Treatment for Trauma and Substance Abuse


Many people start using substances to help them cope with mental illnesses or unfortunate life circumstances. For example, people that experience trauma in their lives often start abusing substances to cope. One common mental health disorder that people often develop after experiencing trauma is PTSD. PTSD and alcohol addiction often co-occur with one another. In fact, many trauma and anxiety-based disorders co-occur with substance addictions. That’s why treatment for trauma and substance abuse is necessary at rehab facilities.

What is Trauma?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event. Thus, anything or event that’s harmful or threatening can trigger a response in a person’s body and mind that becomes a trauma.

Trauma can affect a person long after he or she has experienced the traumatic event. Persistent, high levels of trauma can cause a person to develop a mental health disorder known as PTSD. PTSD is an acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder.

While PTSD may develop from persistent and high levels of trauma, not every traumatic experience is persistent and highly intense. In fact, there are different types of traumas.

Types of Trauma


There are various types of traumas in the world. These different types of traumas vary based on how the trauma occurred, how often the trauma occurred, and how intense the trauma is.

Some of the main types of trauma include:

  • Acute trauma – trauma that occurs from a singular stressful or traumatic event
  • Chronic trauma – trauma that occurs repeatedly for prolonged periods. An example of such trauma includes child abuse, domestic violence, or bullying.
  • Complex trauma – a high level of trauma that occurs due to being exposed to multiple traumatic events.
  • Secondary/vicarious trauma – People develop this form of trauma when in close contact with someone else who is experiencing trauma.

Additional Types of Trauma


Outside of acute, chronic, complex, and secondary forms of trauma are more specific types of trauma such as PTSD and childhood trauma.


PTSD is an acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder is characterized by extreme anxiety and the experience of flashbacks or persistent memories of one’s trauma. PTSD is also often characterized by avoidance, as many people that suffer from PTSD do what they can to avoid being in situations or places that remind them of their past trauma.

Factors that can help cause a person to develop PTSD after experiencing trauma include having already experienced trauma previously, having had experience suffering from physical pain or injury, having little to no support after experiencing trauma, experiencing other stressors at the same time that one experiences trauma, and having previously suffered from anxiety and/or depression.

As well known as the mental illness PTSD is, most people that suffer from trauma don’t get to the point in which they are experiencing PTSD afterward. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, only 6.8% of people in the United States suffer from PTSD.

Childhood Trauma

Another type of trauma that some people suffer from is childhood trauma. Because the brains of children aren’t fully developed yet, experiencing trauma while still in childhood can cause long-term adverse effects on an individual.

In fact, experiencing trauma while in childhood can cause people’s brains to alter the way that they develop from that point on. Thus, many children that experience trauma experience a heightened sense of stress and fear.

The altered brain of a person who experiences childhood trauma is also often stunted physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a result, many people that experience childhood trauma act out in immature ways well into adulthood. That is why many people that experience childhood trauma suffer from anger issues.

Symptoms of Trauma


There are many different symptoms of trauma. These symptoms can be physical, emotional, or psychological and can range in level of intensity.

Emotional Trauma Symptoms

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability

Psychological Trauma Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Trouble concentrating

Physical Trauma Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Feeling jumpy
  • Hyper alertness and hyperarousal

Events That Often Cause People to Develop Some Form of Trauma


Numerous different events can cause a person to experience some form of trauma. Essentially, any event that is threatening to one’s safety and well-being can cause a person to experience trauma.

Examples of common threatening events that can cause trauma are:

  • Domestic violence
  • Emotional abuse
  • Mental abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  •  Severe car accidents
  • Life-threatening illnesses
  • Childhood neglect
  • Repeated bullying
  • Death of a loved one
  • Extreme public humiliation
  • Violent attacks

Who Experiences Trauma?


Anyone at any age can experience trauma, especially if the threatening event that caused the trauma is repeated. There are factors that may make a person more susceptible to developing trauma after a threatening or harmful event though.

For example, people that already struggle with anxiety and mental health issues may be more likely to experience trauma after a threatening event. People with unstable home environments and little support in their lives are also more susceptible to experiencing trauma after something negative occurs.

The Connection Between Trauma and Substance Abuse


People that experience childhood trauma, repeated abuse or bullying, or some other harmful event while having little support in their lives are more likely to have their trauma persist to the point of developing PTSD. People who experience high levels of trauma or PTSD often abuse substances to cope.

One common substance that people with PTSD abuse to cope is alcohol. As a result, many people need to attend rehab for PTSD and alcohol addiction.

Many people that experience other forms of trauma also abuse substances to cope. Unfortunately, what these people may not realize is that abusing substances only makes symptoms of trauma worse in the long run. This is because chronic substance abuse is often associated with anxiety, irritability, depression, fatigue, etc. Thus, the best way to treat one’s trauma is to do so professionally.

Once a person that suffers from trauma and substance abuse starts to experience withdrawal symptoms when he or she minimizes or discontinues his or her substance use, he or she is dependent on the substances that he or she is using. Once such people start to develop chemical changes in their brains, they’ve developed full-fledged substance addictions. Thus, such people need to receive addiction treatment.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Trauma and Substance Abuse


People that suffer from any form of trauma and substance abuse should receive dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment is an addiction treatment program with therapies that will simultaneously treat a person’s substance use and mental health disorder.

Thus, individuals that suffer from trauma and substance abuse who receive dual diagnosis treatment will have both of their conditions treated at the same time. If co-occurring trauma and substance abuse issues aren’t treated simultaneously, the untreated condition will simply trigger the reappearance of the treated one.

Therapy Options In the Treatment of Trauma and Substance Abuse


There are many forms of addiction and behavioral therapy that can be useful in treating trauma and substance abuse. Some of these forms of therapy are described below:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people change their negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors into positive ones. Thus, people that suffer from trauma and substance abuse can use cognitive-behavioral therapy to help them alter the way that they think, feel, and ultimately behave when they’re faced with situations that remind them of their past traumas.

By learning how to think, feel, and behave in a more positive manner when faced with situations that remind them of their past traumas, people can learn how to not turn to substance abuse to cope.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy helps people accept their negative thoughts and emotions so that they don’t have the power to cause them to exhibit negative behaviors. Thus, individuals that suffer from trauma and substance abuse and receive dialectical behavior therapy will learn how to accept the negative thoughts and emotions that they have when something makes them think about their past trauma. In doing so, such people will hopefully be able to resist exhibiting the negative behavior of abusing substances to cope.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, otherwise known as EMDR therapy, is when a therapist makes a person think about his or her past trauma while simultaneously focusing on a moving object with his or her eyes. The purpose of EMDR therapy is to help redirect the negative and anxious thoughts and feelings that people typically experience when thinking about their past traumas.

EMDR therapy is a great way to treat trauma and substance abuse issues. This is because EMDR therapy can help people no longer associate anxiety with the thoughts of their past trauma. This will only make it easier for people to cope and resist using substances when the thoughts of their past traumas are triggered.

Treat Your Trauma and Substance Abuse Issues at Harmony Ridge Recovery


When suffering from forms of trauma and substance abuse such as PTSD and alcohol addiction, it’s important to receive dual diagnosis treatment at a quality treatment center. Luckily, Harmony Ridge is exactly that.

One thing that makes Harmony Ridge such a credible addiction treatment center is that it provides evidence-based treatment programs. Thus, you can rest assured that the treatment that you’re receiving while at Harmony Ridge will treat your condition.

Not only does Harmony Ridge make a conscious effort to provide patients with evidence-based treatment, but we also offer holistic forms of addiction treatment for those that are interested. Thus, the minds, bodies, and souls of our patients can be effectively treated here at Harmony Ridge Recovery.

Individuals that suffer from trauma and substance abuse issues that want to take advantage of the rehab services that we offer here at Harmony Ridge can take part in our dual diagnosis treatment programs. To learn more about Harmony Ridge and the different rehab programs and services that we offer, contact us today! We would love to hear from you.

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