The Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Dependency

Childhood trauma can have severe effects on both its sufferers and society as a whole. This includes addiction, a complex psychological condition. Although there are numerous underlying causes of addiction, early exposure to trauma is the most significant risk factor.

Numerous studies reveal a clear and distinct link between childhood trauma and substance abuse. This blog illustrates how childhood exposure to traumatic events can lead to addictive behaviours.

What Is Childhood Trauma?

Trauma is an incident (or set of events) that has enduring impacts on the mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual welfare of an individual.

Physical or psychological abuse, rape/sexual abuse, bullying, child abuse or neglect, marital violence, bereavement following the death of a loved one, parental divorce, or any sort of conflict are the most common causes of childhood trauma. Experiencing or witnessing violence, a natural disaster, or death, or experiencing a near-death experience, can also leave an everlasting impact.

Trauma can be experienced directly or indirectly through witnessing. For instance, a child who witnesses violence between parents or receives a threat can be traumatised similarly to a child who is physically assaulted. Even mild forms of abuse, such as a parent or carer withdrawing affection, mocking, or ignoring a kid, can result in psychological harm. These encounters have lasting effects on the wellbeing of the individual.

The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Multiple studies demonstrate a correlation between childhood trauma and addiction. The vast majority (77%) of individuals with co-morbid drug abuse and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had suffered at least one trauma before the age of 16 according to a study on childhood trauma.

Another study employing a large population-based sample of twins indicated that early-onset drinking is highly linked to childhood trauma.

According to research, persons diagnosed with PTSD are three times more prone to abuse substances.

In addition, study examining the association between substance usage and childhood trauma found that substance use, particularly cocaine use, was substantially correlated with childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as contemporary PTSD symptoms.

Why Trauma Can Lead To Addiction

Any childhood trauma can result in maladaptive and harmful behaviour because children lack the framework that adults use to absorb experiences as they mature. Experiencing a traumatic event induces intense emotions and physical responses that can last for a very long time. They can alter a person's perspective and make life more difficult to manage.

This emotional dysregulation manifests itself through a variety of symptoms and behaviours, including PTSD symptoms, substance and/or alcohol misuse, and other dangerous behaviours.

Alcoholism and substance misuse are signs of avoidance; the individual utilises substances to numb fear and avoid memories. It is normal for trauma patients to turn to alcohol or drugs for symptom management and escape. However, this type of addictive behaviour is a vicious cycle, as alcohol and drugs exacerbate sadness and anxiety and disrupt natural sleep.

Childhood Trauma PTSD

In recent decades, the development of brain imaging tools and novel biochemical methodologies has enhanced our knowledge of the biological impacts of psychological stress. The biological stress response systems of the body are activated by exposure to a traumatic event or a succession of chronic traumatic experiences. We now understand that psychological trauma affects homeostasis, resulting in both short- and long-term impacts on several organs and body systems.

The shift of metabolic resources from homeostasis to the "fight or flight" response is one of the physiological effects of trauma. This is a typical bodily reaction to harmful situations. However, when engaged frequently, it might be harmful.

The limbic system (parts of the brain) is responsible for emotions, feelings of motivation and reward, learning, memory, the fight-or-flight response, hunger, thirst, and hormone synthesis that helps regulate the autonomic nervous system.

Repeatedly being in "fight or flight" mode results in persistently abnormal hormone levels in the body. For instance, high doses of the stress hormone cortisol can destroy neurons in the brain. Abnormally high levels of adrenaline (the hormone that prepares the body for "fight or flight") suppress the immune system and induce hyperarousal (or hypervigilance).

Complex are the processes leading to addiction. These include "differences in molecular and genetic expression, altered brain sensitivity to reward- and stress-related stimuli, and behavioural tendencies such as risk seeking, social isolation, and/or stress dysregulation."

Early experience and patterns of maternal caregiving modify three different but connected neurobiological systems: the dopamine system (DA), the oxytocin system (OT), and the glucocorticoid system (GC). It appears that early-life trauma modifies parts of these systems. According to research, long-term changes in the DA, OT, and GC systems increase an individual's susceptibility to addiction.

Comparing the brains of human and animal individuals who have suffered traumatic stress with those of control subjects who have not encountered trauma reveals changes.

Normally, memories are processed and stored, but traumatic memories overwhelm the brain's processing centre. This has a direct effect on the maturing brain's wiring of neuronal networks. Children who are severely neglected undergo continuous traumatic stress that hinders the development of their right brain.

This poor neurobiological development might result in behavioural behaviours that heighten addiction susceptibility.

Childhood Trauma Therapy

Addiction is a genetically and stress-induced disorder of the dopamine-glutamate interaction. A comprehensive addiction treatment plan, including trauma-informed therapy, offers the greatest hope for treatment success. It is important to address both the trauma and the addiction. Unfortunately, many treatment centers focus on one area without the other. Both must be addressed together because they are so strongly linked.

In treatment it is important for the person to understand how the addiction has helped them to survive. At Abhasa we help to learn coping strategies are taught to prevent relapse and to manage PTSD symptoms.

As traumatic experience is also somatic, effective treatment must also address the body. Talking therapy alone will not make trauma ‘go away’.

At Abhasa luxury rehabilitation centre India we work using targeted, addiction-specific therapy. We help individuals to identify and tolerate feelings. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), clinical hypnosis and EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) are directly implemented.

If you would like to know more about our addiction treatment programmes, please get in touch. Our clients are self-payers, which is the basis to enabling absolute discretion and privacy.

Prepared by: Mr. Denny Prasad, Psychologist
LinkedIn Id: https://www.linkedin.com/in/denny-prasad-b55028124