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Trauma & Addiction

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. In Orange County, New Directions for Women is a rehab for women founded on the essential principles of trauma-informed care. We have 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. Grief or loss counseling can help heal trauma clients 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 clients through the withdrawal symptoms and recovery process through addiction detox. In these facilities, clients can receive medication and individual and group counseling sessions using CBT, ERP, and other forms of therapy.

How Common is Trauma?

A study by the Agency for Health Research and Quality showed that around one in three women had experienced at least one physical assault in adulthood. In addition, at least one in six American women have experienced attempted rape. The study also posits that at least one in five girls experience sexual abuse by age 13.

Hundreds of women suffer from addiction and trauma every year. Treating trauma with care prevents the escalation of the trauma to depression and other physiological and psychological issues. Trauma-informed care is crucial in supporting clients and responding to the root cause.

What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care is a strengths-based, trauma-sensitive approach that recognizes the impact of trauma on an individual’s life. This method responds in a way that is respectful of the individual’s experiences. This approach focuses on the individual’s strengths and resilience rather than the individual’s deficits. It recognizes that the individual has survived a traumatic event and can heal and thrive. Trauma-informed care is based on the understanding that an individual’s response to a traumatic event is expected. It emphasizes that the individual is not to blame for the event. It also acknowledges that an individual may have experienced multiple traumas and that the impact of trauma can be cumulative.

Trauma-informed care helps people who have experienced trauma and addiction develop healthy relationships with healthcare providers. This engagement helps care providers dig into the root cause of the client’s problem before administering treatment.

This approach to treatment emphasizes the need for healthcare providers to develop a clear picture of a client’s condition. Trauma-informed healthcare providers understand the need to create a trusting relationship with the client to establish the cause of their trauma.

What are the 5 Principles of Trauma-Informed Care?

The five principles of trauma-informed care include:

Safety. This may sound obvious, but not in some cases. For example, healthcare providers working with clients who have suffered traumatic events must ensure physical and emotional safety before and during treatment.

Trustworthiness. Consistency in providing safe care and meeting clients’ expectations is essential for showing that a healthcare setting is worthy of trust. 

Choice. There is a need to understand that most trauma victims take a lot of time before deciding on professional help. Hence each care setting has to work closely with the client to determine the treatment choice to provide desired results. Working on a client’s choice of intervention is essential to building their trust. 

Collaboration. Unlike conventional treatment, trauma-informed care does not involve strict treatment protocol. Instead, it depends on intuition and empathy. Informed care emphasizes collaboration between healthcare providers and clients to develop a practical solution.

Empowerment. Trauma-informed care focuses on empowering trauma victims to realize and build on their existing strengths. The approach establishes healthy coping skills based on clients’ strengths. This helps to build a strong foundation for dealing with current and future events.

Benefits of Trauma-Informed Care

Creating an effective relationship with the client through their special attention to trauma and understanding their past can help provide better care. Clients with a history of adverse traumatic experiences such as physical assaults and rape can be reticent to trust, especially strangers.

The benefits of trauma-informed care are limitless to women suffering from trauma and their loved ones. Trauma experiences can be inherently associated with physical and psychological well-being. There has been a wide linkage between these events and risky behaviors that may cause deaths among victims. 

The Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advocates for the need for healthcare providers to understand the impact of trauma in providing effective treatment. Consequently, trauma-informed care is a comprehensive approach that focuses on improving the healthcare experience for all clients.

There hasn’t been a comprehensive study on the impact of trauma-informed treatment. However, preliminary research shows improvement for trauma and addiction clients under this approach.

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 clients 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.

Contact New Directions for Women for effective trauma-informed treatment today.

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Clinically Reviewed By:

Picture of 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 clients, many of whom have experienced both complex trauma and substance use disorder.

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