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Trauma & Addiction: Healing for Women from the Inside Out

Wilmington, NC Women’s Trauma

Trauma, when present alongside a substance use disorder, is clinically known as a co-occurring disorder. The existence of a co-occuring disorder is relatively common amongst women seeking help for addiction issues but understanding them is essential to finding the right kind of treatment. Specialized care and knowledge is required. Let’s dive into the world of young adult women’s treatment and the importance of healing from the inside out. 


The Link Between Women’s Trauma and Addiction

The presence of trauma among women is staggering. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that 1 in 3 women in the US has experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. On top of that, the World Health Organization reports that 1 in 5 women experienced sexual abuse during childhood. Due to societal pressures, perceived gender roles, and distinct life experiences, women tend to experience trauma differently than men. Trauma is often a significant factor in the development of substance use and addiction in women. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association shows that women with a history of trauma are much more likely to develop substance use disorders. In fact, trauma’s role in women’s addiction is so great that women who’ve experienced domestic violence are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 9 times more likely to abuse drugs. 


Once caught up in the cycle of addiction where substance use is meant to numb the psychological effects of trauma, women become less likely to see help. Internalized societal expectations related to their perceived gender roles can cause women to not seek help or talk about their struggles. Mothers are especially vulnerable to this as there is a huge fear of losing their children and/or being shamed as an unfit parent. Those also in relationships with partners in addiction can take on a caregiver role and feel hesitant to place their own recovery first and seek treatment away from their partner. Lack of gender-specific trauma-informed addiction treatment is another obstacle. Historically, women with substance use disorder were not included in clinical research into effective addiction treatment as they were seen as “too biologically complicated” and “too busy caring for children." This has led to a delay in prominent and appropriate treatment centers that are tailored to treating women’s addiction alongside trauma. 


Healing From the Inside Out: Trauma-Informed Care


Trauma-informed care is an approach to addiction treatment that acknowledges the prevalence of trauma in those struggling with addiction. Trauma-informed treatment programs focus on developing a safe and supportive environment where individuals can process and heal their underlying trauma and addiction. The idea being that substance use disorder is often a coping mechanism that arises in response to trauma. 


Elements of Trauma-Informed Treatment are:


  • Safety and Trust: Feeling secure and comfortable talking about emotions and experiences without the fear of being judged or re-traumatized is essential to the therapeutic process. 
  • Understanding Trauma: Staff are trained and educated on the effects of trauma and how it directly correlates with addiction. Each treatment provider is well versed on the signs of trauma and clinically versatile enough to adapt their treatment approach to meet the client where they are at. 
  • Empowerment: Regaining control of their lives and being involved in their treatment and recovery is a core component in trauma-informed care. 
  • Collaboration and Choice: Collaborating with the treatment team and being involved in choices that align with the individuals needs and goals is paramount to developing an independent voice. Life is no longer happening to them, but for them. 
  • Holistic Approach: Trauma-informed care is deliberate about addressing not only the addiction, but also the mental health, physical health, and overall well-being of the individual. The use of holistic therapies such as art, music, dance, mindfulness, equine therapy, etc are often used. 


Healing from the inside out is a delicate process. Recognizing the connection between women’s trauma and their addiction is essential to finding the proper treatment and lasting sobriety. Gender-specific trauma-informed addiction treatment is an effective and compassionate way to heal trauma and address addiction. If you or someone you know is experiencing the difficulty of getting sober, call Momentum Recovery today to learn about their gender-specific trauma informed care program.