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Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma And Addiction

Childhood Trauma Leading To Addiction And Crime

drug-abuse-childhood-trauma

 

We have seen in previous articles published on this site that, if we have experienced significant childhood trauma, we are at increased risk of becoming addicted to illegal drugs as a result in order to help dull our emotional pain / dissociate from our problems (this is not only because our lives our more likely to be stressful if we have experienced childhood trauma, but also because the experience of childhood trauma can damage the development of a part of the brain called the amygdala which, in turn, makes us more susceptible to, and less able to tolerate, the effects of stress).

DRUG ABUSE :

childhood-trauma-drug-abuse

Unfortunately, too, if we become addicted to illegal drugs, we then become at increased risk of becoming involved in crime (over and above the crime of buying and taking illegal drugs). Below, I explain some of the main reasons why this is so :

Why Drug Abuse Puts Us At Risk Of Becoming Further Involved In Crime :

– some drugs can decrease inhibition, increase impulsivity and increase the propensity to become violent (though obviously not an illegal drug, this is especially true of alcohol – and the experience of childhood trauma also makes it more likely we will abuse alcohol for the same reasons that we may become addicted to illegal drugs)

– the desperate need to acquire money quickly to buy the drugs that feed the addiction

– buying illegal drugs brings the addict into contact with the criminal world which exposes him/her to the danger of becoming ‘sucked into’ a more general, criminal lifestyle.

The Development Of The Vicious Circle :

Not only does drug abuse increase one’s risk of becoming involved in crime, but the reverse is also true : being involved in crime can increase one’s likelihood of becoming / remaining an addict. This is because the money that can be accumulated through criminal endeavours can be used to start a drug habit, maintain a drug habit, increase frequency of use of drug, increase dosage of drug per session, and allow the addict to buy a new types of drugs s/he couldn’t previously afford or to which s/he previously did not have access.

And, if s/he goes to prison due to crime, s/he is likely to encounter a thriving drug culture – indeed, many prisoners state that it is even easier to acquire drugs inside jail than it is outside.

The childhood trauma / addiction / crime association is more likely to affect males than females (eighty per cent of all crimes are committed by males). However, females are more likely to turn to prostitution in order to sustain their drug habit.

Overcome Addiction : Self Hypnosis Downloads.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Childhood Trauma Leading To The Need To ‘Self-Medicate’.

Childhood Trauma And Self-Medication

Until a few years ago I consumed excessive amounts of alcohol (leading to some appalling consequences that I will describe in future posts). Two main reasons for this most ill-advised and, above all, desperate behavior are both clichés: one:I drank to reduce my social anxiety and, two: I drank to numb my intense and intolerable psychological pain.

The root cause of my social anxiety and psychological pain derived, I feel sure, from my traumatic childhood. Indeed, such childhood trauma is very often the root cause of why people in general use alcohol, and other psychoactive substances such as illicit drugs, to self-medicate (ie. attempt to ameliorate their emotional and psychological pain).

A main reason that many find it so hard to stop or reduce their reliance on such self-medication is that they are unaware that the origin of their addictive need to self-medicate lies in their traumatic childhood experiences and that the adverse psychological consequences which they seek to numb by excessive drinking or drug taking are symptoms of this trauma.

This lack of insight leads to the root cause of the particular addiction remaining untreated, making it much harder for the individual to recover from his/her reliance on mind-altering substances.

Very sadly, other people, perhaps ill-informed family members, who also are unaware of the true origins of the problem, may, due to their lack of understanding, blame the individual for his/her, as they may erroneously perceive it, ‘weakness of character’ and ‘selfishness’ (it is not selfishness – being addicted to, for example, alcohol is hardly fun or enjoyable; one does not choose to suffer from such an addiction, by definition).

self medication

Equally sadly, the addict may blame him/herself, adding to his/her depression and worsening yet further his/her already extremely low self-esteem, thus, in all likelihood, aggravating still further his/her addictive disorder.

Whilst the afflicted individual may sometimes enter stages of incipient recovery, if his/her childhood trauma remains therapeutically unaddressed, s/he is likely to relapse when events in his/her life trigger traumatic memories and flashbacks.

It is useful to provide some statistics in connection with the idea of childhood trauma leading to self-medication as an adult: for example, intravenous drug users are 1000% (one thousand per cent) more likely to have suffered childhood trauma than non-intravenous drug users. A second example is that (in the USA) female alcoholics are twice as likely to have suffered significant trauma compared to their non-alcoholic counterparts.

The Role Of Adrenaline:

Those suffering from the effects of severe trauma, such as those who have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have been found to produce in their bodies excessive quantities of the hormone adrenaline which significantly contributes to their feelings of deep anxiety and general psychological distress.

It is hardly a coincidence, then, that one of the illicit drugs they can become dependent upon is heroin as this drug is highly effective at shutting down the brain’s adrenaline center – the locus coeruleus.

Other drugs that have a similar effect are Valium, alcohol and benzodiazepines (the latter is a drug which played a role in the shamelessly hounded and persecuted musical genius Michael Jackson’s tragic and untimely death – it is well documented that he was traumatized by his childhood, not least because his father, Joe Jackson, would allegedly whip his son if he made mistakes during rehearsals when he rehearsed with his older brothers who made up the Jackson Five).

Conclusion:

Therapies for those who have experienced significant childhood trauma and are consequently addicted to the sort of substances referred to above are far more likely to be successful if they do not ignore the root cause of the problem – namely the afflicted individual’s childhood traumatic experiences.

RESOURCES :

Addiction Help | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Addressing Childhood Trauma To Treat Addictions

 

Treating Addiction :

Addicts, sadly, are too frequently blamed for not being able to overcome their addictions; however, this can be based on the misunderstanding that the addict must be hedonistic. This, though, is to miss the point.

The addict is not so much seeking pleasure but, rather, is desperately seeking relief from intolerable emotional pain (dissociating). In other words, the addict is self – anesthetizing.

Very frequently, the unendurable mental anguish that the addict feels stems from their childhood trauma.

Internal versus external coping mechanisms:

It is necessary for the addict to stop relying on external coping mechanisms (such as alcohol and drugs) to cope with their psychological pain but instead cultivate internal coping mechanisms such as:

– learning how to self-sooth

– using visualization techniques (such as visualizing a safe place whenever, for example, an incident occurs which triggers anxieties linked to their childhood trauma).

Survivor versus victim:

If no therapeutic work has taken place in order to help the addict resolve the feelings associated with his/her childhood trauma, s/he is likely to remain trapped in the role of victim (in effect, their psychological and emotional development is arrested at the time of the trauma).

However, when therapy begins it can help the addict develop an alternative view of him/herself – that of a brave and strong survivor.

The kinds of childhood trauma that are particularly likely to cause symptoms such as addictions and arrested psychological and emotional development include:

abandonment

rejection

– being treated with contempt/disdain (eg always being on the receiving end of ‘put downs’ by a parent/parents/primary caregiver)

– sexual and physical abuse

– verbal and emotional abuse

Such treatment frequently causes the child to develop what psychologists refer to as a negative cognitive triad, i.e:

a negative view of self

– a negative view of others

– a negative view of the future

In the absence of effective therapeutic intervention, these negative attitudes may endure for a lifetime.

Other symptoms the individual who suffered childhood trauma may develop are:

– a deep and abiding sense of alienation from others/society

avoidant behavior, including fear of intimacy (due to fears of being vulnerable to rejection if s/he gets too emotionally close to others).

– an irrational sense of shame

self-destructive behavior

When talking to a mental health-care clinician about one’s experience of childhood trauma, it is very important to provide the following details:

– age at time of trauma

– severity of trauma

– who committed the abuse e.g.  stranger, family member (more harmful if family member)

– was it a single incident or ongoing?

– was the event/ act/s intentional or accidental?

– was escape possible?

– what was the level of severity?

– was the trauma response one of flight, fight or freeze?

Resources:

hypnosis_for_addiction   Addiction Help (Many addictions addressed)

 

OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT ADDICTION :

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

The Link Between Childhood Trauma And Addiction.

addiction-drug-abuse-childhood-trauma

 

 

We have seen in other articles that I have published on this site that those of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma are more likely than others to develop addictions (often multiple addictions) during our teens and adulthood. Why should this be?

Experiments involving rats help to cast light upon this. These experiments involve measuring how addicted to cocaine rats become in two different conditions. These two conditions are as follows:

Condition One:  

A solitary rat in an impoverished environment (i.e. one in which there is no stimulation, just an empty cage).

Condition Two:

The rat has the company of other rats and has an enriched (i.e. stimulating) environment.

drug-abuse-childhood-trauma

Results:

– In condition one rats became extremely addicted to the cocaine, becoming heavily addicted

– In condition two rats ingested far less cocaine (75% less) and did not become addicted

(The psychologist, Professor Bruce Alexander, pioneered these studies).

If we extrapolate from this research (i.e. apply it to humans) it would be expected that :

Individuals with empty, lonely lives are significantly more likely to become addicts and turn to drug abuse than individuals with full and socially integrated lived. Indeed, there is much research evidence to support this view and a growing school of thought is of the view that a person’s life situation plays a more important role in an individuals addiction / drug abuse than the addictive substance itself.

Implications:

It is likely, then, that a person’s life circumstances play a vital role in whether or not a person becomes an addict. Therefore, it follows that the most effective way to reduce addiction is to help addicts / drug abusers re-connect with society and gain dependable social support.

Because those who have suffered childhood trauma are more likely to develop chaotic, disenfranchised lives as adults, as many of the articles on this site have shown, such people are at greater risk than others of living in the kind of social isolation which fosters drug addiction.

ADDICTION HELP : SELF HYPNOSIS DOWNLOADS

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma Leading to Addiction – The Signs

I have discussed, in other articles, how the experience of severe childhood trauma can lead us to have a powerful need to dissociate(‘mentally escape’) from painful reality in adulthood. One of the main ways in which individuals attempt to do this is via an array of possible addictions.

In this article I want to look at :

1) The types of substances/activities/behaviors individuals most frequently develop an addiction to (and it is worth noting that most people with one addiction will also have at least one other addiction).

2) The signs that a person may be addicted to a particular substance/activity/behaviour.

So, let’s begin :

1) A list of the types of substances/activities/behaviours individuals most frequently develop an addiction to :

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– alcohol

– street drugs

– prescription drugs (both legally and illegally obtained)

sex/pornography

– spending

gambling

– power

relationships

– caffeine

nicotine

– danger (e.g dangerous sports)

– fast driving (e.g joy riding)

– exercise

– reading

– watching television

– playing computer games

– social networking/chat rooms

– power

– work

– cults

– stress

Of course, many of these are harmless or beneficial in moderation, so at what point would a clinician be inclined to diagnose an unhealthy dependence on, or addiction to, the substances/activities/behaviours listed above?

The criteria listed below are generally used as a guide as to whether or not a person has an addiction to a substance/activity/behaviour (I will call this ‘x’).

a) is the person preoccupied with x?

b) does the person experience a loss of personal control in relation to x?

c) does the person suffer from withdrawal effects if s/he has to go without x?

d) does the person try to hide his/her dependence upon x from others?

e) does increased tolerance of x lead to an increasingly growing need for more and more of it?

f) does the individual seem to be ‘in denial’ in relation to his/her problem in connection with x?

g) does the person have rigid views in relation to x (e.g completely dismissing the concerns of others about his/her dependence upon it).

h) does the individual blame others for his/her need of x? (e.g says that others drive him/her to it).

i) does the person suffer from blackouts related to x?

j) does the person have physical problems relating to x (e.g weight loss, shaking etc)?

k) does the person seem to be suffering from mood swings or personality changes connected to his/her dependence on x?

l) does the individual seem to be losing his/her sense of personal values because of x (e.g putting x before needs of family)?

Clearly, different types of addiction will lead to different types of problems featured on the above list; however, in general, the more of the above problems a person has, and the more intense they are, the more serious the particular addiction or addictions.

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The diagram above shows a typical addiction cycle which can underpin all addictions.

THE TWO COMPONENTS OF ADDICTION :

Addictions tend to comprise two main components :

COMPONENT 1 – biological/physical

COMPONENT 2 – social/emotional

Examples of when the biological/physical component plays a part in addiction :

ALCOHOLISM:

Research suggests that there is a genetic component to alcoholism that causes the individual to metabolize alcohol in a different way to how ‘normal’ drinkers metabolize it – it is thought that, in alcoholics, the intake of alcohol leads to the production of an opiate-like substance in the brain. It is believed that it is this opiate production to which the alcoholic becomes addicted.

‘LOVE ADDICTION’ :

Neurological research suggests that in certain individuals the act of ‘falling in love’ produces far greater quantities of a particular neurotransmitter in the brain than it does in ‘normal’ individuals. It seems that this particular neurotransmitter, in high quantities, produces intense feelings of euphoria.

Unfortunately, however, this very pleasurable mental state soon begins to fade.

It is therefore hypothesized that individuals who produce these large quantities of the neurotransmitter may become addicted to repeating the euphoric high which comes from forming new, intimate relationships. Because of this, they may have frequent, short-term relationships and find it very hard to stay faithful to one partner.

Examples of when the social/emotional component plays a part in the addiction :

The emotional/social component, in fact, seems to play a part in all addictions, irrespective of the biological/physical processes involved. I list below the various aspects of the emotional/social component that addictions may lead to :

– temporary reduction in level of anxiety/stress

– temporary feeling of well-being

– avoidance of ‘real’ feelings

– avoidance of dealing with vital life problems

Whilst addictions offer temporary relief, they serve only to compound our problems over the long-term. For example, drinking a lot, or going on an over-spending spree, may provide a short lived ‘high’ but this is soon replaced by feelings of guilt, shame, emptiness, despair, anxiety and depression.

 

RESOURCES :

ADDICTION HELP – click here

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

Childhood Trauma: The Link with Future Gambling.

gambling addiction

childhood trauma and gambling addiction

Childhood Trauma And Gambling Addiction :

Research suggests that childhood trauma increases the likelihood of future addictions, including gambling. This gambling may become pathological. The types of childhood trauma that were experienced in pathological gamblers include violence, sexual abuse and loss. For instance, Jacobs (2008) conducted research demonstrating that childhood trauma greatly increased the risk of addictions in later life.

It has been hypothesized that gambling helps the individual cope with their childhood trauma through the psychological process known as DISSOCIATION (whilst intensely involved with gambling the individual ‘goes into another world’, blissfully disconnecting, for a time, from painful reality).

Pathological gambling is closely connected to impulse and control disorders; indeed, such disorders frequently express themselves in conditions linked to childhood trauma (such as borderline personality disorder).Pathological gambling may involve:

– an overwhelming preoccupation with gambling
– lying to others to cover up the extent of the gambling
– a failure to stop gambling even when the individual strongly wants to do so

The profile of the pathological gambler is often a complicated one as the individual often suffers from an array of other psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety (Abbot et al., 1999).

Studies estimate that about 2% (although the figure varies somewhat from study to study) of the U.S. population suffers from pathological gambling.

Factors other than childhood trauma which make an individual more at risk of developing pathological gambling inclue:

– being male
– being young
– having other mental health problems

Polusny et al. (1995) suggested that addictive behaviours help the individual avoid both the memories of their childhood trauma together with the deeply painful feelings and emotions associated with it. Therefore, because activities such as gambling reduce the emotional distress connected with childhood trauma, the individual is driven to repeat the gambling experience again and again, due to the reward it provides of reducing psychological pain (this is technically known as negative reinforcement).

It is my contention that, on some level, the benefits of reducing psychological pain must outweigh the financial losses; as losses can be enormous this gives some indication of the level of psychological pain the individual is in and the strength of the internal drive to reduce it. Of course, this can only be helpful in short-term bursts and, overall, it goes without saying that the individual’s pain and suffering are compounded.

gambling addiction

THE GENERAL THEORY OF ADDICTION:

This model proposes that there is an underlying biological state (ie an abnormal resting arousal state) together with a psychological state which is painful for the individual (for example, by creating a feeling of unbearable anxiety) often caused by childhood trauma to which activities such as gambling provide an ‘escape route’ (temporarily). The individual becomes addicted to this short-term relief (although often he will not realize this is the fundamental reason he continues to gamble, the drive frequently being unconscious).

Addictions which alleviate extreme stress in this manner are known as MALADAPTIVE COPING STRATEGIES; they are, essentially, learned defences against UNRESOLVED TRAUMA-RELATED ANXIETY (Henry, 1996).

Studies have revealed that up to 80% of pathological gamblers have suffered extreme childhood trauma. Further studies suggest that the more severe and protracted the trauma, the higher the risk is that the individual will develop pathological gambling behaviour and the YOUNGER the individual will be when he starts to use gambling as a coping strategy. Indeed, I myself started playing fruit machines at the age of twelve (many places weren’t strict about the age of the person playing them in the late 1970s) and I can remember quite distinctly the pleasant relief it gave to my already depressed and anxious emotional state.

TREATMENT IMPLICATIONS:

It seems likely, then, that childhood trauma which remains unresolved is likely to elevate the risk of pathological gambling in individuals. When treating pathological gamblers, therefore, it is important to assess the degree of trauma the individual might have suffered and to consider appropriate psychological interventions which could be implemented to help the individual resolve the trauma. It is the psychological pain which underlies the compulsion to gamble which it is necessary to address.

Overcome Gambling Addiction | Self Hypnosis Downloads. Click here for more information

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma: The Link with Alcoholism.

childhood trauma and alcoholisms
childhood trauma and alcoholism

Childhood Trauma And Alcoholism

When childhood trauma remains unresolved (i.e. 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.

childhood trauma and alcoholisms

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.

 

ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE :

There is no precise definition of ‘alcohol dependence’, but it is generally agreed between experts that it usually includes the following features:

– a pattern of daily drinking

– being aware of a compulsion to drink alcohol

– changes in tolerance to the amount of alcohol that can be consumed (in the first stage, tolerance increases,but, eventually, tolerance actually reduces again)

– frequent symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol (commonly referred to as a ‘hangover). Symptoms of this may include : nervousness, shaking, tenseness, agitation (or feeling ‘jittery’ and ‘on edge’), feelings of tension, feelings of sickness/nausea

– finding relief from some or all of the above symptoms by consuming more alcohol

– during any periods of abstinance, finding that the features of dependence on alcohol soon re-emerge

It should be noted that individuals who are considered to have become dependent on alcohol may not have all of the symptoms noted above; however, the more symptoms one possesses, the more seriously dependent upon alcohol one is likely to be. The intensity of these symptoms of alcohol dependence will also vary considerably between individuals.

The cycle below represents the common experience of the highly dependent drinker :

STRATEGIES FOR THE REDUCTION OF ONE’S ALCOHOL INTAKE :

– cut out at least some drinking sessions (eg lunchtime drinking) and, ideally, find something else to occupy the time to act as a distraction (such as actually eating lunch!)

– during drinking sessions, alternate between soft drinks and alcoholic drinks

– avoid drinking environments / the company of people who may pressure you to drink, during periods that you have decided to stay alcohol-free

– if people who are likely to encourage you to drink cannot be avoided, plan how you will resist their influence

– add generous amounts of non-alcoholic mixers to alcoholic drinks where possible, but drink at same speed as you would if the alcohol were less diluted (or slower!)

– avoid falling into social traps that tend to encourage drinking, such as participating in a large, hard-drinking group of people who are buying ’rounds’ for one another where a ‘group mentality’ is likely to predominate

Alcohol, to put it starkly, can destroy lives (see chart below), so, if you feel you have a serious problem, it is strongly advisable to seek professional guidance and support.

RESOURCES :

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)