The Long-Lasting Impact of Trauma on Mental Health

By the time an individual reaches young adulthood, they have likely endured some kind of trauma. Whether it be losing a loved one, witnessing an accident, or enduring some other kind of life-threatening event, most people experience some kind of extreme stress in life. Traumatic events, especially those that occur during adolescence, can trigger profound, long-lasting effects on an individual’s well-being. These events can also affect one’s understanding of the world around them. Despite this, it is common for individuals to disregard the impact of trauma on their current mental health status. However, utilizing professional treatment to process and overcome past trauma is often necessary to achieve lasting peace and wellness.

At 12 South Recovery, we offer specialized treatment services for those struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. We recognize that these challenges are often triggered by traumatic events and that symptoms are known to worsen over time if they are left untreated. For this reason, we incorporate trauma-informed therapies into all of our clients’ treatment plans.

The Body Keeps the Score

One of the most well-known books on trauma is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. In his book, Van Der Kolk discusses both the immediate and long-term impacts of trauma on the brain and body. One notable fact that the author points out is how the amygdala, specifically, is affected by traumatic experiences. He addresses the amygdala as the brain’s “smoke detector,” responsible for identifying whether sensory input is relevant to an individual’s survival. Further, he explains that when the amygdala senses a threat, it activates the body’s fight-or-flight response.

With the activation of the fight-or-flight response comes a surge of powerful stress hormones that increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. This response, quite literally, prepares an individual to fight or flee from the perceived threatening event. Although the fight-or-flight response is necessary for human survival, it can become dysregulated quickly.

The Impact of Trauma: A Dysregulated Nervous System

After a person perceives that a threat has passed, the body goes through a series of functions in an attempt to reduce arousal and return to baseline. However, depending on the severity of a threat as well as other factors such as whether or not an individual has access to a proper support system, an individual may get “stuck” in defense mode and be unable to return to a normal baseline. In other words, traumatic experiences can trigger a dysregulated nervous system that will remain impaired unless professional intervention happens.

The Impact of Trauma on Wellness

Further, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains, “[T]raumatic experiences are associated with both behavioral health and chronic physical health conditions, especially those traumatic events that occur during childhood.” Not only can a dysregulated nervous system increase an individual’s vulnerability to mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, but it can also trigger the development of substance use disorder (SUD).

For instance, if an individual experiences symptoms of a mental health condition that begins to interfere with their ability to function in their daily life, they may attempt to relieve their symptoms by using alcohol and other drugs. Also known as self-medicating, the use of alcohol and other drugs to treat mental distress is extremely harmful. It not only masks the underlying problem of untreated trauma, but it also increases an individual’s likelihood of developing chemical dependency, SUD, and addiction.

Meanwhile, SAMHSA explains that such behavioral health challenges can greatly interfere with a person’s relationships, career, and other aspects of their life. Thus, working with a mental health professional to overcome addiction, mental illness, and underlying trauma is necessary to establish lasting wellness in an individual’s life.

The Impact of Trauma on Treatment and Recovery

There is an undeniable link between unresolved trauma and the development of mental and behavioral health disorders. This is also why most treatment facilities screen clients for unresolved trauma and provide trauma-informed treatment to all who seek care. Individuals experiencing mental health disorders in adulthood often need to work through traumatic events from their childhood to truly overcome their symptoms. Fortunately, a wide range of trauma-informed treatments are available to help individuals address the impact of trauma on their well-being.

At 12 South Recovery, we conduct comprehensive assessments with new clients to identify the best individualized course of mental health treatment. Some of the most common therapeutic interventions we incorporate in our clients’ treatment plans include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Holistic therapies

Our client-focused approach ensures that each client has access to the modalities that they need to effectively process and overcome the trauma of their past without being retraumatized. Moreover, treatment plans are adjusted as necessary, allowing clients to try different modalities without the intimidation of having one set treatment plan. From the moment a client is welcomed into our care, we can assure them that they will be treated with compassion and dignity as they work to establish a life free from the grip of past trauma.

If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health symptoms, there is a high likelihood you may benefit from working through past trauma. More often than not, unresolved trauma triggers the development of addiction and mental health disorders in adulthood, even if such trauma occurred during childhood. To truly heal from the effects of trauma, professional treatment is often required. At 12 South Recovery, we can incorporate trauma-informed modalities into your treatment plan and help you best process the impact that trauma has had on your life. We offer several outpatient programs including an intensive outpatient program (IOP) and a partial hospitalization program (PHP), fostering flexible and highly structured treatment options. Call (888) 830-8374 to learn more.

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