Some people may wonder if and how trauma can transform into an addiction. Well, it can. In fact, in most cases, it does.
The June 12, 2016 shooting in Orlando, Florida claimed the lives of 49 people and left 53 others seriously injured. If you put yourself in the place of relatives of these victims, you will realize that they continue to be traumatized, and that feeling is not leaving them anytime soon. In fact, for the rest of their lives, the feeling may never really leave them completely.
Such traumatic events have devastating effects on an individual. These effects that come after an individual has undergone a serious tragedy are referred to as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Institute on Mental Health notes that PTSD can lead to long lasting consequences in an individual including feeling frightened or unsafe even there is no real danger, and having flashbacks or nightmares that may or may not be related to the traumatic event.
Psychologists note that when we encounter situations that are hurtful, frightening and traumatizing situations, our initial response tilts towards doing everything we can to not have a repeat of such an incident. Naturally, we would want to erase the thoughts of the bad experience in our minds. But that is not always easy because thoughts, feelings, and memories are extremely difficult if not impossible to completely forget.
When people try on their own to forget difficult situations and fail, they will likely turn to some substance to help them forget erase the memories. Unfortunately, such attempts do not quite work; and where they do, they are just temporary. These people find themselves having to take more of the substance to continue to forget the traumatizing occurrence. Before long, they become addicted to the substance.
It is important to note that when people become reckless in substance use following a traumatic situation, it can be difficult for them and even their friends and family to recognize that certain actions and behaviors are abnormal. They may think it is simply a side effect of the traumatic event, and that it will disappear with time. As time passes however, these attitudes rather increase and before they know it, the individual is deep into addiction.
In the aftermath of traumatic events such as the JPulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, one of the best things we can do is find and/or offer physical and emotional support. Dealing with negative emotions is hard enough without adding trauma into the equation. It is not easy for anyone, but reaching out, either as someone who needs support or someone who can give it to someone else, is a step in the right direction. Healing is possible.