Can Addiction Cause Trauma in Family Members?

Can Addiction Cause Trauma in Family Members?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, trauma is defined as an emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event.  These events often involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, the threat of physical or self-harm, and trigger feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror. Sometimes the effects of trauma can be so severe that they interfere with your ability to resume the normal activities of life.

Addiction causes our loved ones to act and engage in behaviors that they would normally avoid.  Sometimes their anger and hostility get directed towards those they love most and this could include their children, their significant others, or even co-workers. If this pattern continues, their loved ones may find it extremely difficult to function without fear and continuously struggle with feelings of helplessness.

Can Addiction Cause Others to Experience Trauma?

Trauma can be caused by an overwhelmingly negative event that has lasting impact on both your mental and emotional stability. While many sources of trauma tend to be violent in nature, others are psychological. While each individual’s response to trauma varies, there are some basic signs that you can look out for, some of which are included in the following:

  • Feeling shaken or disoriented
  • Withdrawing from others and conversation
  • Experiencing anxiety
  • Mood swings and irritability

If you have endured a traumatic experience, you may appear shaken and disoriented. It is also common to not be as fully engaged in conversation as you would normally be. Anxiety is one of the most common telltale signs of a trauma victim. Because of your loved one’s addiction, you may have night terrors, edginess, irritability, problems concentrating, and even mood swings. Individuals respond to trauma in different ways and some trauma is virtually unnoticeable even to your closest loved ones and friends.

How Addiction Can Cause Trauma

Because a lot of the trauma caused by a loved one’s addiction may be occurring behind closed doors, it is important to know what can cause it.  Included in the following are a few examples on how addiction can cause trauma:

  • Physical abuse
  • Mental abuse
  • Unstable environment
  • Legal consequences

It’s a well-known fact that addiction can cause numerous health issues for the addict. However, what is often overlooked and forgotten is how loved ones are affected by the addiction, even years down the road.  Many addicts lash out at those they love the most and unfortunately this could mean their children, spouses, or other loved ones feel the blunt force of their loved one’s addiction. This could be in the form of physical abuse such as hitting, punching, and pushing or even mental abuse such as name calling, all of which can cause you to feel you must walk on egg shells, or make you feel confused about what is right and wrong. The aim of mental or emotional abuse is to slowly chip away at an individual’s feelings of both self-worth and independence. Although emotional abuse doesn’t leave any physical scars, it can have a huge impact on your future.

Addicts often blame others for the negative consequences they are experiencing rather than looking at themselves and their addiction. Because of this they may continuously fight with their loved ones, constantly talk down to their partner or children, and insult others because they themselves feel bad about their life. Children may be forced to grow up faster than necessary and learn to provide for themselves or even their younger siblings. Home life may become extremely unstable due to financial issues, which could lead to constant moving or episodes of homelessness.

Children could be removed from the home due to unhealthy living conditions, causing siblings to be separated from one another. Although having a family history of addiction does not make one predisposed to becoming an addict themselves, it does mean that they are more susceptible to it, even more so when it is in their immediate environment. Children or spouses of addicts may use to help give them a brief moment to escape their addicted loved ones constant bickering and hostility.

Each individual can experience the same event but have a different reaction to it. Unfortunately, not all individuals react to trauma in the same way, making it difficult to, at first, pinpoint the initial cause of trauma. Getting help for your trauma is just as important as it is for your loved one to seek help for his addiction.