The Connection Between Trauma and Anxiety

Loving an addict has the potential to be traumatic. That is no secret. I love reading the success stories and watching families reconnect once sobriety is attained and bridges are mended. However, there are many of us who never experience such euphoria and even more who struggle with the consequences of things out of our control. Over the past two years I have struggled with the diagnosis of anxiety and spent countless hours researching how this came to be and how I can control it without medication. I have a very real fear of becoming dependent on a substance and meeting the same fate as my mother.


I looked into factors that contribute to anxiety, one of which is called ACES (adverse childhood experiences). When I took the ACE test and learned that I scored as high as you possibly can, I became intrigued. I do not consider myself a victim in any way, but this test and much of the information I found online said otherwise. So this is the connection between adverse childhood experiences and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).


The limbic system can create dysfuntion by being exposed to continual arousal or disruption from stress related events like trauma. Our system releases different chemicals to aide in handling these high stress situations, but overstimulation has the potential to keep these chemical valves switched on at times that are unnecessary. This hypersensitivity unconsciously results in anxiety.The elevated levels of cortisol that are produced by the traumatic experiences have been scientifically proven to trigger both anxiety and depression.


The long term imprint from living amongst the chaos that follows addiction has made changes to my brain chemistry. Unfortunately, this is true for countless other people. The brain is an unbelievable matrix that carefully filters and stores memories that inevitably make up the very core of who you are. There will always be some level of trauma stored away in the dimly lit corner of our minds, waiting for a particular trigger to pull that file to the front. I’ve had to learn to live all over again. The common misconception that trauma and anxiety is “all in your head” drives me up a wall because the symptoms are very real and physical. But, the plus side to that is that it is in your head–or more accurately your brain. This supercomputer has the ability to be rewired over time.


I’ve tried countless antics to control my anxiety and depression symptoms. Such as: medication, therapy, exercise, self help literature, writing, and everything in between. Sometimes these tools work enough to give me some form of relief, but the low level anxiety has never left completely and I doubt it ever will. I have to learn to come to terms with that and understand that it is not a consequence of not being “strong enough” to endure. I have faith in the advancing research in the mental health arena to think that maybe one day there will be a clear cut formula to heal the damage caused by unprocessed trauma. Until then, I will continue to research and teach myself forgiveness while educating others.




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