Childhood Trauma Connection to Addiction

What is Childhood Trauma?

Trauma occurs due to events that cause physical or emotional harm to a child, leaving them scared, confused, helpless, and betrayed. This can lead to a breakdown of trust in parental or authority figures. If the child lacks the ability or support to cope with such events, a trauma disorder may develop.

Childhood trauma can stem from various sources, including different forms of child abuse like physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Other causes of childhood trauma may include emotional or physical neglect, the loss of a parent or loved one, bullying, or experiencing a serious illness. Additionally, being part of or witnessing a severe accident, acts of war, domestic violence, natural disasters, community violence, or school violence can also lead to childhood trauma.

Additional experiences that cause trauma in children include:

  • Having a parent who used drugs in the home.
  • Having a mentally ill parent in the home.
  • Having a parent in jail or prison.
  • Criminal behavior in the living environment.

The Effects of Childhood Trauma on the Brain

Childhood trauma can have a major effect on the developing brain, raising the likelihood of addiction in later years. According to Brain Facts, trauma can cause physical harm to a child’s brain, leading to toxic stress. This toxic stress, when intense, lasting, and frequent, can reshape and modify various parts of the brain through neuroplasticity. These modifications impact the functioning of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and anterior cingulate cortex, influencing the individual’s capacity to manage and control their emotions.

How Does Childhood Trauma Affect the Adult Brain?

There are many ways that childhood trauma affects the adult brain. Here are several of them.

  • An ongoing activation of the amygdala raises the risk of developing both mental health disorders and substance use disorders simultaneously.
  • Repetitive traumatic experiences can cause the amygdala to be overstimulated, resulting in a constant state of fear, anxiety, and hypervigilance for the individual.
  • Childhood trauma can activate the brain’s fight-or-flight reaction in the absence of a threat.
  • When the fight-or-flight response is activated in non-threatening situations, the individual experiences hyperarousal, characterized by an excessive startle reaction, sleep disturbances, and increased irritability.
  • Childhood trauma often leads adults to avoid places, events, things, or situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. This can disrupt their daily functioning.
  • Childhood trauma frequently leads to negative self-talk and a negative self-image, as the person holds a negative perception of themselves.

Why Does Trauma Often Lead to Addiction?

Individuals who have undergone childhood trauma frequently resort to alcohol consumption or drug use as a form of self-medication to alleviate the physical and emotional distress resulting from their traumatic experiences in childhood. However, the solace derived from substance use is transient. Persistent attempts to seek solace through substance use can rapidly lead to addiction, adversely affecting the individual’s physical and mental well-being. Ultimately, substance use disorders exacerbate the impact of trauma and amplify symptoms of trauma-related disorders.

If you are using drugs or alcohol, you may have an addiction that requires professional help. Find out At Transformations by the Gulf How Mind-Altering Substances Work, we offer programs that let you continue on with your daily life by living at home but coming in for the treatment you need. Transformations by the Gulf provides a secure and supportive environment to address negative emotions and develop coping mechanisms essential for the recovery journey. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, call us today at (727)498-6498.

Being Supportive to an Addict After Rehab, are you struggling with addiction and want to learn more? Check out our page on addiction treatments.

If you or a loved one needs treatment and rehabilitation for substance use, Transformations by the Gulf can help. Find out more information from Psychology Today!