How Grief and Trauma can Fuel Addictive Behaviors
Addiction affects each individual person differently. Furthermore, causes for the development of addiction may differ from person to person. However, grief and trauma are two of the most common underlying causes of addiction. To give an example, according to The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, widowers over the age of 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism in our country. Both grief and trauma can play a major role in fueling addictive behaviors, even after a person gets help through treatment.
To help individuals move past a life of addiction, they must also identify and confront the causes of their addiction. So, during recovery, it’s important for individuals to address unresolved grief and trauma.
How Grief and Trauma are Relatable Concepts
During our lifespans, the chances are high that we will experience some type of trauma. And, grieve over the loss of loved ones, friends, and missed opportunities. Furthermore, these emotions can arise during any time of life, whether we’re young or old. During younger years, friends can be lost to suicide or health issues as well as when we’re older. While change is difficult and sometimes unforeseeable, the effects can be long-lasting and debilitating to mental health.
What is Trauma?
Before a person can identify and confront why they are still grieving, we must understand how grief comes about. In many cases, trauma leads to the development of grief. But, grief can also come as a result of change. For example, a person may grieve over their younger years during retirement as they see the dawn of a new age in life. However, for many individuals, the reason for grieving stems from trauma. Circumstances which can be identified as traumatic can include:
- The loss of a loved one
- Military combat
- Witnessing a crime, assault, and/or theft
- Surviving natural disaster
- Being a victim of a crime
- Surviving sexual, verbal, emotional, or physical assault
- Medical related abuse/being diagnosed with an illness
Working Through the Stages of Grief
According to the Kübler-Ross model, which was developed by world-renowned psychologists, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, there are five stages of grief. These 5 stages include:
These stages of grief may affect each person individually. So, while one person may grieve over the loss of a loved one for a month, another person may take several years to most past all the stages of grief. Unfortunately, not all people go through these stages without the support of therapeutic outlets. For example, it’s possible to stay on one stage for a prolonged period of time, add or subtract stages of grief, or even backslide back into previous stages. While the point of experiencing grief is to eventually reach the final stage, many people may find that they don’t reach this stage as expected. And, when this happens, grief can lead to the self-medication of emotions via addictive behaviors and other negative tendencies.
When Grief and Trauma go Unhelped
Along with the possible development of addictive behaviors due to self-medicating the symptoms of grief, individuals may also act out in other ways. Some of the symptoms of untreated grief and trauma can include:
Avoidance Behaviors: Withdrawing from friends, family, and social events.
Mood Swings: Since they are emotional, they may act out in anger or burst out into tears at any time.
Erratic Sleep Schedule: They either cannot get enough sleep or they sleep all day long.
Immune Health Decreases: Grief can lead to the development of depression which is proven to affect the immune system, leading to sickness.
Bad Hygiene: Once depression develops, individuals often are apathetic about taking care of themselves as they once have.
Chronic Pain: Sometimes, chronic pain can develop as a result of emotional trauma.
Treating Addiction, Grief, and Trauma Together
When addiction develops due to grief and trauma, it’s important to address each issue as they all affect one another. During treatment, those experiencing unresolved trauma and grief can find therapeutic outlets to work through the stages of grief so they may finally experience acceptance. And, work towards identifying how their grief stimulates addictive behaviors so that new mindsets can flourish. Furthermore, so that helpful coping mechanisms can develop so that individuals can deal with symptoms of their unresolved trauma when treatment ends.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, grief, and trauma, Wellness Retreat Recovery Center has the intensive, comprehensive help you need to address these issues. And, establish a new lifestyle of wellbeing. Contact us today to talk to us about our program and how we can help you and your family.