Trauma & Addiction

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    It is common for people to experience unexpected traumatic events in their lifetime. Unfortunately, some traumatic events have adverse emotional and psychological effects that can transform survivors’ personalities and behavior. Therefore, it is reasonable that some trauma survivors would resort to substances as a coping mechanism despite the risk of addiction. 

    Fortunately, treatment in the form of trauma and addiction therapy can help people recover from trauma and addiction. New Directions for Women has mental health experts who offer proper trauma and addiction treatment for trauma and addiction victims.

    What is Trauma?

    When people talk about trauma, they mean their emotional and psychological responses to disturbing or painful traumatic experiences. These experiences present serious short-term and long-lasting effects on people. They can negatively impact a person’s confidence, sense of self, well-being, ability to manage emotions, and relationships. 

    Trauma also triggers the production of excessive stress hormones in the brain that are toxic in high concentrations. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline create fight or flight responses causing shock, panic, and stress during a traumatic event. Apart from stress, trauma victims also suffer emotional and psychological disturbances such as fear, aggression, anxiety, depression, guilt, and PTSD.

    Types of Trauma

    Few fortunate people are lucky to live out their lives without experiencing traumatic events. However, trauma presents itself in multiple ways for those who have experienced trauma. 

    Types of trauma include:

    Physical assault

    Involves physical attacks through beating, hitting, blows, kicks and punches with or without weapons.

    Sexual assault

    Occurs when one is touched, raped, or molested without consent.

    Domestic violence

    All forms of violence, including physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional assault by an intimate partner or spouse.

    Parent neglect

    Involves parents failing to perform their duties of providing children with basic survival needs. Addiction and childhood trauma from emotional, physical, and sexual assault harm both childhood and adulthood.


    Occur when people tease, threaten, and abuse others with or without force to dominate them.

    Emotional or verbal abuse

    Occurs when one uses hurtful words or slurs to manipulate, embarrass or shame another person.

    Natural disasters

    Unexpected natural disasters such as earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, and volcanic eruptions could cause trauma.

    Loss & grief

    Loss of a loved one, employment, and body parts such as blindness or amputations could cause trauma.


    Accidents such as car crashes, train crashes, slips, and falls could cause trauma due to physical injuries and emotional disturbances.

    Terminal illnesses

    Chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and HIV/Aids could cause depression and trauma.

    How Trauma Affects Addiction

    Although trauma does not automatically guarantee addiction, it does increase the risk of addiction. Experiencing trauma increases the risk of addiction, as most people develop an addiction as a coping mechanism for negative situations. Research and scientific studies show a strong correlation between trauma and drug addiction or eating addiction.

    The National Center for PTSD and the Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that 25-75% of abuse victims develop alcohol abuse. While 10-33% of accident and natural disaster survivors develop alcohol abuse. Female trauma survivors who do not have PTSD are also likely to experience addiction due to alcohol abuse. 

    Alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, and marijuana are some of the drugs that trauma survivors often abuse. Although drugs offer relief by regulating mood and intrusive thoughts and suppressing stress hormones, there is the risk of addiction. In the long run, frequent alcohol and substance abuse cause drug addiction. 

    Besides disrupting brain development, trauma also causes long-term mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, people may develop an addiction which consuming medication for mental health conditions.

    Causes of Addiction

    Despite harmful physical and psychological effects, addiction prevents people from stopping specific behavior or using substances. It results from a neuropsychological disorder that creates a mental and physical dependency on the behavior or substance. 

    Risk factors and potential causes of addiction can include:

    Genetic causes

    Substance abuse such as alcohol is hereditary; thus, alcohol addictions in parents could result in addiction in their offspring.

    Environmental causes

    environment causes expose someone to drug addiction through peer pressure, poverty, parental drug abuse, and drug access. Trauma-related reasons such as parental neglect, domestic violence, sexual assault, and bullying can also increase the risk of drug addiction.

    Help with Trauma & Addiction

    Individualized and comprehensive treatment plans that combine professional addiction and trauma therapy can help victims’ trauma and addiction recovery. People with trauma and addiction can be helped in the following ways;


    One of the best ways to provide trauma and addiction recovery is through therapy. Undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions can help develop a better coping mechanism for dealing with trauma and addiction. Greif or loss counseling can help heal trauma patients who have experienced the loss of loved ones. 

    ERP therapy is suitable for drug addiction and specific traumas such as fear of driving cars caused by accidents. The continuously regulates exposure to drugs and trauma triggers until addiction and trauma imprints subside. EMDR treatment can also help eliminate the emotional distress associated with traumatic memories.

    Inpatient Treatment

    Another form of trauma is placing a person with trauma and addiction within rehabilitation centers with inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment centers monitor patients through the withdrawal symptoms and recovery process through addiction detox. In these facilities, patients can receive medication and individual and group counseling sessions using CBT, ERP, and other forms of therapy.

    Trauma & Addiction Treatment in Orange County, CA

    Trauma can often be a dual diagnosis for women struggling with substance abuse and addiction. To treat trauma while finding recovery from substance abuse, the two should be treated at the same time. Individual therapy, group therapy, and medication management as needed can be used to treat trauma and addiction.

    New Directions for Women provides a safe and secure rehabilitation facility for women suffering from trauma and addiction. Our drug and alcohol detox programs have professional health practitioners and therapists committed to providing patients with proper rehabilitation and recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our addiction and trauma therapy and other treatments available in our rehabilitation program.


    Clinically Reviewed By:

    Heather Black-Coyne, LMFT, CADC II, Chief Clinical Officer

    Heather Black-Coyne, LMFT, CADC II, Chief Clinical Officer

    Heather most recently served as the Clinical Director of a gender-specific treatment center in Huntington Beach. She is trained in both Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which serve the needs of our patients, many of whom have experienced both complex trauma and substance use disorder.

    Medically Reviewed By:

    Dr. Alejandro Alva, M.D., Consulting Medical Director

    Dr. Alejandro Alva, M.D., Consulting Medical Director

    Alejandro Alva, MD, has a focus on substance abuse and chemical dependency treatment and general psychiatric disorders. Dr. Alva earned his bachelor’s degree from California State University, Fullerton, and completed medical school at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara School of Medicine in Mexico. He then returned to California, where he completed his psychiatric residency at the University of California, Irvine.

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