Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Substance Use Disorders

You may have heard the term ACEs being used in the news lately and wondered what the term meant. Especially if you or someone you love experienced trauma as a child or young person, and are dealing with substance use disorders currently, it can be an important term to get to know.

Ongoing research and studies show that higher rates of adverse childhood experiences (ACES) are associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes. Substance abuse is one of those potential outcomes, and it’s a prevalent battle among survivors of childhood trauma.

Adverse childhood experiences and addiction are two things no one chooses to go through. You don’t deserve what happened to you. Now that you’re an adult, you can take your power back. So, what should you know about childhood trauma, addiction, and how to overcome the effects of both?

Keep reading to find out more about the connection between childhood trauma and addiction and how the trauma treatment programs at Icarus Behavioral Health can help if you are struggling as an adult!

Understanding the Sources of Childhood Trauma

Sources of Childhood Trauma

Many types of trauma or traumatic events can occur in childhood. Any traumatic event is difficult to live through and can affect you long-term. Often, this is particularly true for traumatic experiences that occur in youth.

Most of your brain development happens in childhood. So, it only makes sense that the trauma you witness or go through as a child is likely to impact you long-term.

Examples of childhood trauma include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Serious illness, whether it affects the child or a loved one (e.g., a parent).
  • Neglect, including both emotional and physical neglect.
  • Foster care or being separated from parents.
  • Verbal or emotional abuse.
  • Sexual abuse or assault.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Car accidents.
  • Bullying and other forms of injustice trauma.

A traumatic experience of any kind can lead to an increased risk of various physical and mental health concerns (such as an alcohol or substance use disorder).

For those with childhood trauma, the potent connection between addiction and traumatic events is particularly jarring.

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Does Childhood Trauma Lead to Substance Abuse?

Trauma exposure in childhood is heavily linked to substance abuse.

For example, statistics from an international survey indicate that adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are four times more likely to face alcohol abuse. This population is also nine times as likely to face hard drug abuse or dependence.

Similarly, childhood trauma is linked to high rates of nicotine dependence, prescription drug abuse, and marijuana use or cannabis use disorder.

According to the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, over a third of adolescents who report a history of abuse or neglect meet the criteria for a substance use disorder of some kind before they so much as reach their 18th birthday.

Children do not know how to make sense of traumatic events and are prone to thoughts like “What if it’s my fault?” Without the tools necessary to understand that the trauma you went through is not your fault and cope with feelings of depression, fear, and other consequences of trauma, you may have learned to self-medicate.

All of that to say, you aren’t alone in your experiences. The good news is that you can beat the effects of childhood trauma and live a life 100% free from substance use. Throughout the years, we have seen many people heal from childhood trauma, get sober, and stay sober.

Greater awareness of the connection between substance use disorders and childhood trauma is critical in addiction treatment. Our staff members and treatment programs are trauma-informed, making Icarus Behavioral Health’s programs an ideal solution for those with both a substance use disorder and trauma history.

Other Mental Health Disorders and Trauma Exposure

Mental Health Disorder

Substance use disorders are just one of the types of mental health conditions childhood trauma survivors are at an increased risk of. Trauma exposure as a minor is also one of multiple known risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, and eating disorders.

Just as we are experienced in the treatment of childhood trauma and addiction, Icarus Behavioral Health provides comprehensive care for those with one or more additional co-occurring disorders. This is called dual diagnosis treatment, a form of treatment created to address addiction and mental health conditions at the same time.

Let’s talk about a few of the other types of conditions you might face if you are a childhood trauma survivor going through drug or alcohol addiction. Then, we’ll get into our treatment programs and how they can help.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and C-PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition that presents in many people who are survivors of traumatic experiences. Not everyone with trauma goes on to develop PTSD. PTSD is characterized by reexperiencing symptoms (like flashbacks), avoidance, changes in mood and cognition (e.g., depression symptoms, trouble focusing), and alterations in arousal or reactivity, such as hypervigilance.

C-PTSD or Complex PTSD is common in those who survived trauma as a child. If you have C-PTSD, you will have experienced chronic or ongoing trauma. Complex PTSD is particularly common in survivors of child abuse, whether that refers to emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse, neglect, or physical violence.

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Generalized and Social Anxiety

Trauma survivors and individuals facing drug and alcohol addiction are more likely to face different types of anxiety disorders. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): GAD is characterized by excessive worry surrounding various everyday life situations. “Generalized” anxiety does not mean that it is less severe. Instead, it can make you feel like you are in a constant state of fear, worry, or even distress.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Formerly called “social phobia,” social anxiety is characterized by anxiety surrounding social situations, social anxiety is prevalent among childhood trauma survivors. Many childhood trauma survivors struggle with social situations. You may fear that you’re always doing something “wrong” because of how you were brought up.
  • Panic Disorder: If you live with panic disorder, you will experience recurring panic attacks or the fear of future panic attacks. You can develop panic disorder after experiencing one or more panic attacks.

Other forms of anxiety or anxiety disorders include agoraphobia, specific phobia, selective mutism, and separation anxiety. While you might turn to substances to curb anxiety, addiction can actually worsen anxiety symptoms.

Depression and Other Mood Disorders

Depression is strongly linked to trauma, much like addiction to alcohol or drugs. Like most other mental health conditions, there’s no known singular “cause” of depressive disorders like major depression or persistent depressive disorder. However, trauma and addiction are both known risk factors for depression.

Other mood disorders, like bipolar disorder, are also more prevalent among those with addiction and trauma exposure. Unlike unipolar depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by alternating “highs” and “lows” in mood. These highs are called mania (or hypomania), whereas the lows in those with bipolar disorder refer to depression.

How Icarus Helps You Overcome Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Overcome Childhood Trauma and Addiction

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from SAMHSA’s National Helpline website, over 70 percent of adults with a substance use disorder consider themselves recovering or in recovery. We are here to help you get there.

When you enter any of our treatment programs, you’ll get an individualized treatment plan. Your treatment plan will consider dual diagnosis concerns and other factors that might influence your treatment needs. Icarus Behavioral Health provides a range of treatment options for adults working to overcome childhood trauma and addiction. Each treatment option comes with a different time commitment, so you can opt for the program that best suits your current life and needs.

For example, if you have a safe and supportive living environment and cannot attend inpatient care at this time, you can opt for one of our outpatient programs for substance abuse, trauma, and mental health disorders. Or, your recovery might benefit more from a residential inpatient setting, where you’ll have a higher level of supervision and engage in a full set of treatment services during the day.

A Personalized Plan at Every Level of Trauma Care

No matter your care level, staff members will help you set and meet goals, which may change throughout the course of treatment. You will learn to validate and tend to your feelings, identify the way childhood trauma has affected you and your life, build healthy relationships, and navigate triggers confidently.

When you reach out to Icarus Behavioral Health for substance abuse and trauma treatment, we will discuss your treatment program options and help you choose a starting level of care. Though it’s not always the case, many of our clients engage in more than one level of care, using a step-down approach.

A step-down approach involves starting with a higher level of care, like residential inpatient, and moving down to a lower level of care. Using a step-down approach to trauma and addiction treatment can help you avoid relapse and transition back into everyday life successfully.

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Levels of Care and Treatment Offerings

Here are the levels of care Icarus Behavioral Health uses to address childhood trauma, substance abuse, and mental health concerns. If you have questions about any of the following treatment options or what to expect in treatment, please call our admissions line at your earliest convenience.

Medical Detoxification Program

Getting off of drugs and alcohol can come with a host of withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, withdrawals can be minor, but in others, they can be severe or life-threatening. Additionally, the initial withdrawal process is a time when relapse is prevalent.

The goal of a medical detoxification or detox program is to help you get off of substances safely with medical staff present. Supervision from staff will help you get through both the emotional and physical side of the detoxification process. If applicable, staff members may prescribe you medications to aid relapse prevention and help you through cravings or withdrawals.

Since medical detox is short-term and does not address underlying factors that lead to addiction, such as trauma, it is almost always a precursor to another level of care. Usually, medical detox lasts for 1-2 weeks.

Residential Inpatient Treatment

Residential Treatment

Residential or inpatient mental health treatment gives you the chance to heal from trauma and addiction while away from everyday life triggers. In residential inpatient treatment at Icarus Behavioral Health, you’ll eat, sleep, and live on-site. During the day, you will have a full schedule of treatment activities.

Treatment activities you engage in as a residential inpatient client may include but aren’t limited to groups, individual therapy or counseling, medication management, skill-building activities, education, and recreation. During these sessions, you will learn coping skills to navigate stress, drug and alcohol cravings, and other symptoms.

Most of the time, inpatient treatment lasts for around 30-90 days. However, the length of your treatment stay will be unique to you and may vary based on several factors, such as symptom severity.

Partial Hospitalization Program

Partial hospitalization programs are the next step below residential inpatient treatment. Frequently abbreviated to PHP, a partial hospitalization program is more intensive than a traditional outpatient program, but it still allows you to live off-site.

As a partial hospitalization client, you’ll commute to our treatment center most days per week. Treatment activities are similar to those used in residential inpatient treatment.

If you have a supportive living environment close to Icarus Behavioral Health and have well-managed addiction symptoms or are transitioning out of residential inpatient treatment, PHP may be ideal for you.

Intensive Outpatient Program

The difference between PHP and an intensive outpatient program (IOP) is that intensive outpatient treatment comes with a lower overall time commitment.

Although IOP clients at Icarus Behavioral Health still engage in a comprehensive set of treatment activities, including regular groups and individual therapy sessions, you’ll be in treatment for fewer total hours per week.

Due to the lower time commitment, IOP can be ideal for those with well-managed symptoms and external commitments, such as work or school. Much like PHP, IOP can be an initial form of treatment for trauma and addiction, or it can be used as a step-down form of treatment.

Aftercare and Alumni Support

Aftercare planning and alumni support are two separate services, but they can go hand-in-hand. These services are not treatment programs. Instead, they’re here to help you sustain lasting recovery after treatment is over.

As you prepare to graduate from treatment, we’ll help you create a relapse prevention and aftercare plan. Your relapse and aftercare prevention plan may include continued therapy, medication management, support groups, and additional resources.

Icarus Behavioral Health also has an alumni program for those who have completed one or more levels of care at our treatment center. Through our alumni program, you can stay connected to the support system you build in treatment.

Get Trauma and Recovery Support at Icarus Today

Recovery Support for Trauma

No matter where you start, you deserve a life free from the effects of childhood trauma and addiction. To get help for yourself or a loved one who needs treatment, contact Icarus Behavioral Health’s addiction and mental health treatment center today.

When you call our admissions line, we will verify your health insurance coverage, schedule a tour, or answer your questions about treatment for free. If we miss your initial call or message, a member of our team will reach out shortly.

All calls are kept strictly confidential, so please reach out in confidence and get options for support at Icarus today!

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FAQs on Addiction and Childhood Trauma

What are the 4 main things childhood trauma deeply affects?

Childhood trauma can have negative impacts on all parts of your life. Four known consequences of childhood trauma include problems with self-worth, mental health concerns, physical health concerns, and unhealthy interpersonal relationships in adulthood. These outcomes are heavily correlated with childhood abuse, whether that is physical abuse, sexual abuse, or verbal and emotional abuse.

Does trauma increase the risk of addiction?

Trauma Increase the Risk of Addiction

Yes. Trauma does increase the risk of addiction. Traumatic events in childhood, adulthood, and adolescence are all associated with higher rates of substance use disorders and other mental disorders. Childhood trauma comes with a particularly high comorbidity rate of addiction and other physical and mental health symptoms or concerns.

Some research shows that sexual abuse in childhood is one of the strongest predictors of substance abuse. Even so, childhood abuse, whether physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, is just one example of childhood adverse experiences that lead to an increased risk of addiction.

What are the lifelong effects of childhood trauma?

First, it is possible to overcome and learn to cope with the effects of childhood trauma. That said, childhood trauma can come with extensive anxiety and depression symptoms, high stress levels, physical health concerns like chronic pain, and an increased risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs. Although these consequences can be lifelong, trauma-informed treatment can help you beat them and live your life to the fullest.

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