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How Untreated Emotional Trauma Can Turn Into A Drug Addiction & How To Prevent This From Happening

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu, MD, MS

Updated on

6 Jul, 2022

Untreated emotional trauma can have severe repercussions throughout a person’s life. Depending on the trauma, they can show themselves in different ways, behaviors, and addictions.

Emotional trauma that is not addressed under the care of a trained professional is often a cause of addiction. The trauma can create addiction because people who have experienced trauma are trying to fill the void or heal their feelings. This is also called self-medication.

While many may think that self-medicating is a good idea, it is not. Self-medicating is often very dangerous and can lead to serious addictions to substances, including drugs. Learning more about how untreated emotional trauma can cause drug addiction is essential to understanding how to prevent a drug addiction from occurring if you have untreated trauma.

This article will discuss various topics such as how emotional trauma can create a drug addiction, methods to help heal emotional trauma to prevent drug addiction, and how holistic treatment plans can help heal emotional trauma that has become a drug addiction.

How Emotional Trauma Can Create A Drug Addiction If Left Untreated

Emotional trauma is a psychological and physical phenomenon caused when a person goes through an extremely traumatic experience. What constitutes a traumatic experience differs from Individual to individual, but in general traumatic experiences can range from abuse, assault, chronic stress, and any intense situation or extended high-stress environment for a long time. For some people, one event may not be traumatic at all, but it would be for another person in that event.

Untreated emotional trauma can lead to a drug addiction. While it is not guaranteed that people with untreated emotional trauma will become drug addicts, it is much more likely they will become addicted to drugs than people who are treating their trauma or do not have any trauma.

People with untreated emotional trauma are more inclined towards drug addiction due to dysregulation in their stress system. Likewise, extended periods of chronic stress and trauma can lead to dysregulation in the stress system, leading a person to become more vulnerable and susceptible to addictive behaviors.

Trauma can also cause a person to feel numb inside, which they may try to self-regulate by using drugs or other substances. This is called self-medication and can often lead to forming an addiction.

Although most people assume that childhood trauma is the main type of trauma that results in drug addiction, There are many types of trauma, including emotional trauma in adulthood that can lead to drug addiction or other types of addiction.

Traumatic or stressful events can lead a person to become addicted to drugs are neglected in childhood, the death of a parent, experiencing or witnessing domestic violence or other types of physical violence, or having a family member who has a mental disorder the way that affects your life.

These events in a person’s life can cause them to feel out of control, guilty, scared, or empty. To numb some of these feelings, a person may turn to substances such as drugs or alcohol.

While trauma is not the only cause of addiction, it is the root cause of addiction for many people. This is because substance addictions like drug addiction usually begin out of wanting to feel better.

What To Do If You’re Struggling With Past Trauma

Treating and alleviating emotional trauma is the best way to avoid a drug addiction caused by untreated emotional trauma. This is because it helps to address the root cause of why a person is feeling empty, numb, scared, or stressed. Taking care of the root causes of a traumatic experience is an important piece of healing.

Healing emotional trauma is not an easy task. It involves a lot of inner work, honesty with oneself, acceptance, and often working with professionals in the mental health industry. Because it is such a challenging task, it is best to take it step-by-step and day by day.

Healing emotional trauma does not happen overnight. It takes a long time to unpack, identify, and treat emotional trauma, as many people are unaware they even have trauma. Because it takes a while to deal with all of the intricacies of trauma, alleviating some of the emotional trauma as you heal can help.

While alleviating trauma may not be healing completely, it helps to lighten the load while you heal to prevent addiction and other harmful situations.

To alleviate trauma, the first step is to take care of yourself. Many people begin self-deprecating behaviors or behaviors that are harmful to themselves or others. Taking care of your life, body, space, and those around you is a great way to apply your energy and time productively.

Becoming more active in certain aspects of your life can also help to alleviate emotional trauma by providing healthy coping mechanisms and healthy outlets in your life. Some of these aspects of your life could be getting regular exercise, meditating more often and with more purpose, and exploring ideas of spirituality, yoga, mindfulness, and therapy.

Therapy is one of the biggest ways to alleviate and heal untreated emotional trauma. There are many different types of therapy, including talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most popular therapies for treating people with behavioral issues and addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy creates new neural pathways in the brain to help address behavioral issues and addictions by creating better habits.

When a person begins therapy to treat their emotional trauma, the therapist will work with the patient to identify the trauma and triggers for the trauma and the impact of the trauma on their life. Through this exploration, the patient can begin to heal their trauma.

A person with trauma usually struggles to heal their trauma alone, so it is very important to rely on some professional to help guide you through it. Healing trauma can also be extremely difficult on your mental health because to alleviate the trauma, you must be able to talk about it and dissect it.

It is even more important for people struggling with addiction and unhealed emotional trauma to rely on professional help.

How A Holistic Treatment Plan Can Create A Successful Long-Term Sobriety

If your unhealed emotional trauma has turned into drug addiction, it is important to address both issues. Addressing these issues at once can feel like a daunting task, but it is very important to address these issues as they arise.

To treat both drug addiction and emotional trauma, you need to have a treatment plan that works to solve both of these issues. A holistic treatment plan is often the best type of treatment plan for people looking to resolve their unhealed emotional trauma and their drug addiction.

Holistic treatment plans differ from drug addiction programs because they address different issues besides drug addiction.  Most drug treatment plans address drug addiction without diving deeper into the underlying causes and situational issues of drug abuse.

Holistic treatment plans are different because they involve many factors besides drug abuse and addiction. Holistic treatments refer to treatment plans that consider the whole person when they approach health care. This means that there is a focus on both the body and the mind to ensure that the healing is whole and complete.

Many treatment centers that offer holistic healing and treatment plans see these treatment plans as a better opportunity for their patients to take care of both their physical needs and their psychological needs. This is important when caring for people with untreated trauma and drug addiction.

Drug addiction must be addressed thoroughly so the person using drugs can reach sobriety and live the rest of their life drug-free. To fully address drug addiction, the root causes must be uncovered. That is why a holistic approach to drug treatment plans is so important and beneficial to many people.

Healing both the mind and body at once is a powerful way to step in the right direction towards sobriety, healing, and recovery. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring holistic treatment plans for adjusting untreated emotional trauma and drug addiction, please reach out to us today. No one deserves to live a life under the control of drugs and trauma.


Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Khoury L, Tang YL, Bradley B, Cubells JF, Ressler KJ. Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population. Depress Anxiety. 2010;27(12):1077-1086. doi:10.1002/da.20751
  2. National Library of Medicine. Understanding The Impact Of Trauma. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  3. Resnick, A. VeryWell Mind. 10 Ways To Heal From Trauma. Published February 3, 2022. Retrieved October 21, 2022.

Amanda Stevens, BS

Medical Content Writer

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean RecoveryAscendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Epiphany Wellness, New Waters RecoveryGallus DetoxRecovery UnpluggedAbsolute AwakeningsAchieve WellnessRefresh Recovery and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

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