Trauma is not a foreign concept. Many of us will experience at least one traumatic event in our lifetime. These events can change the course of our lives and alter the way we view the world. Trauma can often be a contributing factor to the development of substance use disorder (SUD). Receiving trauma-informed care can be crucial for people who have experienced trauma to achieve long-term recovery.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma can be an event or series of events that cause someone severe physical or mental pain. Experiencing a threatening situation or living in an unsafe environment can also cause trauma.

Unfortunately, trauma can leave an impression long after the events that caused it is over and can redirect how a person thinks. A trauma survivor may become anxious in safe situations and question the motive of those around them. Trauma survivors sometimes default to a state of defense and vigilance, never truly trusting those around them.

How Common Is Trauma?

According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, in the United States, about five out of every ten women and six out of every ten men have experienced at least one trauma in their lives.

Men and women experience different types of trauma at different rates. However, anyone can experience trauma ranging from sexual assault, physical or emotional abuse, loss, and combat. Any type of trauma can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even people who do not develop PTSD from trauma can have their bodies negatively affected both mentally and physically.

Trauma can affect an individual, a family, or a group of strangers. Natural disasters and acts of violence can be some of the few traumatic events that a community of strangers may experience together. A tragic death in the family can result in negative repercussions for every family member, though people often cope differently.

Substance Abuse and Further Trauma

Unfortunately, while trauma can lead people to use substances to escape their memories and emotions, substance abuse often creates opportunities for exposure to more trauma. Many situations in which people use substances are dangerous or can become dangerous once substances are involved.

For example, we may be around people who don’t care about our well-being but ignore the warning signs to focus on using the substance. When substances affect our judgment, the people around us can take advantage of us in ways that can be hurtful, traumatic, and even illegal. While sexual or physical assault is never the survivor’s fault, using substances or being around people who are using can make us more vulnerable to these crimes.

For example, alcohol use is implicated in 50 to 70% of sexual assaults on college campuses. Being under the influence of a substance can also make us more vulnerable to committing a crime. Some substances are illegal to possess or use, and others can get us into legal trouble if we drive while under the influence. Any of these situations can cause further trauma.

Trauma-Informed Care

People who endure trauma require a different approach to treatment and healing. Professionals who treat people with trauma can meet these clients’ specific needs through trauma-informed care. This includes understanding how the trauma survivors are currently affected by their trauma.

Many survivors may not always realize how the trauma they went through is affecting them and how it is connected to their struggle with substance abuse. Medical professionals should be aware of this and ask the right questions to identify the relevance of trauma in the client’s life.

Personalized Care

To effectively treat someone abusing substances and who has also survived trauma, professionals need to understand the types of trauma they have experienced and how that affects them. This is an intensely personalized process.

For example, some people experience only short-term reactions to trauma, but many find their reactions to the trauma become more intense as time goes on. The same trauma can go deeper for some people than others, and it would be a disservice to treat trauma the same.

Professionals should recognize how trauma is affecting someone in all aspects of their lives, not just regarding their substance abuse, treatment, and recovery. They should consider things like how trauma is affecting their ability to function in a work environment or connect with their family. When professionals recognize these influences and put their knowledge into action, survivors can begin understanding and healing from their past.

Trauma and Recovery

With the help of professionals, survivors can lessen their negative reactions to past trauma and learn healthy ways to cope. Through trauma-informed care, survivors can work through their trauma and come out to the other side with a sense of healing. Eventually, they should have their sense of safety restored.

Trauma is, unfortunately, a part of life for many people, but we don’t have to let it continue to decide our future. We may have developed SUD and other mental health disorders from trauma, and our substance use may have made us vulnerable to further trauma. Whatever our path is or was, we have the power to work through our hard times and emerge stronger than we were.

It is okay to struggle, show emotions, and give ourselves time to process what happened to us. At one point, it may have felt like our world was closing in on us, but we can open it back up and live confidently and joyously again.

Trauma is a part of life for many of us. Six out of ten men and five out of ten women will experience trauma in their lifetime. Trauma can occur from experiencing combat, accidents, physical attacks, sexual assault, emotional abuse, loss, family situations, and natural disasters. With such a high rate of trauma for both men and women, professionals must be well-versed in trauma-informed care. There are ways to approach situations and treatment with trauma survivors. Many no longer trust those around them. Once people are betrayed, they may find it hard to move past the events and see the world as they did before the traumatic events. With the correct type of support and treatment, people can heal from more than their substance abuse. The road to recovery is possible for all who want it. To learn more, call 449 Recovery at (949) 435-7449.