addressing trauma in treatment, looking at the ocean
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When you have experienced a traumatic event or set of circumstances in your life, it is not necessarily evident from the outside. No one else may realize what you are going through. When your trauma leads to a mental health issue or substance use disorder, appropriate treatment will guide you through the process of recovery. Addressing trauma in treatment will help you recognize and address the underlying issues that have led to your mood disorder and addiction.

What is Trauma?

You may have experienced a terrible event such as an accident or physical violence. Immediately afterwards, you were probably in shock and experiencing some denial around the event. Certain ongoing circumstances can also be devastating, such as growing up in abusive family. Trauma is your emotional response to these events or circumstances. You might have unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives after a traumatic event.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that there are 3 Es involved in trauma:
Event(s) – Events and circumstances may include the actual or extreme threat of physical or psychological harm (i.e. natural disasters, violence, etc.) or severe, life-threatening neglect that imperils healthy development.
Experience of event (s) – The individual’s experience of these events or circumstances helps to determine whether it is a traumatic event. A particular event may be experienced as traumatic for one individual and not for another.
Effect – The long-lasting adverse effects of the event are a critical component of trauma. These adverse effects may occur immediately or may have a delayed onset. The duration of the effects can be short to long term. In some situations, the individual may not recognize the connection between the traumatic events and the effects.


Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event or who have lived through traumatic circumstances. Although PTSD is typically associated with the military or first responders, anyone can experience the symptoms after going through a trauma in their life.
woman looking out at ocean in recovery
People with PTSD have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. They may relive the event through flashbacks or nightmares; they may feel sadness, fear or anger; and they may feel detached or estranged from other people. People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event, and they may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.

Trauma and Addiction

There is a relationship between trauma exposure and substance use that can lead to addiction. Some studies have found that substance abusing individuals tend to have significantly higher rates of traumatic experiences than their non-substance abusing counterparts. Individuals with an alcohol addiction diagnosis, for example, are six to 12 times more likely to have been physically abused and 18 to 20 times more likely to have been sexually abused than others. Individuals seeking treatment for substance abuse are highly likely to have experienced some form of trauma, and as the intensity of the experienced trauma increases, individuals are more likely to have more serious substance abuse problems.

Dual Diagnosis

When you have experienced trauma and have developed a mental disorder as well as an addiction to drugs or alcohol, that is referred to as a dual diagnosis. Substance use disorders — the repeated misuse of alcohol and/or drugs — often occur simultaneously in individuals with mental illness, usually as a way to cope with overwhelming symptoms.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.2 million U.S. adults experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder in 2018. The best treatment for dual diagnosis is integrated intervention, when a person receives care for both their diagnosed mental illness and substance use disorder.

Addressing Trauma in Treatment

When you have experienced trauma and have PTSD symptoms and/or substance use issues, addressing trauma in treatment is critical to your total recovery. Trauma-informed substance abuse treatment services will integrate an understanding of trauma and substance abuse throughout the program.
Treatment providers recognize the multiple, complex interactions between alcohol and drug use and traumatic events or circumstances and are aware that survivors often use substances to manage the emotional distress that follows from trauma. These professionals also understand that substance abusers become more vulnerable to revictimization through risks associated with addiction-related behavior.
The best approach is to simultaneously address trauma and substance abuse. Helping you understand the range of possible connections between trauma and substance abuse is a key process in effective treatment services for both. Personalized treatment must take into consideration your history of substance use as well as the trauma you experienced that may have led to your addiction.

Trauma and Addiction Treatment at Hope by the Sea

We are here to help with your anxiety, mood disorder, and addiction. At Hope by the Sea, we work with you to create a personalized treatment regimen that will be effective for you and your situation. Please contact Hope by the Sea immediately for assistance. During COVID-19, our team is following every CDC protocol for COVID-19 as our clients’ safety is of the utmost importance.