Get new posts by email
Unconscious Addiction To Trauma – Childhood Trauma Recovery

Unconscious Addiction To Trauma

Sometimes, people who have experienced significant and protracted childhood trauma e.g. in the form of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse may become fixated on their traumatic experiences and unconsciously addicted to recreating them in their adult lives.

For example, those who suffered sexual abuse may become prostitutes (e.g. Finkelhor and Brown, 1985), and those who experienced physical abuse may continually put themselves in further physical danger by frequently provoking fights. 

Research has also shown that children who move into foster families as a result of physical abuse by their own families may attempt to provoke their foster parents into abusing them further so that they become REVICTIMIZED.

And, of course, as we have seen in many other articles I have published on this site, abused children are at greatly increased risk of becoming self abusers (e.g. by self-harming)

Those who were victimized as children may, too, respond by victimizing others. For example, a research study conducted by Clarke et al. (1990) found that 28% of those who experienced childhood physical or sexual abuse became victimizers of others compared to 10% of those who stated that they had not been the victims of sexual or physical abuse in childhood.

Furthermore, Lewis et al. (1987) found that out of 14 juveniles who had been sentenced to the death penalty for committing murder, 12 had experienced extremely severe physical abuse in childhood.

Additionally, Seghorn et al. (1987) found that individuals found guilty of serious sexual assaults had often been a victim of sexual abuse themselves as children.

Unconscious addiction to trauma not only becomes apparent by the frequency with which victims can turn into victimizers of others but can also manifest itself in the form of a TRAUMA BOND between the abused and the abuser.



Jennifer Clarke, MDMichael D. Stein, MDMindy Sobota, MAet alMargaret Marisi, RNLucy Hanna, MS Victims as VictimizersPhysical Aggression by Persons With a History of Childhood Abuse Arch Intern Med. 1999;159(16):1920-1924. doi:10.1001/archinte.159.16.1920


Finkelhor, David and Angela Christine Browne. “The traumatic impact of child sexual abuse: a conceptualization.” The American journal of orthopsychiatry 55 4 (1985): 530-541 .

Lewis, D.O., Pincus, J.H., Bard, B., Richardson, E., Prichep, L.S., Feldman, M., and Yeager, L. 1988. Neuropsychiatric,
psychoeducational, and family characteristics of 14 juveniles condemned to death in the United States. American
Journal of Psychiatry 145(5):585–589

Seghorn TK, Boucher RJ, Prentky RA: Childhood sexual abuse in the lives of sexually aggressive offenders. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 26:262-267, 1987 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

7 + ten =