The Link between Trauma and Addictions

The Link between Trauma and Addictions

Written by: Seada

“Trauma isn’t what happens to you. It’s what happens inside of you. It’s when you’re alone with your pain and sadness, and you cannot process it. Not everybody traumatized becomes addicted but everyone addicted was traumatized”
Dr. Gabor Mate.

Addiction is found to be a result of unprocessed emotional wounds that developed from childhood and linger to adulthood. Research identifies children exposed to significant adverse experiences, such as, domestic violence, abuse, contribute to substance dependence, and difficulty coping with stress, discomfort, or pain as adults.

The amygdala reacts with a `flight or fight` responses with consistent exposure to domestic arguments and abuse.  A constant state of danger distorts perception seemingly influencing the world to generally ‘feel’ dangerous.

Preventative measures reflect a safe figure such as, extended family, teacher, friends, community, or school to support a child in distress and in pain.  When preventative measures are unreachable, a child exhibits behaviors of dissociation, shutting down, mutism, channeling anger, acting out, or need to be in control- to list few irrational behaviors.

“Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being. The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors“ (Violence Prevention, 2016).

Long-term exposure to domestic violence strongly correlates with depression, substance use, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The conditions are a result of unprocessed, suppressed emotional pain, or discomfort that often manifests itself into mental health issues; as mentioned.

Addiction is not limited to drugs, alcohol, and gambling. Addictions is communication for pain, distress, and danger.

Examples of addictions are:

  • Gambling
  • Drugs
  • Sex
  • Work
  • Excessive spending
  • Pornography
  • Food
  • Exercising
  • Pain seeking
  • Video game
  • Phone
  • Seeking attention

There is no simple solution to mastering the skills to separate from the addiction.  However, Dr. Gabor Mate identifies that the first step to healing is admitting the addiction has power over you.

With love,



Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Retrieved from:




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