People who experience problems with drugs or alcohol are often unaware that the seeds of their discomfort may be found in childhood. Experts say there is strong evidence that traumatic experiences during our early years can have an adverse affect on how we cope with emotional discomfort in later life. They believe the feelings associated with trauma can become locked in the limbic area of the brain at a young age. This then triggers addictive behaviour, or other conditions such as eating disorders, during adulthood.
Interestingly, the nature of the trauma may not be immediately obvious to the person it affects. While physical or sexual harm are likely to be overt causes of trauma, other examples may be subtler, such as hidden feelings of abandonment due to rifts within the family. Either can have a long-term affect on the limbic system, the part of us that governs our emotions and long-term memory.
David Smallwood, Clinical Director at The Kusnacht Practice in Zurich, commented: “The limbic system has the power to override our conscious actions, and we can be powerless over the effect it has upon us. The feelings we carry with us from childhood continue to have an enormous impact on our emotional state as adults – and addicts often remain affected by them throughout their lives.” Thankfully, help is available today in the form of trauma reduction sessions, during which a person looks back at their past in order to come to terms with any issues.