Many experiences, emotions, and events can trigger the onset of substance use disorder (SUD). Whatever this experience may be, they often involve trauma.

Managing trauma can be extremely difficult. It can also be difficult to recognize the impact of trauma or even realize the event that caused the traumatic response. To cope with the stress of underlying trauma, the use of substances may become a coping mechanism.

How Does Trauma Impact Addiction?

One of the most concerning aspects of trauma is the prevalence of unhealthy coping mechanisms. When people have not learned healthy coping skills, many use destructive methods to cope with their traumatic responses. For example, it can be easy to fall into a state of coping with substances or unhealthy habits to manage these underlying aspects.

The more that substances are used to cope with trauma, the more immediately the positive reaction and pleasure of substance use are reinforced. Unfortunately, while substances feel like a useful way to cope with trauma at the time, they only provide immediate gratification. After the short-term effects wear off, substances make the trauma response worse.

The more that any method is utilized to cope, the more relied on it becomes. It can begin to feel essential to use a substance to cope with trauma, creating a worse response if there is a lack of access to substances. Instead of working through this trauma and rewiring our thoughts around it, people who use substances become dependent on substances to overcome stressors in the future.

Overcoming Trauma

To overcome trauma, you need to be able to recognize when you are experiencing a trauma response. Many individuals feel a high level of stress and anxiety when a trigger is present, but they are unaware of why it is occurring. Understanding when these emotions come into play and what onsets them can be highly useful.

Many different methods can be used through recovery to help you understand your trauma. For example, talk therapy is excellent at helping people process their trauma. It can also help you overcome your underlying trauma and break the dependence on substances to manage these feelings.


One method of overcoming trauma that Dream Recovery offers is brainspotting. This practice works to activate trigger points in the brain that correlate with a traumatic event and response. By activating these points and corresponding them with positive memories, brainspotting can alter the response to trauma. Essentially, your neural pathways are being rewired to alter this emotional response.

This practice has helped many clients see a change in their responses. Additionally, it shows them that they have the ability to cope with these stressors without the use of substances. When substances are used to treat this, it can be hard to manage these feelings without them. This method of trauma care can remind you of your abilities to overcome trauma and can create long-lasting impacts on your ability to cope with these factors.

Does Trauma Affect Recovery?

Not only does trauma impact the onset of SUD, but it can also impact the success rates of recovery. If the trauma was a core factor of your addiction onset, failure to engage in trauma-informed care could potentially halt your recovery success. Assessing if trauma is a strong factor in your addiction is important to ensure you are receiving the care that aligns with your recovery needs

Increased Relapse Potential

Failing to address trauma can open the possibility of encouraging a relapse to occur during future moments of stress. By assessing the root of this trauma, you can alter your responses and focus on moving forward. If you are consistently battling these trauma responses and fighting the urge to resolve them temporarily with substances, you are dragging out the recovery process for yourself and potentially making it harder for you to succeed. 

Relationship Maintenance

Trauma can often impact your ability to obtain healthy relationships. If your trauma experience was due to the actions of a loved one, it could be difficult to establish trust with new individuals. Your body will create a natural fear response when meeting new individuals, setting yourself into a state of flight or fight. This fear response occurs as an emotional protection to avoid encountering trauma again in the future. Having this response can make it difficult to establish relationships in the future.

External Fears

Trauma does not always have to stem from relationships. Some may experience trauma reactions from natural disasters, medical conditions, the loss of a loved one, or other events. Being aware of what onset of your trauma can help you understand the effects it has on your recovery process. You may feel the effects in your relationship building, or it may cause you to feel fear of the world around you.

If you find that trauma is impacting your addiction or ability to recover, seek help today. Talk to your treatment team about focusing on trauma-informed care and utilizing brainspotting to help address this trauma at a neurological level. Trauma does not need to impact your life forever. Let yourself move forward and let go of the past, creating a bright future for yourself.

Trauma can occur from various experiences. When you are dealing with trauma responses, you may begin to use unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with these impacts without noticing. Substance use is a common coping mechanism that leads to more long-term pain. Understanding how trauma impacts your substance use disorder and how it affects your rate of recovery is important. Addressing trauma at a root level and developing skills to manage these stressors without substances is essential to maintain long-term sobriety. At Dream Recovery, we offer brainspotting and other trauma-based treatment methods to help you overcome this obstacle. To learn more about how your trauma may be impacting your recovery, reach out to Dream Recovery today at (657) 216-7218.

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