Is trauma the cause of addiction?

Many people, professionals included, believe that past trauma, childhood trauma even, is the cause of drug and alcohol addiction. The primary belief is that a negative experience, or many of them, impacted the person so severely that they eventually became addicts or alcoholics.

While this sounds plausible, it is in fact not the case. It is not the event that happened to a person, what Dr. Albert Ellis referred to as the "activating event or adversity", that causes us to be a certain way but rather our interpretation or the meaning that we give to the event.

The interpretation or meaning that we give to the traumatic event is what is most important, especially when the meaning involves a judgment about our value and worth as a person. It is this judgement that we initially believe is caused by the event that is the cause of addiction.

When we believe that we are not good enough as a result of an traumatic event, it is not the event but our perception of what we think the event means about our worth that is the problem. When we transform our understanding of the event and know that the event itself has nothing to do with our self worth, we will no longer have the psychology for addiction.

Dr. Harry Henshaw