The Role Trauma Plays in Addiction

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Trauma is defined in many different ways depending on the objective of the definition. It has been described as merely a disturbing or distressing event or as in-depth as emotional and psychological trauma resulting from extraordinarily stressful events that shatter our sense of security. As a result, our brains’ responses shift and affect how we navigate our way through the world. Psychological trauma often leaves us struggling with uncomfortable emotions, traumatic memories, and anxiety or depression that won’t go away. 

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a multidimensional experience involving all aspects of ourselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. The building blocks of our conscious awareness are constructed during childhood and adolescence by who we spend our time with and the types of experiences surrounding us. They create powerful mental structures that essentially make up who we are as adults and how we perceive the world. Traumatic events are similar in that the brain tries to protect itself, having various effects on how we think, feel, and perceive our experiences of the world. This often creates painful ideologies in our unconscious mind and psyche about our sense of safety, security, and self. 

How Does Trauma Relate to Addiction?

Frequently, addictive behavior or disordered patterns are rooted in trauma. An individual seeks refuge in substances from unbearable feelings of not being safe or secure, anxiety, and intolerable depression due to a traumatic event or belief system. When an action, substance, or experience triggers a sense of safety and refuge from those uncomfortable feelings, the brain latches on to the experience and will begin trying to recreate it. This process is generally how most addictions start and why addressing trauma plays such a significant role in these communities and therapy.

Is Trauma Always Big?

There is often a misconception that trauma has to be the result of a devastating or horrifying experience. Though that can be true in physical accidents, abuse, loss of a loved one, and rape, traumatic experiences don’t always show up like this. Trauma can sometimes result from a violent or unsafe belief, systemic oppression, or an uncomfortable memory that changes the imprint of the way we view ourselves and the world in our brain. 

Treating Trauma and Addiction

There are many treatment options available for people who are suffering from both addiction and trauma. Some trauma-specific therapies are EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), one-on-one psychotherapy, talk therapy, and movement therapy. As always, every individual is different and will respond to various programs. An experienced professional can help determine an individual’s best treatment plan, creating a path forward and hope for an improved life.


Addiction and disordered behavioral patterns are often due to underlying trauma that hasn’t been addressed. At Avalon, we understand how important it is to look deeper at what is happening within our physical, mental, and emotional help, and create a treatment plan that best suits an individual’s needs. Trauma is a multidimensional experience that is painful and bewildering. You do not have to be alone in your pain and confusion. We can help you make sense of your past and embrace a healthier future. Call  (844) 857-5992 to get started.

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