People who went through the trauma of physical or emotional neglect as children have higher rates of depression, anxiety, or anger issues. Also, the responses to these negative emotions that have their roots in childhood abuse are to act impulsively. This impulsiveness may include drinking or taking drugs as a way to numb those uncomfortable feelings.
Childhood Abuse and Physical Impacts on the Brain
When we take a look at why this impulsiveness develops, some research indicates that it may be physical brain changes that happen due to child abuse. Studies show that changes can happen in the areas of the brain that assist in balancing emotions and impulses, as well as self-centered thinking. These findings suggest that individuals who have suffered through childhood neglect have a higher risk of drug or alcohol abuse since they have a more difficult time controlling their urges. It may also be because they find it harder to make rational decisions. These effects are due to the real physical changes in brain development.
Childhood Abuse and Emotional Impacts
In addition to these brain changes, childhood neglect, abuse and trauma can affect how children behave, and how they regulate emotion and function in social settings. These potential effects can include:
- Feelings of fear experienced most or all the time
- Staying constantly on alert, can't relax, regardless of the situation
- More likely to develop an anxiety or depression disorder
- Deficits in learning
- Developmental milestones are delayed
- Difficulties in processing positive feedback
- Social situations are more difficult or challenging
The link between these adverse childhood experiences and later substance abuse is that people who were neglected as children feel lonely and isolated as adults. They may also feel grief related to the loss of affection and love that they experienced from very young ages.
Childhood Abuse and the Prevalence of Substance Abuse later in Life
It is estimated that about 66% of men and women in treatment for substance abuse state that they were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused during childhood, studies show. It's important to understand how these issues are related to develop special ways that can target child abuse victims preventing the progression of drug or alcohol abuse. Also, a better grasp of how child abuse and substance abuse are linked can help in tailoring treatment programs to best address these issues for successful recovery outcomes.
Childhood Abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
People who suffer through abuse as children can develop PTSD. It is estimated that from 30 to 59% of women in substance abuse treatment also have PTSD. These research reports also showed that from 55 to 99% of these women reported a history of childhood trauma. People may use drugs or alcohol to numb the strong, negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions that PTSD from childhood abuse can cause.
Finding the Right Help
If you or a loved one experienced childhood physical or emotional neglect, it's important to seek counseling before any substance abuse issues develop. If there are drug or alcohol problems as well, talk with your doctor, mental health professional or treatment center for help. A productive, healthier, and sober life is possible with the right help.