Trauma and Addiction

I’m going to start off by stating clearly that I have come to really dislike the term “Addiction” and here’s why.  As research has established incredible advances in our understanding of the brain, our retention of memory, and how our past is invariably present in all our actions and relationships, I see that “addictions” are really “attachments” to behaviors that result in the perception that one or more of our 5 basic needs are being met.  This applies to both “chemical” and “process” addictions.

What’s a process addiction?  It’s a compulsive behavior such as gambling, sex, spending, eating, cutting or other forms of self harm that interfere with the quality of relationships at work, home, and community.

What are our 5 basic human needs?  Here they are.

5 basic needs

The premise of Glasser’s theory is that when we perceive that one or more of our basic needs are not being met, we attach ourselves to behaviors, the consequences of which provide the perception that the void is being filled.  Much of what we do to meet these needs is productive and constructive.  It’s when we do things that interfere with relationships, health, and livelihood that the behavior becomes self-defeating and compulsive.

The correlation between childhood complex trauma and behavior attachments is unmistakable.

Try on these statistics and think on them for awhile.

Profile/Dimension Addicts: %
Meet criteria for depression 52
History of physical abuse 43
History of emotional abuse 77
Other addictions/compulsions 71
Other addicts in family 59
Rigid family 60
Disengaged family 59

2 thoughts on “Trauma and Addiction

    1. Louise Sutherland-Hoyt

      The thing about Complex Trauma, Debra, is that because the seeds of its origins are planted within the context of infancy the mind retains the how we experience the event. While we do not consciously remember what happened, the memories of those experiences remains in the mid-brain and these are what are aroused when we are subjected to abuse and the very processes we avoid when we attach ourselves to behaviors.

      Thank you, my friend, for speaking. We have walked similar paths.


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