Finding out about a loved one’s addiction can be challenging. Parent’s often ask themselves where they went wrong, why their child or children made the choices that led to their addiction, and why their child is addicted. Addiction is not solely the result of non-adaptive decisions. Instead, it is often the result of genetics, psychological problems, trauma, and one’s social environment.
Genetics & Social Environment
Addiction is partly genetic. There is no single gene associated with addiction. For example, many twin studies have demonstrated that children of alcoholics are at least four times more likely to develop alcohol addiction than their peers. There are multiple genes that can influence an individual’s likelihood to develop an addiction. Some genes influence impulse control or decrease the likelihood of individual’s disengaging in substance use. Other genes influence the severity of withdrawal symptoms. Although genes cannot be changed, families with histories of addictions can work proactively to educate their children, adolescents, and adult children about the genetic risks for developing addictive behaviors. This can include helping your loved one make positive social connections in their community.
Psychological Problems & Trauma
Addiction rarely presents as a single issue. Instead, many individuals who experience addiction also have depression, significant anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mood disorders. Addiction is often developed as a non-adaptive coping skills in order to manage the symptoms of psychological problems. This is why individual and group mental health counseling is often a key part of addiction treatment. Mental health counseling can be used during addiction treatment and in recovery to help individual’s learn adaptive coping skills so that they can manage anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders without drugs or alcohol.
Trauma, especially childhood trauma, can significantly impact the brain’s development. Chronic stress and fear, which are related to childhood experiences of abuse and neglect,can result in cognitive, emotional, and behavioral impairments. Two thirds of addicts have experienced physical or sexual trauma during childhood. You cannot always control your child’s experiences. However, knowledge about trauma can help inform addiction treatment. There are a variety of trauma-focused therapeutic approaches which can help your adult child address his or her traumatic experiences and learn alternative coping skills.
Genetics cannot be changed. However, addiction can be conquered by addressing your loved one’s social environment, underlying psychological issues, and past traumas.
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