A great number of substance dependents and addicts has a history of trauma. It is therefore important for addiction treatment and rehabilitation providers to be trauma-informed so that they will be able to quickly identify which individuals have the highest risk of having had trauma in addition to their substance abuse problem. In many cases of substance addiction, prior trauma has been one of the main reasons for engaging in addiction.
A Look at Trauma
Trauma is any life event or experience that can be best described as both physically and psychologically overwhelming. Classic examples of trauma include physical abuse, sexual abuse, wartime conditions, mutilations, multi-casualty accidents, rape, and near-death experiences.
When the traumatic event occurs within an interpersonal relationship, it creates a breach of trust between the parties involved in that relationship. For example, when a father physically abuses one of his children at a young age, this is largely seen as grossly more traumatic for the child simply because of the existence of trust between the child and their father. The child is conflicted because on one thought, the child knows they need to obey and respect their father but at the same time, they also know that what their father is doing is wrong. This ultimately complicates things. Unfortunately most types of traumas that are experienced in adolescents never get reported until the child reaches maturity. By then, the child would have already lost a lot of his identity and their ability to trust themselves and others.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Oftentimes, the effects of trauma are not readily apparent. Only when the effects have become so severe enough that it already disrupts normal activities of daily living will the traumatic event be carefully considered. Post-traumatic stress disorder is often characterized by re-experiencing the traumatic events through flashbacks, memories, or dreams. In some cases, the individual will be hyper-vigilant or is quite jumpy. The individual may also engage in emotionally-numbing activities to shield themselves from having to think about the events again. They may actively avoid anything and anyone that can remind them of the traumatic event.
Because many substance addicts and dependents have a history of trauma, members of the healthcare team of Sprout Health Group have to consider each and every single individual who comes for treatment as potentially a victim of trauma at some point in their lives. This philosophy allows our assessment specialists to focus on the elucidation of certain life events that might prove critical in the management of the trauma.
In the management of trauma, it is important that interpersonal issues like loss of ability to trust others, self-blaming, and guilt and shame, be managed in a very progressive manner. The main idea is not to treat trauma as a collective illness but rather as a life experience that has somehow formed the core of the individual’s personal identity.