The term emotional trauma was once associated only with men who had lived through the ravages of war. In more recent years, the term has been expanded to include women and children and the detrimental effects of stressful events which lead to physical and/or emotional damage. Sexual or physical abuse and childhood neglect are common sources of emotional trauma which come to light when a person enters a drug rehab program. Actually, emotional trauma can result from any number of significant and disturbing life experiences. Things like loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a life-altering health challenge or a catastrophic event such as natural disaster, an automobile crash, or an experience of violent crime can each be the source of emotional trauma. It is not necessary that the person undergo any sort of physical harm for the event to produce negative emotional repercussions. Because of this, it is possible for a person to be unaware of the emotional trauma they are actually experiencing. Yet, even though they may be unaware of their trauma, it can lead them into substance addictions with drugs and/or alcohol. Studies have shown that while the population at large experiences physical abuse at a rate of 8.4 percent, the rates of such abuse among alcoholics is far higher. Men who abuse alcohol report a 24 percent rate of physical abuse and 33 percent of women who are alcohol dependent were physically abused. Similar ratios are evident for sexual abuse with the general population experiencing a six percent rate of abuse while 12 percent of alcohol-addicted men and 49 percent of addicted women have been sexually abused. One study showed that kids who were directly exposed to the events of 9/11 developed a similar pattern and the greater the exposure to those terrifying events, the greater the child’s likelihood of developing a substance addiction. Children who had three or more exposures to events were as much as 19 times more apt to become substance dependent. Nevertheless, many who enroll in a drug rehab program discover that underneath or behind their substance abuse problem lays an emotionally traumatizing life event. The emotional trauma needs to be addressed as directly as the substance abuse. Treating a substance addiction and an emotional condition as part of drug rehab is referred to as dual diagnosis. The person’s trauma may be an incident in their distant past but one which yet reaches forward to impact their life and behavior today. Though the emotional trauma behind substance addiction is unique to each person, there are some common themes.
- 1. The person did not anticipate the event
- The person felt unprepared for the occurrence
- The person felt powerless to prevent the situation
Experts point out that because it is not the event itself, but how the person perceives the event, any significant occurrence could lead to emotional trauma, and what may produce trauma in one individual may not do so in another. Still, being human means that no one is invulnerable to emotional trauma and therefore it is foolish to stigmatize anyone seeking help for a condition for which all of us are at risk. Drug rehab facilities which are competent in treating the dual diagnosis of substance abuse and an emotional trauma will provide the strongest hope for recovery.