CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE /ADDICTION

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CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE /ADDICTION

The story of substance abuse  leading to addiction lies not in the substance but in the individual- especially how one perceived one’s childhood experiences , translated them to one’s reality and perpetrated self -harm to escape from that trauma.
Children are like sponges – they absorb not from what you say but what they see and experience around them.

Neuroplasticity and Experience

Any habit or experience when repeated umpteen times develops its own pathway in the brain for that experience or activity. This is the brain’s innate ability to respond to experiences.

During childhood, as the brain begins growing and maturing , it creates, strengthens, and occasionally discards neural connections, which compose a network between neurons that develop the brain with its many functions. One’s experiences affect brain development in a similar manner as learning to speak or walk, causing certain synapses, or connections between neurons, to develop, grow stronger or break.

Thus we see that our life experiences whether positive or negative, can significantly affect our brain’s growth, development by impeding or altering it.

Certain anomalies in brain development in the social, cognitive and behavioural contexts can be the consequence of maltreatment in childhood . The reason behind this is that childhood maltreatment or trauma results in severe stress in the child which when long drawn gets embedded as a habitual way of response to any situation in life resulting in various issues like Anxiety disorders, Obsessive Compulsive disorders, a predeliction to substance abuse disorders and impulse control issues.

Childhood trauma would be in the forms of

  • Child sexual abuse
  • Maltreatment physical and emotional abuse
  • Neglect and negligence towards the child from adults around.
  • Witnessing domestic violence , fights between parents, violence perpetrated towards the child
  • Loss of a parent resulting in guilt and feeling of abandonment
  • Illness of a loved one physical or mental illness where the child goes through feelings of responsibility , of having to be an adult before time, the caregiver, the co- dependent.
  • Many adults who take on to substance abuse might unconsciously imitate patterns of using seen in parents who have been substance abusers.
  • Children who have experienced the above can have an increased tendency to become addicted to substances as an escape from the harsh realities of their experience of they have not received appropriate help. Other behavioural disorders like compulsive eating or compulsive sexual behaviours or anxiety disorders with addictions might surface.

    Reasons

    An adult who experiences trauma might have a reference of context from some experience and can deal with them to a certain extent in a better manner . Hence, what might seem traumatic to a child might not seems so to an adult. This is because , the child has no frame of reference to deal with these experiences that are perceived to be traumatic. This makes the effects of the trauma linger and create more trauma . Children depend on the family around to support them in times of stress or trauma. If the loved ones themselves are the source of the traumatic experience then the child feels lost . They then take to substance use and abuse as a mode of medicating themselves insulating them from the emotional pain creating an illusion of “dealing with” the traumatic experiences.

    Solutions

    Receiving help in the form of appropriate counselling in a non- judgemental loving environment allowing the time and space for the child to be comfortable , feel accepted and not threatened, to open up and learn to deal with the trauma can prevent future propensities to addictions. This would also help them develop meaningful and trusting relationships with themselves and around them .

    Once addicted then long term residential care where all the past issues are dealt with in a non- traumatic, non- threatening, non- judgemental , compassionate, voluntary, comfortable environment . Peace is made with the past so that it stops affecting the present and thereby the future. We at Anatta provide this in an exclusive, one on one, luxurious ambience through Counseling, meditation ,introspective writing and various other alternate therapies. This Alternate Life therapy enables the individual to finally lead the life that he/she wanted to lead away from substances.

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