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The 3 Types of Trauma and How They’re Impacted by Addiction

A woman suffering from trauma, hugging her knees on the couch.

For anyone suffering from past trauma, it can feel like having a movie clip in your head that never stops playing. All of the intense feelings from the traumatic experience are felt on repeat, and all you want to do is make it stop. These feelings can be so intense that they can push you to abuse drugs or alcohol in a desperate attempt to cope.

The relationship between trauma and addiction changes depending on what type of trauma you have. We’re going to explore three different types of trauma below and how they affect substance abuse.

3 Types of Trauma

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma is when one distressing event is severe enough to leave a lasting impact on your life. For example, you could develop acute trauma from witnessing a violent event or being the victim of a crime. The foundation of acute trauma is an experience that threatens your physical or emotional safety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, acute trauma often leads to the development of PTSD.

When you’re reacting to the aftereffects of acute trauma, you can experience a variety of symptoms, including:

• Anxiety and panic attacks
• Insomnia
• Loss of focus
• A decline in your self-care
• Feeling disconnected from yourself and others

How Does Acute Trauma Affect Addiction?

The negative emotions and stressors from acute trauma can feel so overwhelming, that you might be tempted to cope any way you can. Many people suffering from acute trauma use drugs and alcohol to cope, since they can provide immediate relief. While substance abuse can dull the effects of PTSD for a short time, eventually the drugs and alcohol become physically and mentally debilitating just like the trauma you were trying to cope with.

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma occurs when you’re exposed to a prolonged distressing or traumatic event. You can develop chronic trauma from experiences like a long-term illness, bullying, ongoing abuse or regular exposure to extreme situations. It’s also important to note that acute trauma can develop into chronic trauma, if left untreated.

The symptoms of chronic trauma occur for extended periods of time, even years after the events occurred. Due to the constant stress someone with chronic trauma is under, it’s hard for them to trust others and maintain stable relationships. Other symptoms like anxiety, vivid flashbacks and fatigue also make it harder to build social connections.

How Does Chronic Trauma Impact Addiction?

Unfortunately, chronic trauma has a knack for wearing people down. Since the symptoms last for such a long period of time, people are more likely to experiment with ways to cope. Without professional treatment, healthy coping skills like exercise can only do so much on their own. The longer the unresolved chronic trauma goes, the higher your risk is for developing a substance abuse disorder.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma occurs when you’re exposed to a distressing event multiple times. Unlike chronic trauma, complex trauma is usually rooted in specific relationships in your life. It’s common for complex trauma to occur in childhood abuse survivors.

This type of direct harm can cause a variety of lifelong issues that have a severe impact on your well-being. In fact, the Adverse Childhood Experience Study found that child abuse survivors are roughly 5,000 times more likely to suffer from depression and substance abuse. This fact is part of the reason why it’s essential to identify and treat complex trauma as soon as possible.

The Link Between Complex Trauma and Addiction

Complex trauma changes the way you see yourself and the people around you. As a result, you might find it difficult to build strong relationships or appropriately handle stress. These symptoms make healthy coping skills, like support groups, feel out of reach.

The internal struggle of not knowing how to calm yourself down compounds the stress you’re facing. Unfortunately, you might feel like self-medicating with drugs or alcohol is the only way you can cope. However, expert dual diagnosis treatment from Footprints Beachside can offer a better solution for all three types of trauma.

Find Hope for Lasting Recovery from Trauma and Addiction

At Footprints Beachside Recovery, we know how hard it can be to deal with past trauma. From our own personal experience with addiction, we know that your history of mental health and addiction is unique. By combining evidence-based therapies and personalized treatment plans, we can help you heal from trauma and addiction.

You have the potential to reach lasting recovery, and we’re here to help you get there. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about the programs we offer.

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