It is completely normal for people to experience stressful events and situations throughout their life. In most cases, a person may linger on the event for a bit before moving on eventually. Unfotunrealy, this is not the reality of traumatic events. Psychological trauma happens when a person experiences intense damage to their psyche. In many cases, a person may have a lot of trouble coping with the emotions and symptoms tied to this event. Unfortunately, this causes a combination of trauma and substance abuse in some cases.

In some instances, a person who’s experienced a traumatic event may turn to drugs and alcohol for relief. However, trauma and substance abuse are typically a dangerous combination. What tends to happen is substance abuse just makes the symptoms of the trauma (PTSD) worse. In a lot of cases, a person is unable to deal with the trauma which eventually turns into post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s crucial to get treatment from a trusted facility, Unity Behavioral Health.

Even though it may be extremely tough to talk about the experience, opening up is an essential step to recovery. Additionally, there are things you can do to help cope with a traumatic experience. It may be a long and tough round but it is achievable and reachable. Our wonderful staff is ready to help you tackle both trauma and addiction with several evidence-based therapies

What is Psychological Trauma?

Psychological trauma occurs when someone experiences an extremely stressful event that dismantles their sense of security and reality. These events are usually so traumatic that the person’s mind cannot cope with the overwhelming amount of stress. These events are very subjective and vary from case to case. They can lead back to childhood PTSD in adults.

Several different types of psychological/emotional trauma can occur. However, no two cases of trauma are the same and everyone’s mind is different. Psychological trauma can be caused by:

  • Severe accidents
  • Domestic violence
  • A life-threatening illness
  • Neglect during childhood
  • Humiliation (various forms)
  • Repeated harassment/bullying
  • Violent attacks (childhood or in adulthood)
  • The death of a loved one (or someone close to you)

Coping with these traumatic events can be especially difficult. Unfortunately, some people have problems throughout their life starting at a very young age. Sometimes, a person does not have to be directly affected by an event to feel its effects. Eventually, this can lead a person down the whole of substance abuse and addiction just to cope with its effects. It’s important to know that you are not alone in your struggles and it is never too late to get help. 

Who Experiences Psychological Trauma?

Psychological trauma can happen to anyone at all, regardless of gender, race, age, or any other identifiable factors. With this in mind, some people may be more prone to its effect than others. If a person was born in a stable and supportive environment, they may be able to process these events better. On the other hand, if a person was born in a shaky and abusive home, they may be more prone to its effects and PTSD later on in life.

Trauma and Substance Abuse

Childhood trauma, in particular, can be the cause of many symptoms and problems throughout a person’s life. Childhood trauma can substantially increase the person’s chance of developing Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as addiction down the line. Witnessing abuse at an early age also increased your chances as well.

PTSD is caused by psychological trauma and can be extremely problematic when mixed with other substances or alcohol. Nearly 7.5 million Americans are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder every year. With this in mind, not everyone who experiences psychological trauma will end up developing PTSD down the line. One of the most important elements of psychological trauma is learning how to cope with it without turning to drugs (which leads to trauma and addiction). 

Psychological Trauma and Substance Abuse

People may be quick to turn to substance abuse and alcohol to cope with the overwhelming stress from experiencing psychological trauma. Drugs and alcohol tend to relax a person or numb some of their sensations. People may turn to drugs like benzodiazepines to help them focus on their life while combating their anxiety. Individuals may also turn to more sensational drugs like psychedelics for a spiritual escape or maybe even alcohol as well.

If these feelings persist and a person continues to ‘self-medicate’ with drugs, an addiction may form. Apart from addiction, they will grow dependent on a particular drug/alcohol. Dependence occurs when a person experiences withdrawal symptoms when they are not using the drug.

While people may genuinely believe that drugs help them deal with their traumatic experience, the truth is quite the opposite. Drugs and alcohol tend to worsen the effects of traumatic events and PTSD over time. This is why it’s important to tackle addiction first before moving onto the traumatic event (during recovery).

Techniques for Coping With a Traumatic Event

There are certain techniques a person can use to cope with a traumatic event. The physical and psychological effects of a traumatic effect may be problematic but it’s important to practice healthy coping techniques, free of drugs/alcohol. Consider some of the following tips throughout the day:

  • Stick to a strict routine
  • Stay clear of alcohol and all drugs
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle (eat healthy exercise, sleep)
  • Spend time with loved ones and close friends (for support and help through the tough times)

Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event

Eating healthy and practicing meditation (or other relaxation tips) can be very beneficial. While these can be very therapeutic, it’s important, to be honest about your situation and seek professional help if needed. If you feel that you have an addiction due to psychological trauma, it’s time to get comprehensive help. Some might be embarrassed or hesitant to ask for help but at Unity, we encourage and welcome you with open arms. You are not alone in your battle. 

Getting Professional Treatment

Problems truly arise when psychological trauma and substance abuse are combined. This creates a co-occurring disorder. A co-occurring disorder (also referred to as a dual diagnosis) occurs when a person is dealing with both a mental illness (or in this case trauma) and substance abuse. It’s important to look at these two parts individually during treatment. With most cases of a dual diagnosis, only treating one condition is not enough for recovery.

Treatment for co-occurring disorders consists of psychotherapy and medication (used simultaneously). Medication can help relieve some of the symptoms of trauma (depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.). It can also treat certain aspects of drug addiction (withdrawal symptoms and other effects). In all cases of addiction treatment, a person has a personalized schedule and plan that should be followed for success. Let’s take a closer look at some of the treatment options for trauma and addiction. 


Perhaps one of the most vital parts of addiction treatment, detoxification (detox) is a process that works to relieve and tame some of the withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using. Detox essentially purges the body of all substances and alcohol. Detox should always be under medical supervision, never alone. After detox, a person will most likely move on to inpatient or outpatient treatment to focus on coping and understanding their condition. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is usually the next step after detox and requires you to stay in a rehab center for a few months. During this time you will have access to medical professionals and the chance to deconstruct the traumatic experience that led you into addiction. Therapy can be used for both mental health disorders like PTSD and full-blown drug addiction.

Coping with a Traumatic Event

Another great benefit of inpatient treatment is the 24/7 support from staff and other people in the same situation. No matter what, you are in a safe and distraction-free environment to open up and recover from trauma and addiction. 

Therapy Options (Individual and Group)

In cases of co-occurring disorders like trauma and substance abuse, therapy is used. Common forms of therapy include:

These are typically paired with medication so you can focus on getting better in the long-run. Trauma and addiction both cause a multitude of physical problems and behavioral changes. This is why it’s crucial for both treatments to cope and understand your feelings in a safe and private environment with a professional.  

Take the first step with Unity

At Unity Behavioral Health, we understand how painful psychological trauma can be for a person. It is especially challenging when trauma and substance abuse intertwine. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have an addiction or a co-occurring disorder, it may be time to get help. Don’t wait to get help, contact us today to learn more about our treatment plans and addiction resources.

Get Help Now

Speak to one of our experienced and caring representatives at Unity Behavioral Health to learn about how our rehab programs can help your loved one defeat addiction.


24 Hr HELPLINE : 561-708-5295