Trauma and Addiction:
How Our EMDR Treatment Can Help

Trauma and addiction often go hand in hand, but unfortunately, both are usually misunderstood and can get worse without the proper treatment. For instance, it’s often assumed that people develop addictions in response to trauma, but that simply isn’t always the case.

Understanding both trauma and addiction — and the best ways to treat each, and both together — are crucial for a successful, happier, and healthier recovery. You can learn more about the basics of trauma and addiction below, and how our unique EMDR treatment at Extra Mile Recovery can help.

What is Trauma?

The simplest explanation for trauma is that it’s an unresolved emotional response. When something unbearably stressful occurs, a traumatic event, the memory of that event can cause intense, overwhelming feelings. Trauma is closely linked to addiction, for reasons we’ll explore below.

What is Trauma

​Just How Often Do Trauma and Addiction Co-Occur?

While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused by trauma, rather than a synonym for it, PTSD is still a valuable way for us to gauge how trauma interacts with substance use disorders (SUD).

  • Someone with PTSD is two to four times more likely to also have a SUD. [1]
  • The severity of substance abuse is strongly correlated to both the severity of childhood abuse, and the severity of present PTSD symptoms. [2]
  • Over one in four veterans with PTSD have a SUD, nearly one in three veterans seeking treatment for a SUD have PTSD, and veterans with PTSD are twice as likely to smoke cigarettes. [3]

​Does Trauma Lead to Addiction, Or Does Addiction Lead to Trauma?

One of the most popular explanations for the correlation between trauma and PTSD is “self-medication”: the idea that someone abuses a substance to cope with extreme feelings. But evidence and our own experience suggest that many people will also experience trauma as a direct result of their addiction, for anything from losing a friend to getting into a life-threatening situation.

Whichever the case, trauma certainly makes being sober harder, and as a substance becomes less effective at repressing the symptoms of trauma, the user starts to take more and more of it.

Why Is Treating Trauma Important for Treating Addiction?

If we were to only address our clients’ addiction, we’d be leaving them with no new tools for handling their painful trauma; we’d have simply taken a damaging tool away. When a client has a SUD and any other mental disorder, we call this a dual diagnosis, and we provide specialized treatment for clients who have both a SUD and trauma or PTSD — especially our unique EMDR.

Important for Treating Addiction

​Tackling Trauma and Addiction Together Through EMDR

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a groundbreaking and unique psychotherapy for trauma that works especially well in a rehab environment. EMDR first identifies the trauma and its triggers, and then links the memory and triggers to healthier thought patterns and manageable behavior adjustments. This makes the trauma, its symptoms, and its triggers less overwhelming and more manageable.

​What to Expect from EMDR

EMDR is a carefully-managed process: while the client discusses certain aspects of their trauma, they’re also directed to focus on external stimuli: controlled eye movements, hand tapping and clapping, audio stimulation, and more. These stimuli and thoughts are also linked to positive or neutral trains of thought.

This reframes past traumas, halts recall and replaying of memories, and alters negative behaviors to healthier, more positive ones that don’t require substance abuse.

Trauma Therapy at Extra Mile Recovery

We’re proud to offer EMDR, dual diagnosis treatment, and attentive care for all our clients dealing with trauma and looking for a fresh start. To learn more about our trauma-focused EMDR treatment, please click the link below or call Extra Mile Recovery at (662) 351-3356 today.

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