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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

7 Tips Why Trauma Survivors Have Addictions

7 reasons why survivors gravitate toward addiction

#1 To hide abuse or trauma symptoms because PTSD  symptoms are generally viewed as a weakness of        character 

Generally, reacting to past abusive/traumatizing experiences or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms are seen as a weakness of personal character, particularly in men. 
The non-traumatized population does understand that addiction is a disease and don't view addictions as a weakness in character. Therefore survivors picked up on it and realized having an addiction is more acceptable to have. Survivors think being treated for addictions is more acceptable than having Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).                                                                                                                             
#2 To numb out emotional, cognitive, physical and memory symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder                           
Survivors discovered that getting habitually involved in specific behaviors, emotions, substances, or thoughts initially reduced the vast array of PTSD symptoms. They feel that developing a habitual pattern of behaviors, emotions, substances, or thoughts numbs out different symptoms of PTSD. 

This is a reason that many survivors have many different addictions. Once the effects of PTSD symptoms surface, the individual is already too far into a severe or toxic stage of addiction.            

#3 To fight off negative thoughts  
                                                                                                    First of all, “every addiction starts with a thought or set of thoughts.” Survivors quickly realize once the onset of PTSD symptoms begins their thoughts can be viewed as their ally or their most powerful enemy. At the height of PTSD symptoms, survivors seem to experience an array of constant excruciating, negative, upsetting and damaging stream of looping thoughts which seems to surface out of thin air. These unwanted thoughts seem to travel from a dark place way inside the subconscious into the conscious by way of a trigger and result in painful and re-experiencing flashbacks. 

So become very attractive. Addiction to any behavior, emotion, and substance as well as another thought is so enticing for survivors because they find helps to subdue negative thoughts. 

Addiction cravings can also cause a relapse due to the surfacing of negative beliefs present in the addict's subconscious mind, resulting in an increased negative thinking and ruminating thoughts.

#4 To increase denial of reality through “gaslighting” of  self                                                                    
The definition of gaslighting is to undermine the perception of reality. Survivors, through addiction, create a false inner reality to veil any knowledge or stop a flashback from his or her understanding of what happened. The one main thing many survivors do not want to realize is that he or she was abused or traumatized. 

#5 To produce a false sense of security
Many survivors live in constant fear of everything around them. Having addiction(s) gives survivors a false sense of being safe, something else to focus on and alleviates emotional uptake.

#6 To hide surfacing PTSD symptoms with an addiction                                                                                      
If a survivor has both addiction and PTSD, and are not treated together, a resurgence of PTSD symptoms will send a survivor into an addiction relapse. He or she has a relapse in their addictions, and there is a strong possibility their relapse could trigger a surfacing of more intense PTSD symptoms. Therefore one resurgence of symptoms or a triggered relapse will counter recovery in the other causing a relapse in one or both creating an ongoing cycle.  

#7 To reduce the "re-living" experience of memories or flashbacks                                                                                                              
Traumatic memories and flashbacks are one of the main and worse symptoms of PTSD. Survivors who are re-experiencing traumatic memories or flashbacks will attempt to control, deny, fight or suppress traumatic memories or flashbacks through becoming addicted to behavior, emotion, pattern, thought or substance. 

A survivor will turn to anything that will stop the pain. He or she will take illegal or legal substances (alcohol or drugs or prescribed pain or mental health medication) to block out flashbacks (visual, emotional, and auditory as well as body memories), or participate in unhealthy behaviors (overeating or depriving of food, pornography, self-harm, self-sabotage, sex, and/or excessive exercise) to mask out from suffering more intense PTSD symptoms. 

Survivors may also engagement in repetitive harmful thoughts and/or destructive relationships to block out hurt and pain stop the re-living experience of what flashes in his or her mind.

Not only does a survivor use addiction to stop one of the seven reasons mentioned above but would enter into more than one addiction at a time. Since PTSD symptoms are in clusters, survivors enlist multiple addictions to subdue the array of symptoms. A survivor may even be juggling 7 different addictive relationships at the same time to resolve 7 different PTSD symptoms (flashbacks, depression, obsessing thoughts, sleeplessness….).


Believe it or not, becoming addicted is a traumatic process and should be dealt with as a PTSD reaction when the addict has a history of abuse, trauma or has been involved in combat.

If you are an abuse or trauma survivor who also has addiction issues, it is vital to face both your PTSD symptoms and addictions at the same time. Otherwise, a relapse in one will counter the other causing a relapse in one or both. Therefore you will have a collapse in your positive progress in your sobriety or healing journey.

If you need more help with post addiction and/or trauma recovery and keep relapses from destroying your ability to have a happy life then visit my website.

Click here to download free eBook.
          Coach Bill


  1. You really have an awesome blog. You doing great and I really love it. Thanks for posting. God bless.


    1. Leslie,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I am passionate and believe in my work and writings. I hope you keep reading more blogs.

      Dr. Bill