Do I Need Trauma Therapy?

client in trauma therapy session

Traumatic experiences are a common underlying condition among people with substance use and mental health disorders. In addition, untreated symptoms of trauma can lead to the development of a mental health disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, you need trauma therapy if symptoms of trauma affect your mental and emotional health.

Detox ATL can help you find the resources needed to begin trauma therapy in Atlanta.

How Do I Know if I Have Trauma?

When a person has trauma in their past, they display certain mental health symptoms or use maladaptive coping mechanisms like substance abuse to mask their trauma. Traumatic events are distressing or dangerous events, such as car accidents, child abuse, bullying, military combat, and sexual assault. Furthermore, witnessing events like these happening to someone else could be traumatic to you as an observer.

However, not everyone who experiences trauma will have symptoms of a mental health or substance use disorder. Everyone’s experience with traumatic events is different based on protective and risk factors.

Protective factors influence your ability to cope with stressful situations. These include:

  • A supportive family environment
  • Safe and secure community
  • Access to healthcare services, including mental health
  • Learning healthy coping skills for stressors
  • Early intervention for trauma-related distress

Risk factors, on the other hand, can make it more likely that you will develop a mental health or substance use disorder following traumatic events. Risk factors include the following:

  • Family history of substance abuse and mental illness
  • Complex trauma, such as domestic abuse or growing up in a dangerous community
  • Limited access to healthcare due to poverty or lack of resources where you live
  • Lack of parental involvement during childhood
  • History of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

However, you could still develop trauma-related mental health disorders even if you have protective factors in place. So, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of trauma to determine if you need treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma

The following are signs and symptoms of trauma:

  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Feeling on guard or hypervigilant
  • Flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic event
  • Significant distress when something reminds you of traumatic events
  • Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of your trauma
  • Feeling detached, depressed, and hopeless
  • Struggling to maintain or form close relationships with others
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Difficulty thinking clearly due to intrusive thoughts and flashbacks
  • Overwhelming guilt, shame, and anxiety
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol to numb yourself from traumatic memories and feelings
  • Suicidal ideations or attempts and other self-harming behaviors

If you experience the above-mentioned symptoms—or any other emotional, physical, and mental health concerns related to traumatic events—then you need trauma therapy. While some people with traumatic past experiences develop common mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, others develop a disorder called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder directly caused by experiencing traumatic events. Oftentimes, the traumatic events are so complex, disturbing, or dangerous that your body and mind remain locked in a fear-based response mode. Exposure to dangerous events is why many combat veterans develop PTSD, for example.

You have an instinctual way of responding to danger, called the “flight or fight” response. If you have PTSD, you are essentially locked into this flight or fight mode.

The flight or fight response can be effective in helping you out of immediate harm. For instance, if someone raises their fist at you, you either run away (flight) or defend yourself (fight). Either way, your body releases adrenaline to prepare your defenses. This instinct protects you in the short term.

Unfortunately, if you have PTSD, your body doesn’t exactly return to a normal state of calm following the traumatic event. In other words, you are almost always looking for, fearing, or anticipating the next traumatic event. This alters your perception of the world at large as a dangerous place, leading to problems feeling safe and secure, as well as, difficulty trusting others.

However, trauma therapy can help your body and mind return to normal functioning, which alleviates your symptoms and improves your emotional health.

Does Trauma Co-Occur With Addiction?

Trauma-related mental health issues including PTSD frequently co-occur with addiction for two main reasons. First, many people abuse drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms of trauma. This is a maladaptive coping mechanism called “self-medicating.” Instead of seeking therapy or psychiatric services, the person uses drugs and alcohol to alter their emotional state.

The other reason is that the risk factors for trauma overlap with the risk factors for addiction. Therefore, if you are at increased risk of developing a substance use disorder, you are also at risk of developing a mental health disorder and vice versa. Dual diagnosis treatment can help you overcome both disorders at the same time.

How Does Trauma Therapy Help During Addiction Treatment?

Trauma therapy helps during addiction treatment by addressing the root cause of your addiction. Many treatment centers offer dual-diagnosis treatment programs for those with a co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder.

Trauma therapy, overall, helps you heal from traumatic experiences. With support from a therapist and peers in recovery, you can process your trauma safely. You will also learn healthy ways to cope with symptoms as well as relapse prevention strategies that will help you remain drug- and alcohol-free.

What Type of Trauma Therapy Do I Need?

Each person is different in terms of how they respond to trauma therapy. Therefore, there are different types of trauma therapy available to give you options. That way, you can find the type of trauma therapy that you need.

The following are evidence-based trauma therapies:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you address the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that you have about the world, yourself, and others as a result of trauma. Therapists will challenge you to test your beliefs and change your perception.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of CBT developed specifically for borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, DBT is also effective at treating substance use disorders and PTSD.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) uses bilateral stimulation (back and forth eye movements) to help your central nervous system (CNS) remain calm as you process your trauma. The theory behind EMDR is that by calming the CNS, your body stops activating the flight or fight response when you process traumatic experiences.
  • Brainspotting is similar to EMDR therapy. During brainspotting, your therapist identifies a specific point in your visual field that correlates with a traumatic bodily response. By having you focus on this “brain spot” during therapy, you can heal from the effects of trauma.

Get Help for Trauma Today

Trauma therapy can help you or your loved one overcome traumatic experiences that are holding you back from living a happy and healthy life. In addition, since trauma and substance abuse often co-occur, you can benefit from dual-diagnosis treatment to address both conditions. Detox ATL in Atlanta, Georgia, can help you find solutions to heal from trauma with a variety of treatment options.

Call us today to begin trauma therapy.