A traumatic event can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone. The uncontrollable and often unexpected nature of trauma adds to the psychological impact on survivors. Trauma in any form is a risk factor for developing substance use disorders. Research published in 2010 reported “the level of substance use, particularly cocaine, strongly correlated with levels of childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as current PTSD symptoms.”
Almost any severely stressful or uncomfortable event has the potential to traumatize. Researchers remain uncertain why some people develop symptoms related to trauma while others do not. Common causes of trauma disorders include experiencing, witnessing, or hearing about the following:
Not everyone who experiences highly stressful events will become traumatized. What one person may find highly traumatizing might not be difficult for someone else to process. In addition, the effects of trauma can manifest in several unexpected ways. For example, someone can go for decades without any adverse reactions and develop mental health disorders related to the trauma despite previously appearing well adjusted. Thus, the effects are different for everyone, even though some similarities remain between individual cases.
Anyone can develop trauma-related disorders regardless of age, gender, mental health status, or other demographics. Researchers believe genetics, the nature of the trauma, and a history of mental health or substance use disorders play a role in whether someone healthily processes trauma. Still, these are risk factors and not indicators.
Nearly 40% of individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder experienced some form of trauma. Alcohol could be used as a form of self-medication to cope with symptoms of alcohol misuse that might develop independently.
If your loved one has gone through a traumatic event, they need support, encouragement, and acceptance. Unfortunately, no one reacts in precisely the same way to trauma, so you may notice your loved one has become closed off and isolated, or they may be angry, irritable, and lash out. The best way to help them is to provide resources for treatments and therapy. Check your sources to ensure they are reputable, and remember sometimes people need time to come to terms and be prepared to accept help.
Patient and honest communication with your loved ones about your concerns might prompt them to seek out treatment. Learn more by speaking with your doctor or a local rehabilitation facility.
Trauma often relates to childhood events or excruciating moments in a person’s life. Many people try to avoid all reminders or triggers of the event. This avoidance can lead to mental health disorders and side effects that impact health and quality of life. Avoidance behaviors stem from a desire to avoid the emotional pain caused by the event. If left untreated, you could face increasingly severe symptoms. Long-term effects health of trauma can include:
People find ways to cope with trauma, and they are not always healthy. A few common unhealthy coping mechanisms include the following:
The only way to move forward safely and healthily is to treat the underlying trauma. Without addressing the root cause, you cannot entirely eliminate symptoms.
Untreated trauma often develops into mental health disorders and trauma-related conditions like those listed below:
Trauma-related disorders like PTSD sometimes require a combination of medication and psychotherapy to treat the symptoms and underlying issues successfully. Treatments are chosen based on the type of trauma, any co-occurring conditions, and the severity of side effects. You will work with your care team to create an ideal personalized treatment plan. Common medications used to overcome trauma-related symptoms include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Psychotherapies known to have a positive impact on traumatized individuals include the following: