13 thoughts on “Emotional Trauma: An Often Overlooked Root of Addiction

  • March 23, 2012 at 9:54 am

    As an addiction and trauma specialist, I think it is important to connect these two important struggles that people experience but want to caution from making a 1 to 1 correlation. Too many people want to draw a line directly from trauma to addiction which is a falacy to overstate the relationship. Yes many people struggle with the effects of trauma as substance abuser but there are more factors in a complex disorder to consider such as: attachment, object relationship formation, risk assessment, exagerrated beliefs about the effects of a su stance, self soothing, etc. Trauma i. My opinion is a significant connection to substance abuse but not the only one.

  • March 28, 2012 at 8:54 am

    You mean the cause of alcohol addiction isn’t always selfishness and self-centeredness???

    Maybe self-centered pain is more like it. This is a great article!

  • April 20, 2014 at 4:21 am

    This is so true. One reason is that the trauma causes shame. This doesn’t have to physical abuse, but can be verbal as well. It also leads to codependency, addiction, anxiety, depression, PTSD and eating disorders, among other things. Read more about it and how to heal in “Conquering Shame and Codependency.”
    Darlene Lancer, LMFT
    Author of “Conquering Shame and Codependency”

    • August 3, 2018 at 7:53 am

      that’s not really a link to an article that is informative. its more of an advertisement tbh..

  • May 3, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    This is IT. IMHO ALL addiction is trauma based. Not only that, you can be cured. I am a recovering AA/12 step cult escapee! You don’t have a disease, you don’t always have to be this way, you’re not sick, you can get well! I have long experience with the cult and again, IMHO they ALL have it, or at least into the 90th percentile. Once you know what trauma/PTSD looks like you can SEE it. It’s so obvious. They should throw out the Big Book and substitute Judith Herman’s book “Trauma and Recover.” or Bellaruth Naperstek’s “Invisible Heros.” You really want to read “a description of the alcoholic” read these books. I almost died because I kept going back to the idea that I was “just an alcoholic” and “could never really get well” but “just keep going to meetings which were my medicine.” WRONG! I think things may be changing finally, in and out of 12 step meetings as public awareness of this phenomenon is growing. Can’t happen soon enough. Substance abuse is a SYMPTOM.

    • February 17, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      I have been in recovery for over 25 years. I will never be healed, I will never be ‘recovered.’ I started out in AA and am still in AA. Nothing about the 12 step program is a cult. If it was I would have been gone long ago. If I choose to work it, it works for me. I made my own choices, took responsibility for my behaviors, feelings and psychological beliefs. I will be doing that for the rest of my life.
      Still, I have pursued other means of relieving the pain, confusion, shame, obsession, depression, anxiety and whatever else can be defined as behavior. Along the way there have been other means of recovery, but never one that works for everything by itself. AA was not about how to stop drinking, it was about how to do life without ETOH.
      My trauma began with childhood and an alcoholic father with a mother who was trying to protect us and herself. Along the way there was teenage trauma, associated with my ETOH use. Then along came the draft and Vietnam. PTSD is a stacking process. All the trauma involved, emotional, physical and psychological, gave me quite a package of problems to work with. One of the largest problems has to do with the lies of the government that we so faithfully put our trust in for so many years.
      Body memory (call it cellular, muscular, instinct), we all have it to one degree or another. The mind will help to make us aware, but it takes many forms of treatment as I mentioned before. We are fortunate to have so much information available to us today.
      Spiritual does not equal religion. Get rid of that idea, concentrate on what I can do for others.

      • August 3, 2018 at 8:00 am

        yes the age of information. thank goodness the latest empirical scientific research shows AA to not only be outdated, but that it does far more harm than good. Do you truly believe cult members realise theyre in a cult? I know 12 Step Programs are harmful I’ve been in them and I’m glad the evidence is showing this

      • August 3, 2018 at 11:31 am

        Thank you. Everything you wrote fits my life. I have used many other forms of recovery and carried away something that would make my life more bearable, if I chose to use the information. Yet AA has always been there. Psychology keeps changing and knowledge of the brain and body changes also. In the process of those changes the concepts of AA allow us that use them to continue to heal. There is no cure. I have a Masters Degree in the study of the human body and brain. What I see in articles like this are a poor, self centered attempt to justify the profession.

    • August 3, 2018 at 7:50 am

      well said re : 12 Step Programs they do much more harm than good.

  • December 10, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I am a love addict and I don’t know how to get off of it. It is a drug, but I suck off the chemicals in my own brain. The people I have gotten addicted to are full blown narcissists, so I never get acclimated to dosage because it comes and goes. I am either really up when I get some affirmation or down when I don’t.

    I absolutely hate living like this. I am a talented and intelligent person but I have messed up my life due to this weird ‘addiction’.

    If anyone knows how to get out of this chemical/mental trap, please let me know.

  • June 10, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    This is conflicting to me because both myself and my little sister were vicitms of a childhood trauma and our coping mechanisms are self destructive but completely different. She self harms and has suicidal tendencies, while I turn to destructive relationships and other things. Both of our grandfathers were alcoholics as well and only one was abused as a child, while the other led a relatively normal and happy childhood and STILL turned to drugs and alcohol.

  • March 15, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    I absolutely agree with you on this, David. Emotional trauma is often overlooked. Personally, I have never encountered an addicted individual who hasn’t experienced some type of trauma. It doesn’t have to sexual or physical abuse. There are various patterns that generate addictive behavior. Great article!

  • November 23, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    I have been working in addiction treatment since 1973, and from the first client I saw, every client I ever worked with told me fairly quickly that they had specific traumas they had gone through that they felt caused them to turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort and security. My first client told me at his intake that he had watched his mother be hit by a car and killed when he was 7 years old. I want to encourage people to include abandonment as a trauma category too. I have gone all over the world working with trauma survivors in Liberia West Africa, Nicaragua, Central America, Dominican Republic, Norway, Germany, Guyana, Jamaica, and throughout the USA, and Abandonment is the number one trauma issue people have talked about most of these places. People died of Ebola and before that in the Civil War in Liberia. Also similar losses in Nicaragua from their civil war. In Jamaica, Guyana, Dominican Republic men and women leave there families at home and go to England or the USA to make money to support them. Those left behind can’t help but feel a hole left in their lives and a feeling of not being good enough for their family members to want to stay with them, even when the family member died. This empty hole very often gets filled with heroin, marijuana, cocaine, K-2 Spice, and other drugs that take away the pain for awhile.


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