Ways Childhood Trauma Sparks Addiction


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Experiencing trauma in childhood can have a significant impact on our self-perception and how we view the world around us. As our brain is still developing, such traumatic events can cause us to move from a free state of thinking and behaving to a world of cautiousness, fear, and inhibition. Dr. Andrea Brandt, a marriage and family therapist with over 35 years of clinical experience, has identified several ways in which childhood trauma can impact us in the most negative ways:

  • The False Self. If you didn’t receive the proper love and care that you needed from you parents as a child, you may have developed a “fake” mask or sense of self that you portray to the world; one that you don’t feel comfortable dropping in fear of rejection from others.
  • Victimhood Thinking. If you were victimized as a child, you may have picked up this form of negative talk onto yourself; negative self-talk disempowers us and makes us feel as though we have no control over our lives.
  • Passive-Aggressiveness. If you learned as a child that anger isn’t an appropriate emotion and that it shouldn’t be expressed, you may have learned to hold it in and suppress it. This may cause you to experience passive-aggressiveness, as anger doesn’t really leave unless we work through what caused it.
  • Passivity. If you were neglected as a child or abandoned, you may have believed that holding in your anger or fear would protect you from being neglected again. What happens when we don’t express our feelings is we abandon ourselves. As Dr. Brandt puts it, “when we bury our feelings, we bury who we are”.

When we take on one or more of these perceptions of who we are and how we should act, we open ourselves up to negative behaviors that could lead us to violence, self-harm, addiction, and more. Not properly working through our traumatic past causes us to feel empty, broken, and helpless. There are several tactics that we may take and reasons why we may lean towards addiction to cope with our feelings:

  • It makes us feel safe.
  • It helps us escape memories.
  • It helps us soothe pain.
  • We may feel more in control.
  • We can create a world that we can tolerate when we’re using.
  • Addiction helps us to feel like we can treat ourselves the way we “deserve” to be treated.
  • Addiction allows us to redefine who we are.

Of course, the “benefits” of addiction listed above are misleading, as addiction causes us to lose ourselves even more. We may “feel” that our addictive behaviors are solving problems but in fact, they are helping us bury our feelings even deeper.

Seeking treatment and rehabilitation means that you can focus on overcoming your addiction while also getting to the root of things. Simple Recovery is a world-renowned addiction recovery center with licensed, experienced professionals who will work with you towards holistic recovery. Call us at 888-743-0490 for a consultation today.