Unresolved Trauma and Addiction

Our core belief is that Trauma and addiction are inextricably linked.

As Don Lavender (Camino’s Program Director) frequently says,

‘One of the biggest contributors to relapse is stress… And one of the biggest contributors to stress is unaddressed or unresolved Trauma’.

 With that in mind, Camino regards itself as a centre for Trauma and Addiction. As a result, we place an emphasis on dealing with the root cause of the problem.

Our previous article helped us to understand ‘what is Trauma?’.  In this article, we look to understand the relationship between trauma and addiction better.

Developing Coping Mechanisms

In dealing with the emotional distress caused by unresolved Trauma coping mechanisms are developed. Sometimes these mechanisms can be maladaptive (unhealthy/destructive) but they can also be adaptive (healthy/constructive).

Adaptive coping mechanisms are a healthy way of dealing with psychological, emotional or physical pain caused by trauma. Typical examples of this would be to take up exercise, meditation or Yoga when dealing with stress or anxiety. These mechanisms contribute to overall wellbeing as well as an opportunity to find the solution to a given problem.

Maladaptive coping mechanisms are the opposite and invariably contribute to the problem and NOT toward finding a solution. 

One of the most prevalent examples of maladaptive coping mechanisms is addiction. 

Typically, an addict will see their addiction as part of the solution to their inner distress rather than part of the problem and this is a key component of denial which is symptomatic of the disease of addiction.

For over a decade the Camino Recovery Centre has been focussed on dealing with the root of the problem rather than the symptoms (maladaptive coping mechanisms).

After Effects of Trauma

Effects of trauma

Outlined below are five of the potential after-effects of trauma. These may push an individual toward maladaptive coping mechanisms.


The word ‘co-dependency’ was first acknowledged by Alcoholics Anonymous. This was used when referring to friends and family and their ‘need’ to overhelp the addict. Its definition has significantly broadened over the years and is now understood to mean ‘an unhealthy regard for others opinions relative to your own’. That inability to be able to love yourself is a trait in all addicts.

Typically it is identified by many characteristics including

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the action of others.
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity.
  • To do more than ‘their share’ when doing collaborative tasks.
  • To be emotionally affected disproportionately when their efforts are not recognized.

Poor Relationship Skills

As children, we develop our behaviours from those around us. The experience of trauma often involves the absence of good role models. Self-worth has been stripped from them as a result.

The belief systems will tell them they are not worthy of healthy relationships. Often irrational and unreasonable thought patterns can be adopted from those around them.

All of these symptoms lead to an inability to establish healthy, loving and boundaried relationships.

dealing with depression and trauma

Mental Health Issues

Whilst it is not always the case Mental Health issues are common in Trauma Survivors. It is especially widespread in those that have suffered protracted and prolonged trauma over a period of years.

Such trauma adversely impacts upon their perception of themselves and the world they live in.

The most common diagnoses are

  • Depression typically identified by apathy, lack of enjoyment, destructive thoughts (suicide or death) fluctuations in weight or absence of a regular sleep pattern.
  • Anxiety – A state of constant and disproportionate worry that adversely impacts on a person’s functionality or general wellbeing.
  • Panic disorder Regular panic attacks and the obsessive avoidance of situations that might encourage panic.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder OCD is the inability to control unwanted thoughts, feelings or ideas that manifest themselves in repetitive behaviour patterns.
  • Addiction – An uncontrollable compulsivity to a substance, behaviour or thought pattern.


In understanding and addressing shame it is important to differentiate between guilt and shame. Guilt is to feel remorse for an action taken. In associating the remorse with the action it is easier to find steps to ‘correct’ the situation. Shame is more entrenched in what and who we are.

In feeling shame, you are acknowledging that is you that is ‘wrong’ and therefore it is far more destructive. 

Often a trauma survivor perceives that they have done something wrong and are the cause of that trauma. This thought pattern will exacerbate any existing shame and so a vicious cycle begins.

Distress Intolerance

Childhood experiences can lead to a low tolerance for stress and that uncomfortablity around stress can lead to addiction.

Often trauma survivors have grown up around conflict either verbally, physically or mentally and that stored memory impacts on their actions when dealing with further unrelated experiences of stress.

There is a fundamental inability to manage and rationalize distress.

There is a way out of Trauma

Whilst this is not an exhaustive list in terms of after-effects they are common manifestations of trauma.

It is important to remember however that Trauma does not necessarily result in Addiction, however, Addiction almost always results in trauma.

At Camino, we also work with those who have suffered Trauma but have not fallen into the jaws of addiction.

For further information on Trauma see here or contact us on0034  951107195

David Scourfield

David Scourfield is a Camino Recovery team member since 2017, focused on facilitating communication with Clinical and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive understanding of Camino's program.

Combining his marketing skills and lived experiences, he joined Camino in 2017, contributing to external publications and the Camino website. With a strong belief in solidarity during the recovery process, David helps clients build support networks by connecting them with others in recovery.

More from David Scourfield

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