NuView Treatment Center Logo
Nuview Treatment Center Logo

Los Angeles IOP Drug Rehab for Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Addiction and Trauma: The Link We Can’t Ignore

Table of Contents

Addiction and trauma often go hand in hand, engulfing a person in a vicious cycle. Understanding the connection between the two is essential in providing effective and comprehensive support to people struggling with addiction issues.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the relationship between addiction and trauma, exploring the underlying causes and the ways in which they feed into each other. We will also discuss the current approaches to treatment and the need for a holistic approach that addresses both conditions.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is an emotional response to an experience that is so upsetting or dangerous that it makes it hard for a person to cope.

Traumatic events could be a one-time event like a natural disaster, an accident, or a violent crime. It could also be going on for a long time, like when a child is abused, ignored, or exposed to violence repeatedly.

A traumatic experience can leave an individual feeling helpless, vulnerable, and alone. While the effects of trauma vary from person to person, they can be far-reaching. It can impact every aspect of an individual’s life, including their relationships, mental health, and physical health.

It can also lead to the development of conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder.

4 Types of Trauma

Trauma can take many forms and stem from various events and experiences. In general, it can be divided into four categories, as explained below:

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma is a single, extremely painful event that occurs unexpectedly. This could be a vehicle accident, a natural disaster, or an assault. Major injuries, car crashes, and mass shootings can cause acute trauma.

Fewer studies have examined acute trauma than chronic trauma. However, there is still evidence that a single traumatic event can cause long-lasting, severe symptoms and possibly posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma is when an individual is repeatedly exposed to traumatic events over an extended period. Examples could be child abuse, ongoing domestic violence, or military combat. Homelessness, chronic illness, and neglect are common causes of chronic trauma.

Survivors of this type of trauma may require additional treatment and mental health services administration because the pain from chronic trauma lasts considerably longer. For example, if a person has been in the armed services and in a combat situation for an extended period, he may find it difficult to return to civilian life.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma refers to repeated and prolonged exposure to traumatic events, particularly those that occur in childhood or during early development. It may be considered a combination of acute and chronic trauma.

Complex trauma includes racism and racial discrimination, childhood abuse or neglect, domestic violence, sexual abuse, torture, sex trafficking, slavery, or war.

These traumatic experiences can accumulate over time and negatively impact an individual’s health, well-being, and sense of self.

Complex trauma is particularly harmful because it hinders the development of healthy attachments, increasing vulnerability to difficulties with emotion regulation, diminished sense of self-worth, and other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Vicarious Trauma

Vicarious trauma refers to trauma experienced indirectly, such as through exposure to media depictions of violence, working with survivors, or caring for someone who has experienced trauma.

Workers and volunteers in victim services, law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire services, and other related fields are at higher risk of developing vicarious trauma because they work with and help people who have been traumatized or victimized.

Please note that this section does not cover every conceivable trauma that an individual, group, or community may encounter. It is only meant to give a broad perspective of the different types of trauma that people may experience.

Signs of Trauma

Trauma can manifest in various ways that impact the lives of individuals. Some people may clearly show signs of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Still, many more will show resilient responses, short-term subclinical symptoms, or effects that don’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis.

These reactions are often normal after a traumatic event but can still be upsetting. Below are some of the most common emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and developmental responses shown by people with traumatic histories.

      • Flashbacks. Re-experiencing the traumatic event through vivid, intrusive memories or nightmares.

      • Avoidance. Avoiding people, places, or activities that trigger memories of the traumatic event.

      • Emotion dysregulation or having difficulty regulating emotions such as anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame. They typically exhibit emotional extremes: feeling too much (overwhelmed) or too little (numb) emotion. This is particularly more evident in people with traumatic childhood experiences.

      • Problems with communicating needs. As a result of emotional dysregulation, people who are traumatized may have difficulty knowing and describing their internal emotions and experiences.

      • Emotional Numbness. Feeling detached or emotionally flat, especially about people and activities that once brought joy.

      • Anxiety. Experiencing persistent feelings of worry, fear, or panic, especially in situations that remind the individual of the traumatic event.

      • Depression. Feeling hopeless, sad, or devoid of energy for an extended period.

      • Substance Abuse. People with underlying trauma may self-medicate in an attempt to regain emotional control. This could be in prescription drugs, alcohol, or other substances.

      • Intrusive thoughts and memories. Having thoughts and memories about the trauma come up without warning or desire. These unwanted thoughts and memories can make a person feel and act as if the trauma is happening again in the present.

      • Hyperarousal or hypervigilance. The heightened state of always looking out for possible threats.

      • Behavioral control. Some people who experience trauma may have behavioral issues, including poor impulse control, self-destructive behaviors, aggression, opposition behavior, excessive compliance, or eating disorders.

    Trauma may or may not manifest physically in a traumatized person. Some of the more common physical signs include:

        • Paleness

        • Lethargy

        • Tiredness or fatigue

        • Trouble concentrating

        • Sleep disturbances

        • Muscle tension

        • Racing heartbeat

        • Other physical complaints

      People with PTSD and other traumatic stress reactions are more likely to have somatic symptoms. People from certain ethnic and cultural backgrounds may show emotional distress first or only through physical illnesses or worries.

      Many people with traumatic experiences may not be aware of the link between their feelings and their physical symptoms, leading to personal alcohol abuse.

      Please note that these kinds of reactions are neither signs of mental illness nor mental disorder. PTSD and other traumatic stress-related disorders have a certain set of symptoms and criteria that can only be diagnosed by a licensed professional.

      If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional to discuss treatment options.

      How Does Childhood Trauma Affect the Brain?

      Childhood trauma can have a lasting impact on an individual’s brain development and functioning. Traumatic experiences in childhood can alter the brain’s stress response system, resulting in increased anxiety, depression, and a heightened risk for addiction.

      Childhood trauma can also impact the brain’s executive functioning, responsible for regulating emotions, making decisions, and solving problems. Individuals who experienced childhood trauma may struggle with impulsivity, emotional regulation, and decision-making, which can increase their risk for addiction.

      Research also has shown that individuals who experienced trauma in childhood are more likely to experience mental and physical health problems and substance abuse issues later in life.

      In particular, the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study investigated over 17,000 people between the ages of 19 and 90 to examine the link between childhood trauma and medical conditions.

      The survey asked participants about their experiences with various types of childhood adversity, including:

          • Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse

          • Neglect

          • Household challenges (having a parent with a mental illness, substance abuse, or incarceration)

          • Family structure issues (divorce or the absence of a parent)

        The study found that these adverse childhood experiences were alarmingly common, with two-thirds of participants reporting at least one type of adversity and 12% reporting four or more types.

        Results of the study showed that a higher number of adverse experiences was associated with an increased risk of a range of health problems in adulthood, including:

            • Chronic physical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes

          Effects of Childhood Trauma

          Childhood trauma can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental and physical health. The aftermath of trauma can impact an individual’s sense of safety, relationships, and overall quality of life.

          Here are some common effects of childhood trauma:

          Mental Health

          Trauma in childhood can make it more likely that a person will develop anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It has also been linked to several bad mental health effects, such as a higher risk of self-harm and suicide.

          Physical issues

          Trauma in childhood is also associated with various physical health problems, including chronic pain, heart disease, and sleep disturbances.

          Complexly traumatized children sometimes over- or under-react to sensory stimuli. They may be hypersensitive to sounds, scents, touch, or light or be anesthetized and numb to pain, touch, and interior physical sensations.

          As a result, people may harm themselves without feeling pain, suffer from physical ailments without knowing it, or complain of chronic discomfort in multiple body parts without a physical explanation.

          Difficulty in Relationships

          Trauma in childhood can affect a person’s ability to make and keep healthy relationships, as well as their ability to be close to and trust others.

          Most abused or neglected children struggle to form good caregiver relationships. Unattached children are more stressed. They may act violently or inappropriately due to emotional issues.

          A youngster with complex trauma may struggle in romantic relationships, friendships, and with authoritative figures like teachers and police.

          How Do We Deal With Childhood Trauma in Adulthood?

          It’s clear that adverse childhood experiences can have serious and lasting effects on a person’s overall well-being.

          However, it’s also vital to remember that the adult brain can change and adapt. The neurological impacts of childhood trauma can be healed and managed with the support of evidence-based treatments.

          Here are some common approaches to dealing with childhood trauma in adulthood:

              • Therapy. Psychotherapy can be a valuable tool for individuals seeking to overcome the effects of childhood trauma. A therapist can help individuals process their trauma, develop coping skills, and work through their emotions.

              • Medication. In some cases, medication can be an effective complement to therapy. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help to manage symptoms related to childhood trauma.

              • Self-Care. Incorporating self-care practices into one’s routine can be a helpful tool for managing the aftermath of childhood trauma. Self-care activities can include exercise, mindfulness, and spending time in nature.

              • Support Groups. Joining a support group can provide individuals with a supportive community of others who have experienced similar traumas. Sharing experiences and coping strategies can help to normalize and validate an individual’s feelings.

              • Lifestyle Changes. Making positive lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as substance abuse), can help manage childhood trauma’s effects.

            It’s important to find the best approach for each individual and remember that recovery is a journey and progress may not be linear. With the right support and treatment, it is possible to overcome childhood trauma and build a fulfilling life.

            Why Trauma Often Leads to Addiction

            Trauma can profoundly impact an individual’s life, affecting not only their mental and emotional well-being but also their physical health. When the body experiences a traumatic event, it goes into a state of high alert, which can lead to changes in brain chemistry and function. This can result in developing conditions such as PTSD and anxiety disorders.

            Research has shown that individuals who experience trauma are more likely to develop an addiction due to their attempts to cope with the emotional pain caused by the traumatic event.

            Substance abuse can temporarily relieve feelings of distress, fear, and anxiety. However, the relief is short-lived; over time, the individual may find that they cannot function normally without the substance. This can lead to a vicious cycle of substance abuse, where the individual constantly seeks relief from their emotional pain.

            Studies of people with drug addictions repeatedly find extraordinarily high percentages of childhood traumas. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study results show that the risk for early initiation of substance abuse increases two to four times for each noted adversity the respondents experience. The higher the number of adverse childhood experiences, the more likely they become substance abusers.

            Individuals who have experienced trauma may require specialized treatment, such as trauma-focused therapy, to heal from the traumatic event and address the underlying emotional pain that led to their substance abuse.

            Treating only the addiction without addressing the trauma may result in a higher risk of relapse and the persistence of mental health problems.

            Treating Addiction and Alcoholism Caused by Trauma

            The link between trauma and addiction is well established, and it is crucial to address both conditions to achieve long-term recovery.

            Please note that each person’s situation is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. That’s why it’s essential to work with a professional who can help you find the right treatment plan that works best for you.

            Here are some of the most effective treatment methods for substance abuse and trauma:

                1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a therapy that focuses on changing negative patterns of thought and behavior. It has been shown to be effective in treating addiction, drug abuse, and trauma-related disorders such as PTSD.
                2. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR is a therapy that helps people process and heal from traumatic experiences. It uses eye movements and other forms of stimulation to help people process their emotions and memories related to their trauma.
                3. Group Therapy. Group therapy is where people with similar experiences come together to support each other and work through their problems. Group therapy can be particularly useful for those struggling with substance abuse problems and trauma, as it provides a sense of community and helps people feel less isolated.
                4. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). MAT is a treatment that uses medication to help people overcome their addiction to substances such as alcohol and opioids. Certain medications, such as naltrexone or buprenorphine, are often prescribed to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms from drug abuse and reduce cravings. MAT is typically used with behavioral therapy and support groups to provide a comprehensive treatment plan.
                5. Holistic Approaches. Holistic approaches to treatment focus on treating the whole person, including their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. This can include therapies like yoga, acupuncture, massage, and mindfulness meditation.
                6. Support Groups. In addition to therapy and MAT, support groups such as 12-step programs can also play a crucial role in recovery. These groups provide a sense of community and offer individuals the opportunity to connect with others with similar experiences.

              No matter what approach you choose, the most important thing is to find a treatment plan that works for you and provides you with the support and care you need to heal from your trauma and overcome your addiction.

              Trauma and Addiction Recovery

              Recovering from trauma and addiction can be a long and challenging journey, but it is possible with the right support and resources. To achieve lasting recovery, it is important to address both the trauma and the addiction, as they often go hand in hand.

              Remember that there is no magic bullet for rehabilitation; each person must determine what works best for them via trial and error. Additionally, treatment from a qualified mental health expert should be sought out for optimal efficacy and safety.

              Drug Rehab for Addiction and Trauma 

              Drug rehabilitation can be useful for individuals struggling with addiction and trauma. Rehab provides a structured and supportive environment where individuals can focus on their recovery and receive specialized care for their addiction and any underlying mental health conditions, such as trauma. Treating trauma takes time and commitment.

              Research has shown that a combination of evidence-based therapies and support from healthcare professionals can lead to successful outcomes for individuals in drug rehab. However, it’s important to note that not all rehab programs are created equal, and it’s crucial to select one that caters to the needs of the individual regarding their addiction and any underlying trauma.

              Remember that recovery from addiction and trauma is a lifelong process and requires continuous support and care even after a drug treatment program has been completed.

              At NuView Treatment Center, we understand the complexity of addiction and the role that trauma can play in its development. Our addiction treatment facility offers outpatient therapy for alcohol and drug rehab in Los Angeles, CA, providing integrated and evidence-based programs to support individuals on their road to recovery.

              Our comprehensive treatment methods address the physical aspect of addiction and the emotional and mental health struggles that often accompany it. Our team of experienced professionals takes a compassionate and person-centered approach, developing personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs.

              Whether you’re struggling with alcohol abuse, drug addiction, or a combination, NuView Treatment Center is here to help. Our Los Angeles Drug Rehab is dedicated to providing the support, guidance, and tools to overcome addiction and improve your overall well-being.

              If you or someone you know is in need of our services, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Your personalized road map to success starts here at NuView Treatment Center.

              Frequently Asked Questions

              Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

              Childhood traumas can have long-lasting effects on a person’s mental and emotional well-being, making them more likely to have physical health problems, relationship problems, and use drugs as an adult.

              Childhood trauma can affect the development of the brain, leading to changes in behavior and coping mechanisms. Substance abuse can temporarily escape the painful emotions and memories associated with trauma, increasing the risk of addiction.

              There is a strong link between trauma and addiction. Trauma can trigger substance abuse as a form of coping, while addiction can lead to further traumatic experiences.

              Trauma is not the sole cause of addiction, but it can increase the risk of substance abuse and make it harder to overcome an addiction.

              The trauma theory of addiction suggests that individuals who have experienced trauma are more susceptible to addiction as a form of coping with the emotional and psychological effects of trauma.

              Early trauma affects the development of the brain and impacts a person’s behavior and coping mechanisms. Substance abuse can temporarily relieve the pain and memories associated with trauma, increasing the risk of addiction.

              Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

              Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 6). About the CDC-Kaiser Ace Study |Violence prevention|injury Center|CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from

              Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US), 2014. Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57. Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma. Available from:

              Cénat, J. M. (2022). Complex racial trauma: Evidence, theory, assessment, and treatment. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 174569162211204.

              De Bellis, M. D., & Zisk, A. (2014, April). The biological effects of childhood trauma. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from

              Dube, S. R., Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Chapman, D. P., Williamson, D. F., & Giles, W. H. (2001). Childhood abuse, household dysfunction, and the risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span. JAMA, 286(24), 3089.

              Dube, S. R., Felitti, V. J., Dong, M., Chapman, D. P., Giles, W. H., & Anda, R. F. (2003). Childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: The adverse childhood experiences study. Pediatrics, 111(3), 564–572.

              D’Andrea, W., Sharma, R., Zelechoski, A. D., & Spinazzola, J. (2011). Physical health problems after single trauma exposure. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 17(6), 378–392.

              Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14(4), 245–258.

              Hogue, A., Schumm, J. A., MacLean, A., & Bobek, M. (2021). Couple and family therapy for substance use disorders: Evidence‐based update 2010–2019. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 48(1), 178–203.

              Larson, S., Chapman, S., Spetz, J., & Brindis, C. D. (2017). Chronic childhood trauma, mental health, academic achievement, and school-Based Health Center Mental Health Services. Journal of School Health, 87(9), 675–686.

              Trauma . American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Retrieved February 8, 2023, from

              What is vicarious trauma?: The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit: OVC. Office for Victims of Crime. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2023, from

              Wu, N. S., Schairer, L. C., Dellor, E., & Grella, C. (2010). Childhood trauma and health outcomes in adults with comorbid substance abuse and Mental Health Disorders. Addictive Behaviors, 35(1), 68–71.

              Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

              Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

              Latest posts

              Share this post


              Leave a comment

              Written By: Linda Whiteside

              Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

              Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

              Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

              Read More

              Addiction & Recovery

              Did you know that we are always here for you 24/7?

              You don't have to try to cope with life and addiction all on your own. Reach out to us now, no matter the time of day or night, even if you're not sure what you want to do yet and just need someone to listen.

              We understand what you're going through and we can help you or a loved one survive addiction and find happiness in your life again.

              Fill out the form below and we will contact you soon or call us any time at (323) 307-7997.
              Contact Form - Blog

              Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction? We can help!

              Our advisors are waiting for your call: (323) 307-7997

              Ready to get Help?