Co-treating Trauma and Addiction

Treating Co-occurring Disorders: Tackling Trauma and Addiction at The Edge

Addiction and trauma frequently present together. In fact, it is more common than not for addiction to be linked to trauma-related anxiety. The Current Psychiatry Reports Journal found that people who seek treatment for addiction fit the diagnostic criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in more than 50% of cases.

Given that there is well-established evidence that addiction and trauma are often linked, in order to be effective it is important that addiction treatment addresses both of these components, where both are present. It would seem to follow that most – if not all – treatment centres would take this into account when developing their programmes. However, this multi-pronged model is not yet widely used in conventional therapy, and treating both disorders in tandem is a relatively new approach.

The Edge is at the forefront of this approach, offering a highly effective, specialised co-treatment programme. Resolving trauma alongside addictive behaviours disrupts many of the triggers that might have otherwise encouraged relapse – making recovery much more stable.

Trauma and PTSD: What Are They?

Trauma – which means “injured” in Greek – is characterized by psychological damage that occurs as a result of a destabilizing, profoundly distressing event. Traumatic events are generally experienced as a threat to one’s safety, wellbeing or sense of control. Often, these events are dangerous or even life threatening, but they do not have to be. The threshold for trauma is internal, in that whether or not something is defined as trauma depends on the person and their ability to cope with the emotions brought on by a particular experience. In fact, any event might qualify as traumatic, providing that its occurrence is emotionally disturbing or painful to the person experiencing it.

Particularly intense traumatic experiences, or those that are not properly processed, may over time develop into a persistent, trauma-induced anxiety disorder called PTSD. PTSD presents itself in a variety of ways. The following are common symptoms:

  • Prolonged, persistent distress when faced with a trigger
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Withdrawing from familiar settings in order to avoid triggers
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Destructive, irresponsible behaviour
  • Emotional volatility
  • Paranoia

It is important to note that all of the above are normal responses to a traumatic event. However, normally traumatic associations will gradually weaken and symptoms will subside over time. It is when they persist, and continue to be disruptive into the longer term, that trauma evolves into PTSD.

Trauma is broadly categorized into three distinct groups:

‘Big T’ Trauma or Shock Trauma

‘Big T’ Trauma is brought on by extremely disturbing, stressful or shocking experiences. This type of trauma often develops as a result of experiencing a severely distressing event firsthand, but can also be spurred by witnessing such an event. Examples of experiences that might precipitate ‘Big T’ Trauma are serious accidents, natural disasters, violent assault or bereavement.

‘Small t’ trauma

Trauma does not always stem from an ostensibly earth-shattering event. Sometimes, it is the little things that have a dramatic emotional impact.

A few examples of ‘small t’ traumatic events are:

  • Ending a friendship
  • Parental divorce
  • Being bullied
  • Losing a job
  • Starting at a new school
  • Grieving a pet

These events are sometimes dismissed by others, as they do not understand the emotional implications for the person experiencing (or witnessing) the event firsthand. Unfortunately, this tends to compound the emotional fallout of the sufferer.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma can include both ‘small t’ and ‘Big T’ traumas. These traumas are additionally labelled ‘complex’ due to their context. Events that give rise to complex trauma are often prolonged, repetitive or cumulative, and can also occur exclusively within particular relationships, in certain settings or at specific developmental stages.

A few examples of complex trauma-inducing events are:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Exploitation in the workplace
  • Repeatedly witnessing domestic violence
  • On-going military deployment

The Relationship Between Addiction and Trauma

The relationship between addiction and trauma is undeniable. When pre-existing coping mechanisms fail to soothe the persistent, recurring anxiety and distressing thoughts that sometimes follow emotionally turbulent experiences, many people reach for alcohol or other substances to fill the void. If healthier ways of coping are not found, dependency on the substance – and, thus, addiction – can develop. This relationship also exists in reverse. Those struggling with addiction have a greater likelihood of being exposed to trauma-inducing experiences due to inherent instability in their lives, which creates a vicious cycle.

Those who undergo treatment for their addiction without also addressing underlying trauma are at much higher risk of relapse, as they are only scratching the surface of their dependency. This leaves them in a vulnerable position when faced with a trauma-related trigger. Without having developed a healthy way to cope in the absence of their substance of choice, desperation can ensue – and old tendencies may emerge as a result. To prevent this from happening, it is essential that both addiction and its corresponding trauma-related triggers be addressed in conjunction with one another.

Effectively Treating Trauma and Addiction: The Edge’s Integrative Approach

The Edge simultaneously addresses both addiction and trauma via a combination of highly effective, holistic treatment methods. Treatment is comprised of leading-edge addiction treatment modalities in conjunction with the following techniques:

  • Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) yoga uses movement – specifically, shaking and vibrating – to work through troublesome memories. This method releases built-up muscular tension and gradually guides the body back to a balanced state.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) assists in the healthy reprocessing of traumatic memories by shifting them out of active, recurring thought patterns and into long-term storage. This is accomplished via bilateral eye movements. This method works quickly: as few as eight sessions have been demonstrated to be effective for improving PTSD symptoms.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) works by changing behaviours and thought patterns that perpetuate maladaptive coping mechanisms and addictive tendencies. The Edge has developed a trauma-focused CBT model that integrates trigger recognition and anticipation skills, as well as alternate coping mechanisms.

Choose The Edge for Co-treatment of Addiction and Trauma

The Western-trained, internationally accredited team at The Edge have a wealth of experience in navigating the complex relationship between addiction and trauma. Your treatment programme will be expertly developed and custom tailored to tackle your addiction and trauma simultaneously, giving you the best possible chance at stable, relapse-resistant recovery.

At The Edge, your privacy is our priority. We understand that your journey to recovery is a private one, and we take every precaution to ensure that your identity is kept confidential.
Contact The Edge today to start your recovery on the right foot.

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