In our world, women often face challenges and barriers in life experiences that are not necessarily felt by men. In the realm of addiction recovery, women may experience a greater degree of abuse that can lead to higher rates of substance use and the need for treatment.
Trauma that occurs during childhood is devastating and has lifelong consequences in a person’s life. Research shows that psychological wounds that occur in childhood often lead to substance use and substance dependence.
Among women who suffer from substance use disorder (SUD), most self-report childhood trauma including sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Despite this correlation, there has been little research done on which types of childhood abuse that result in post-traumatic stress are associated with co-occurring disorders for women.
Women are more likely to experience sexual and physical abuse early in childhood, with trauma often occurring in the home at the hands of close acquaintances or family members. These encounters are devastating and can result in downward spirals that seriously affect the girls’ lives going forward.
Bad Childhoods and Addiction: A Dangerous Pattern
We often talk about being careful about what we say or do in front of children because children are impressionable. We may not want children to mimic all of our mannerisms, especially when those mannerisms may cause children to learn bad habits.
When children have negative experiences in childhood, the effects can be devastating. Children do not possess the necessary coping skills to overcome abuse, and as a result, the trauma can follow them through the years.
Addictions are a direct result of severe forms of abuse experienced early in life. In fact, in peer-reviewed studies, researchers have found that sexual abuse occurring during childhood is linked to severe cocaine, heroin, and marijuana use.
Statistical analysis of research studies has shown links between the wounds of childhood trauma, addiction, and post-traumatic stress. Children who are exposed to cruelty lose the ability to view the world through the lens of innocence. Their only coping mechanism is to often hide or ignore feelings, resulting in PTSD.
The reality is that mental wounds far outlast those that can be inflicted physically. A physical wound may heal, but the devastating effects on the spirit of an individual can continue to be felt for a lifetime.
The earlier in life a trauma occurs, the worse the effect may be. Studies have shown that children who experience devastating abuse in childhood face lifetime consequences. Some of these consequences include low self-esteem, low self-worth, and post-traumatic stress.
Women, Childhood Wounds, and Addiction
This is especially true for women. According to research from the West Virginia University School of Medicine, women with SUD reported up to four or five major incidents of abuse in childhood. Comparatively, men experienced three such incidents.
Their study found that one in four women experienced forced sexualization before the age of consent. Twenty-five percent of the women in the study reported they were forced to have sex before turning eighteen years old.
Compared to women, only eight percent, or fewer than one in ten, men experienced forced sexualization before the age of eighteen. The results reinforce that women face significant trauma and barriers that men do not experience.
While all abuse is objectively traumatic, sexual abuse in particular can have far more devastating life consequences for individuals who experience it. Individuals who have experienced sexual abuse can feel depression, anxiety, and anger issues. Often this leads to post-traumatic stress and self-medication with controlled substances and alcohol.
Grounding Exercises for Overcoming Trauma
Post-traumatic stress is caused by an overreaction in the brain. Even though the events of the trauma are no longer present, your mind still processes the world as though you are still experiencing it.
Grounding exercises like the therapy offered at Spero Recovery can help you to separate catastrophic events in your mind from your current reality. There are several different types of grounding exercises you might try.
At Spero Recovery, you can learn many types of grounding exercises that can help you overcome trauma. Some of these include:
- Grounding yourself in the present by identifying your environment with your five senses
- Rainbow grounding by identifying colors in your environment
- Breathwork, which is a breathing exercise that combines grounding with mindfulness
Learning Something New and Turning Trauma Into Triumph
Learning new skills can help you to overcome stress by increasing your self-worth. One of the best ways to face trauma is to prove to yourself that you are not the wound that you endured.
When we experience post-traumatic stress, our minds are hanging onto the painful event in the present even though it is not occurring. Finding hobbies can help to distract you from focusing on the pain of trauma.
Being able to focus on something new can help retrain your mind to focus on the present instead of living in the past. In fact, this is a technique of cognitive-behavioral therapy, and is a part of learning how to regulate your emotions.
Doing something you love can relax you. As you relax, the levels of cortisol in your body produced by stress go down. Lowering the levels of cortisol in your body can produce benefits both for your mind and body–it can even improve heart health.
Most importantly, when you begin to build an identity outside of your trauma, you move beyond it. Leaving your trauma behind helps you to embrace a life that is not defined by pain, but by triumph.
Survivors of childhood trauma are left with physical and mental scars that can last for a lifetime. Studies show that people who endure painful and traumatic childhoods often seek out addictive vices at higher rates. These painful experiences lead to a lifetime of turmoil, addiction, and loss of identity. If you or someone you know has experienced childhood trauma and found themselves in a cycle of substance use, you are not alone. There is hope. Medical and therapeutic interventions can help end the pain of childhood wounds and forge an identity free from trauma. When you speak to the caring professionals at Spero Recovery, you can learn about the many services we offer to help clear your life of painful experiences and set yourself on the road to recovery. Call us at (303) 351-7888 today and discover what a lifetime of hope can look like.