Childhood Trauma And Alcoholism
When childhood trauma remains unresolved (ie. it has not yet been worked through and processed with the help of psychotherapy), alcoholism may result (together, frequently, with aggressive behaviour).
Indeed, it has been suggested that unresolved traumatic events are actually the MAIN CAUSE of alcoholism in later life. The trauma may have its roots in:
– the child having been rejected by the parent/s
– too much responsibility having been placed upon the child
As would be expected, it has also been found that adult risk of both alcoholism and depression increases the greater the number of traumatic events experienced and the greater their intensity.
Children who grow up in alcoholic households have also been found to be at greater risk of becoming alcoholics themselves in adulthood, but this appears to be due to the fact that, as children with alcoholic parent/s, they are more likely to have experienced traumatic events than children of non-alcoholic parents, rather than due to them modelling their own behaviour regarding drinking alcohol upon that of their parent/s.
Furthermore, the more traumatic events experienced during childhood (of a physical, emotional or sexual nature), the more intensely symptoms of ANGER are likely to present themselves later on.
In research studies on childhood trauma, the degree of trauma experienced (and it is obviously not possible to quantify this with absolute precision) is often measured using the CHILDHOOD TRAUMA QUESTIONNAIRE (Fink et al., 1995) which identifies EMOTIONAL INJURIES and PARENTAL NEGLECT experienced during childhood and adolesence.
PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORIES view alcholism as A MEANS OF COPING WITH ANXIETY.
Studies suggest that an alcoholic adult is about ten times more likely to have experienced physical violence as a child and about twenty times more likely to have experienced sexual abuse. Lack of peace in the family during childhood is also much more frequently reported by adults suffering from alcoholism, as are: EMOTIONAL ABUSE, NEGLECT, SEPARATION AND LOSS, INADEQUATE (eg distant) RELATIONSHIPS and LACK OF PARENTAL AFFECTION.
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE TREATMENT OF ADULT ALCOHOLICS:
Psychotherapy to help the individual suffering from alcoholism resolve his/her childhood trauma may improve treatment outcomes and reduce the likelihood of relapse. Further research is being conducted to help to confirm this.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)