Can Childhood Trauma Lead to Addiction? Long-Term Effects of Traumatic Experiences and How to Heal

Can Childhood Trauma Lead to Addiction? Long-Term Effects of Traumatic Experiences and How to Heal

Mary J. Blige is an accomplished R&B singer with a critically acclaimed discography, a successful acting career, and countless awards and nominations. However, her current life is a deep contrast to her childhood. In Mary J. Blige’s recent documentary titled “My Life,” the R&B singer reveals the traumatic events she faced during her formative years. Mary watched her mother struggle with alcoholism while her father constantly assaulted them. To add insult to injury, Mary also experienced physical and sexual abuse from a family friend at a young age.

These traumatic events led the young Mary to drugs and substance abuse as she tried to escape her tragic reality. While she later found success in Hollywood, the traumatic memories of sexual abuse and domestic violence led her deeper into addiction well into her adulthood and music career.

Fortunately, after several ups and downs in her career and divorce, Mary decided to get sober and turn her life around. She’s now living her best life as a role model for others struggling with addiction.

This article will discuss how childhood trauma can lead to addictions such as alcoholism in adulthood. Read on to learn how to become part of the change and help beat child traumatic stress.

Can Childhood Trauma Lead to Addiction?

Childhood trauma can lead to substance abuse.
Childhood trauma is often linked to substance abuse in adulthood.

When you experience a childhood traumatic event, you usually don’t have a healthy way to process the stress. As a result, many child trauma survivors turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcoholism and substance abuse.

You see, addiction can offer temporary relief, numbing those intense feelings from the past. It’s like trying to fill a void or dull the pain.

As a matter of fact, studies have shown that children who experience physical or sexual abuse are more likely to try drugs at a young age or in their teenage years.

Aside from substance abuse, there are also other consequences of unsolved childhood trauma in adults as shown in the illustration below.

How Does Childhood Trauma Affect Interpersonal Relationships?

Often, individuals who’ve experienced trauma have difficulty creating healthy bonds, especially in their adult lives. For instance, Mary J. Blige explains that her father’s abusive behavior affected her perception of men. She couldn’t fully trust them, even in romantic relationships.

If you’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, you have emotional wounds that make you feel guarded or even hyper-vigilant about being hurt again. These wounds hinder healthy interpersonal relationships because they must be built on trust.

How Do I Recover From Traumatic Events From My Childhood?

Recovering from childhood trauma can be a long and painful process. However, with the right support and mindset, you can get over the traumatic event you experienced and get your life back on track, just like Mary J. Blige did.

Below are a few things you can do to heal from your traumatic experience:

Acknowledge the Trauma

The most vital step toward healing is acknowledging the traumatic events you experienced. Whether it was a natural disaster, school violence, serious illness, or abuse, you need to accept that it happened in order to move on.

It’s also important to recognize the struggle you’ve been through to overcome those events. For instance, if you’ve fallen into unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcoholism, seek substance abuse treatment to recover from the trauma.

Build a Supportive Network

To heal from childhood trauma, surround yourself with supportive family and friends.


To heal from childhood trauma, surround yourself with supportive family and friends.

Once you acknowledge your childhood trauma, you need to find a circle of supportive people who will help you through the healing process. They can be family, friends, or even a mental health professional.

If possible, locate other childhood trauma survivors in forums, social media groups, or group therapy sessions. Sharing your experiences with other survivors will remind you that you’re not alone.

Learn Positive Coping Mechanisms

All child trauma survivors pick a coping mechanism to deal with unresolved childhood trauma. While some coping mechanisms like alcoholism and substance abuse are harmful, you could also use helpful coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma in a healthy way.

For instance, you could pick up a hobby like painting and use art therapy to help heal your emotional scars.

Challenge Negative Beliefs

Child trauma survivors, especially those who experienced sexual or physical abuse, often develop negative beliefs about themselves and the world. Their views can lead them to destructive behaviors like alcoholism, addiction, and suicidal thoughts.

However, questioning and replacing these beliefs with positive ones can help you heal more quickly. You start realizing your past does not define you, and accepting that truth opens the door to self-compassion and growth.

Embrace the Healing Journey

It’s also critical to remember that healing is a process, and the effects of childhood trauma can take years to wear off. Therefore, practice mindfulness and take it one day at a time. Appreciate each positive step and remain hopeful. Eventually, you will overcome the hurt.

Seek Mental Health Services

A mental health professional will help you learn positive coping skills.


A mental health professional will help you learn positive coping skills.

If you have experienced childhood trauma, talking to a mental health professional is essential. Just like any other mental illness, trauma requires professional care, and treatment methods like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can be effective.

A licensed therapist can help you learn positive coping mechanisms and treat PTSD symptoms like mood and anxiety disorders. If you’re unsure how to find a licensed therapist in your area, use these tips to guide you.

Face Your Post-traumatic Stress Disorder for a Happier, Healthier Life

Childhood trauma can lead to a myriad of other mental health disorders like alcoholism and substance abuse. If you experienced child abuse growing up, letting go of your past for a healthier, happier future is essential.

Build a supportive circle and talk to a therapist to help you get your mental health back on track. If you know a child experiencing potentially traumatic events, reach out to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network to get them the help they deserve.

If you’d like to learn more about child mental health or you just need to talk to someone, feel free to use these mental health hotlines.

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