trauma work or peer support groups for people who may have had similar experiences.
In addition, according to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are six key fundamental principles to finding support and services for trauma-related substance abuse.
These principles are:
#2. Trustworthiness and transparency
#3. Peer support
#4. Collaboration and mutuality
#5. Empowerment, voice, and choice
#6. Consideration of cultural, historical, and gender issues
Learn more here about this study and review more details on these six fundamental principles.
Facing trauma is a shared experience among many, and most adults will face some type of trauma during their lifetime. Research has shown that there is a direct link between trauma and substance abuse. Fortunately, comprehensive drug & alcohol addiction treatment starts with detox. Detox offers the best possible start to a healthier, happier life.