Childhood Trauma and Addiction
Childhood trauma and addiction are linked to experiences that alter brain development during those crucial years. Although the brain does not finish developing fully until someone’s early to late 20s, those early years are the most impactful.
Although genetics have been proven to play a significant role in the development of addiction, environmental factors contribute to how the brain adapts and functions over time. According to 2022 statistics, about 1 in 8 children lived with a parent with an active or past substance use disorder (SUD), with alcohol being the primary culprit of abuse to the child. (1)
How Does Childhood Trauma Affect the Brain?
Childhood development is a series of complex exchanges between nature and nurture. Nature is known to abide by specific laws, such as the fight or flight response for survival. Nature refers to innate developed instincts, while nurture can be influenced due to external factors after conception.
Perhaps, it’s not in the nature of a child to express extreme anger or undergo depressive episodes. Yet, due to the negative impacts on the brain and body at home, a child may become emotionally and psychologically unstable. In this case, we begin to see the association between trauma and addiction since trauma insists on developing a coping mechanism to survive.
While the brain develops and matures during childhood, intense stress symptoms will alter the child’s brain structure and function. During an examination regarding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a study showed how the differences in biological stress symptoms contribute to delays in the “developmental achievements in behavioral, cognitive and emotional regulation in traumatized children.” (2) The study concluded that trauma affects the fear and anxiety circuits in the brain, affecting the likelihood of addiction as a result of trauma, in the future.
Addicted Parents and Child Neglect
A typical root cause of addiction is early exposure to drugs. If a parent abuses drugs in front of their child, they likely witnessed a parent or adult doing the same during childhood. An unhappy childhood can lead to memory issues, cognitive impairment, and mental health disorders because of the lack of proper brain development.
If you are a parent or concerned adult who may think that a child is being affected by an addicted family member, it is beneficial to learn some of the signs of an addict’s behavior. The relationship between childhood trauma and addiction is troublesome, especially for a child who has suffered physical, verbal, or sexual abuse.
Some of the warning signs that a child may be developing habits that could lead to long-term addiction are as follows:
- Poor hygiene
- Lack of motivation
- Chronic dishonesty
- Poor work ethic at school
- Excessive sweating or tremors
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping or changed sleeping patterns
Several therapies can help children who suffered traumatic events or use harmful coping methods, such as drugs or alcohol. Music therapy is a fantastic means of expression and teaches children how to distract or positively work through an undesired thought. Also, cognitive behavioral therapy works to help get to the root of a problem and learn skills to manage emotions.
Recovery at Sunshine Care Centers
If you are a concerned parent or a parent undergoing substance abuse, Sunshine Care Centers is here to help. We understand addiction is different for everyone, but we want to help prevent childhood trauma by helping future or current parents recover from addiction. Let’s work together to break the cycle of abuse.
Sunshine Care Centers has a suite of specialists with over 30 years of experience in drug and alcohol rehabilitation to assist you on the road to recovery. Whether in North Texas or Southern California, Sunshine Care Centers offers the highest level of care available. We pride ourselves on our clean, compassionate, and secure environment. We use evidence-based addiction treatment with flexible programs that cater to your needs.
Don’t wait to receive the help you deserve.