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Living with Trauma: Abuse in a Family

Psychological trauma is non-physical damage to a person who has experienced a extremely distressing event. People with psychological trauma are emotionally detached from their lives, and often turn to unhealthy coping habits to deal with their unreleased emotions. Soldiers returning from the war or survivors of horrific accidents are typically recognized as at risk for problems resulting from psychological trauma. However, most people who experience trauma don’t come from extraordinary circumstances. Unhealthy families have to deal with chronic trauma, and they often ignore the problems causing it. Many families find at the root of their problems is a drug or alcohol addiction.

Substance abuse triggers trauma in a family. It is unpredictable, uncontrollable, and affects every part of a family’s life. Chemically dependent (addicted) individuals and their family exhibit a wide range of clinical symptoms associated with traumatic experiences. These include: anxiety disorders, reactive depression, psychosomatic symptoms, and general confusion.  In addition, members of the family plead, threaten, manipulate, negatively encourage, and shame each other. These families are more likely to experience verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse which compound the trauma.

People with addictions create these situations of trauma. The disease of addiction causes irrational thinking, and they often lose the ability to connect their actions to consequences and the ability to control their own lives. The paint and suffering they cause their family is not lost on them however. Addicts live with deep feelings of shame, fear, inadequacy, resentment, self-pity, and anger. This often drives them deeper into their addictions, deeper into the trauma.

As addiction grabs a household, family members become more defensive and wrapped up into the trauma. They develop feelings of helplessness, not unlike the addict. Unhealthy coping habits often arise. This can be seen as an eating disorder, excessive working, risky behaviors, gambling, or even developing their own drug or alcohol abuse problem- anything that may numb the negative feelings that surround them every day. Engaging in these behaviors is a short escape from their dark reality. These unhealthy coping methods drive a family further into chronic trauma.

Families living in abusive homes can escape. Seeking out help is not shameful. It is an act of courage that will save a family from the suffering. Talk to your doctor about any physical and emotional trauma. Find a counselor that will help you begin your life anew. Make a plan to change your habits, and stick to them with the help of a support system. If addiction is a part of your family trauma, contact a treatment center. Many drug and alcohol rehab facilities offer trauma-specific programs for families. Their professional services will treat all aspects of trauma in an individual in a safe and comfortable environment.

If your family’s emotional and/or physical well-being is violated, get help today. There is no sense in enduring the pain any longer. Addiction related trauma must be dealt with,the symptoms will only worsen with time. Your family is worth saving.

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Article: Family Involvement in Addiction Treatment