For those of us who are providing training in trauma, we recognize that many of our social ills can be attributed to a trauma history of some kind. This is particularly the case when we understand the cause of most addictions. It is rare to deal with anyone who is addicted without discovering some kind of traumatic event in their past. In fact one of my major concerns with addictions counseling is that it often does not focus on the root cause of the specific addiction that someone may be experiencing.
Jason N. Linder PsyD. wrote an article on this relationship between trauma and addiction in a recent article in Psychology Today. It is entitled “What Most People Don’t Know About Trauma and Addition. Here is some of the content of this article.
If you are like most people, you may think addiction is a rampant problem in our society. And you’re partially right. It is. But that misses the forest for the trees. It’s not the root problem itself. It’s actually a failed solution to the underlying problem: the pandemic of unhealed, psychological trauma. It’s essential to realize that addiction is often the symptom of the problem in reality. It’s no coincidence that about 28 percent of those with diagnosable PTSD have an addiction issue and another 35 percent have a full-blown, serious, physiologically-dependent addiction. The good news is it’s very treatable, but it takes effort. So, a more relevant question when thinking of addiction, is not why the addiction, but first, what’s the pain and past traumatic event(s) driving it?….
Addiction is the failed attempt to heal and treat the underlying pain residing from untreated emotional wounds. Actually, the opposite of addiction is more trauma relief and healing, and human connection. So, they must be healed concurrently, as Jaime Marich beautifully explains. People and health professionals often assume that all is needed is to treat only trauma or only addiction instead of carefully heeding both.
Dr. Linder makes some valid and significant points. We cannot treat addiction as if it is the only issue that someone is facing who is addicted. In medical terms it is very similar to treating the symptoms and ignoring the major cause of the disorder. It is why a 12-step program is only a part of an effective treatment intervention. Most individuals are regulating their limbic brain states for a reason that is far beyond a drug that may bring some sense of stability. It is so important that they come to a realization that something has happened to them that needs a deeper level of therapy and help from a trauma-informed and competent therapist. The two together can lead to clarity and strategies that truly can resolve these issues and create a whole and healthy person.