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Dealing with past trauma may be the key to breaking addiction (theguardian.com)
354 points by camtarn on Nov 24, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 169 comments

I tried breaking an addiction earlier today, but I could only make it a few hours before the withdrawal overwhelmed me.

I've been practicing mindfulness lately, noticing the "shape" of sensations in the body, and it struck me that, physically, the withdrawal symptoms felt a lot like how I feel when I'm working through trauma.

I had the sense that, if I could work up the courage to face it and work through it (specifically, to practice mindfulness on the extremely unpleasant sensations), the addiction would eventually dissolve.

So I did a double take, when I saw my own thoughts at the top of HN!

One thing that really, really helped me was being told that 'it is ok to feel bad'.

No one had ever told me that before, and I always did my best to avoid discomfort and pain. Now, I have a much different story.

To add onto this, I found it really constructive when I began to understand what was actually causing me to feel bad about being unhappy.

That is, we all have an ideal self that we aspire to, and when we don't live up to this ideal, we feel bad.

At first, I thought maybe it was NECESSARY to feel bad in order to motivate oneself to reach your ideals.

Then, I thought that it might be impossible to feel good when we reach our ideals without feeling bad when we don't. That is, maybe the two are dualistic, by nature, and inseparable.

But, as I thought more and more about my past and how children operate, I became convinced that it's not natural to judge/chastise yourself when you don't live up to your ideals. For me, it's primarily a trained behavior that resulted from judgmental parenting styles -- think, a parent making a child thinking they are a 'bad boy' when they've done something wrong.

It's entirely possible to feel good about yourself when you reach your ideals without feeling bad when you don't -- it just takes a bit of rewiring. If you have any doubt, spend some time around children and you'll see that humans are naturally incredibly resilient to failure -- this should include failure at being happy.

The biggest thing I've learned from breaking addiction is that addiction thrives with a maladaptive relationship to pain. Developing a new relationship to pain, embracing it as a path to growth, has been a key for me in overcoming addictive behavior. So many people I know who continue to struggle with their addictions do so because they're avoiding pain.

I know, it sounds almost silly but its like being in addiction you're just so preoccupied with how you think you're going to feel.

This made a huge difference to me too. I've always done my best to not feel bad. Feeling bad must be bad, right?

I still struggle with smoking, I would rather feel nothing then feel the mental pain. I'm just rather torn, through my years of depression feeling terrible has never felt productive it feels repetitive.

Not just to feel bad, but also to experience discomfort. A lot of addiction is just trying to find relief for temporary discomfort.

I sometimes ask myself, what's the sensation I least want to experience right now? And inevitably I will find something in the body I have been avoiding. (And inevitably, facing it changes my relationship with the experience and gives some relief.)

I think negative emotions are like a stop sign, not a stop light - they mean "stop and look for danger", not "stop, do not continue this way".

As someone with a lot of experience with opioid withdrawal, it seems that you will experience the polar opposite of the better than baseline feelings. The times you use builds up a kind of debt that you will need to pay back.

Key to making it through the paying back the piper is faith. Trust that your body is far more intelligent than you and it has all the answers to making yourself healthy again. Both physically and mentally.

Debt is a great concept to describe the withdrawal period of chronic substance use.

I recommend using Breathwork to make the difficult feelings of withdrawal “bigger”, to engage with them deeply.

You can do this on your own but I would suggest getting experience and practice with a guide.

This is the manual DIY version of psychedelic therapy that is so useful for healing the trauma beneath addiction.

Check out The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, I cant recommend it enough!

+1 This book really helps connecting dots between PSTD, trauma, mind-body connection, mindfullnes, yoga, dance etc.

Slightly boring (I hate reading these patient's stories and details of psychological experiments) but the conclusions are priceless.

What's the most important conclusion?

Much if addiction, depression, anxiety, etc is rooted in trauma (typically from childhood), and regular psychotherapy is insufficient to fully heal people. He recommends a number of different modalities to heal trauma (many to be done as adjuncts to traditional psychotherapy).

Thank you for sharing :)

I am currently working more and more with the ACT Matrix [1] and while I am not a psychologist I find it a great and easy to use tool to explore and understand emotions and behavior which is imo the first step towards building psychological flexibility to deal with stressful triggers/emotions, etc. I can only advocate for having a look and giving it a chance. In scientific/clinical circles it’s pretty high regarded as well :)

1: https://contextualscience.org/act_matrix

I'm convinced the brain learns what are efficient triggers that result in addictive behavior.

If that means bringing trauma to the forefront of your mind in order to get a dopamine hit, so be it.

Two mantras helped me.

1. Everything is allowed (especially what already happened.).

2. I may accept consequences (if I wish), but I must not accept any blame.

Where are these mantras from?

Broadly said experience.

Denying reality, however bad it may be, hurts in the end more since this sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly influences action to avoid the thing I denied out of being. Once everything is allowed there is not much necessity to deny the thing that is stopping you (me in this case). Imagine a central belief that can bring many useful actions to a halt just by being there.

Blame is from other people. You can deny all blame. You do not have to blame yourself. That's a thing which I haven't been taught before. Since I did rather the reverse, it needed the exact opposite to work out. Only consequences are physical. That's why only those matter.

There is also a physical component that needs to be managed. It typically fails to just try to will-to-power your way off of some substance.

tried breaking ... if I could work up the courage to face it and work through it

Sound familiar :) Whenever I read some headline like this my thought pattern is almost always the same: 'nice someone also figured this and published this, nice this is on HN, but I figured this out already x years ago and it didn't help a thing, truly wonder if it's going to help someone else'. I like mind-expanding drugs which let my thoughts go ways they don't often go when fully sober and the amount of epiphanies I had through those experiences are numerous. And one of the first was definitely identifying the childhood/youth problems and seeing them as the base for later problems in behaviour. But just like the article doesn't really mention a solution in detail, just 'working on it', most of the ideas I have on how to actually deal with problematic behaviour either don't work or are for some reason too hard to sustain. The longest I succeeded in breaking a certain behaviour was 2 or 3 weeks, then I slowly slipped back into it. And even though fully aware of that, no deal. tldr; identifying causes doesn't seem too hard, identifying working solutions for psychological problems is where it's at. Maybe if mindfulness is a solution for you, you should blog on it..

Since this HN, folks might be interested in a contrary view of Mate's ideas:

The Seductive (But Dangerous) Allure of Gabor Maté. "Gabor Maté is admirable, but leads us down the wrong road"


Yeah, this is pretty much the most matter-of-fact (and accurate) headline I've seen on hacker news all week.

What's funny (funny strange, not funny ha-ha) is that there even need to be headlines about this. In my mid twenties I struggled with some of the various addictions that were quite fashionable among the SV tech elite (work, Facebook, Burning Man, psychedelics, in that order). Thankfully I survived that period and was able to reflect on it, at which point a boatload of repressed childhood trauma began surfacing. After a number of years of working through that, the connection between trauma and addictive tendencies is so painfully obvious. Feeling bad + never learned healthy self-soothing rituals ==> take a hit of something to feel better ==> rinse and repeat.

I've known enough other people who struggled with similar issues to understand that my experience is hardly unique. I would go so far as to say that anyone who ever experienced addiction will understand at some intuitive level that their dysfunctional behaviors are connected to past trauma. The question is, why is mainstream psychiatry still so obsessed with "curing" addiction via chemical means, as opposed to through psychology/trauma recovery?

> The question is, why is mainstream psychiatry still so obsessed with "curing" addiction via chemical means, as opposed to through psychology/trauma recovery?

I'm a psychiatrist, and at the risk of sounding defensive, I'm not sure where you are getting this from. I have never worked at any addiction program where psychological and behavioral interventions weren't the primary mode of treatment. There are medications that can help with diagnoses related to trauma or other contributors to addiction (PTSD, depression, etc), and a handful of medications that can address some limited facets of chemical addiction, but the bulk of treatment is non-pharamcologic.

The same is true when I got to national and international addiction conferences: medications are a side-dish, not the main course.

That is great, I don't exactly know where you are located. But as someone in California I can tell you that the amount of (at risk) kids that I've worked with throughout the years tells me over half of them were strung out on a solely medication based treatment. We were the first exposure to actual "therapy" that they've ever had, and it is by far the most effective thing many of them have ever been exposed to. Maybe it's a regional thing, probably a Californian thing.

I think you're conflating multiple factors here, mainly psychiatry and parenting. Child psychiatry is an extreme because the patient is most often not the one making decisions (which they're often not capable of anyway). Much of the time, the patient hasn't even really figured out what their "normal" is before their parents stick them with a professional.

Many parents, especially when looking at-risk demographics, look to psychiatry as an easy fix so that's what the doctors give them. The parents often can't afford to take time to drive their child to a psychiatrist twice a month let alone pay for the sessions. The end result is that psychiatry stuck in a terrible ethical spot, where their duty to treat not just symptoms but causes clashes with the realities where the parents are at the end of their rope. Are doctors stewards of health, responsible for the patient? Or are they professionals that have to meet their clients half way? I don't think there is an easy answer to that question.

Obviously there are many unethical and incompetent psychiatrists but my experience in California (as an adult) stands in stark contrast to all the horror stories I hear about child psychiatry from school administrators. As usual, there is a massive wealth gap and your mileage will vary.

A lot of the kids we've dealt with parents are typically incarcerated, dead, or no longer have custody of their children.

In our area sexual abuse is one of the main issues, usually these kids live with relatives(after the conviction) who are usually the most well off in the family. They still by in large get the short end of the stick even though the relatives/guardians try to work with psychiatrists, but we've heard how that goes. That's often how they end up with us, they (the relatives/guardians) bring their troubled kids to us for actual help, not just medication.

But hey I don't mind, we do better work (at least in our area), bring 'em all. Gets more kids off of substance abuse, gets them connected to people who care about them, and more times than not equips them to help their families and community by in large. And we don't even get paid (all voluntary), and that's how I prefer it.

Is your org more of a last resort for these guardians so they go to psychiatrists first or is it a discoverability problem in general?

Since you're all volunteering, I'm curious if the simple removal of the profit motive is enough to change the way all parties involved approach treatment or if its a matter of just having more time to devote per person (because the limit becomes your time and patience instead of their checkbook).

No, it's for any at risk kid, and many do come first. Most likely discovery since that would take a lot more energy and money.

Since there isn't really any motive to reach a solution, and no harm no foul if it doesn't work out. No one's going to really hold us to anything since it doesn't cost them anything more (sometimes less since we will pay for what they need when they are with us, none of that gets reimbursed).

The other thing is that the parents are often part of the problem.

I’ve seen a couple of “monster” children in my kids school who are highly disruptive and have some obvious issues that will be very difficult as they get older.

It’s pretty obvious why when you see the parents in action.

That's very common. Why would they act any differently, they've seen how their parents treat others, that's their model, even if it's a terrible one.

And interestingly enough, even those that despise their parents will still emulate their behavior, that's something I just don't get

The cynic in me is prone to blame it on the capitalistic nature of our modern society.

You've got to get your numbers up.

It takes way more time to properly deal with psychological issues through therapy than it does to just prescribe a pill. They've got their pill, feel slightly better, so now you get to put them in the "done" pile. So your hospital gets to say it treats 1000 patients per quarter instead of just 100, so they are more attractive to pharmaceutical companies which pay them oodles of money.

The less cynical way to look at it is that the health care system is overloaded and underfunded, they don't have enough resources to properly treat people so they "have" to take the quick and easy route.

Either way, it doesn't sound that great.

Of course this isn't analogous of the entire system, but I do see that a lot at least around here. But we never had very good hospitals or clinics for miles around. Just due to how much money is actually made, and how much they can spare.

Here we don't have too many options, which is why I think it goes to drugs so quickly. Though I personally believe that just about any issue I've seen can be fixed free from the use of drugs. Not a single one in the last few years have stayed on meds after working with us, and none of those have had any severe drawbacks (like suicide, self-harm, etc.) so that's a pretty decent track record. (in fact most are much better off after)

I have some personal experience with this in Mountain View CA. I was having trouble sleeping, to the point of losing the ability to think clearly. The physiatrist I saw only talked to me for about 5-10 min before getting me on some drugs (I've forgotten the names of). Now granted I needed sleep, and they did give me something for that, but at the same time they put me on antidepressants. It took almost a year to get off them. Each time I'd go in for an appointment it'd be a new person talking to me... it was useless, and frankly did a LOT more harm than good.

Something is seriously fucked up with some of these places.

With respect, most psychiatrists I know generally pay lip service to the idea of psychological counseling, but when the rubber meets the road end up relying on meds. I mean think about it. If you actually believed the root cause was psychological, you would become a clinical psychologist instead of going to med school just so you could have the title of Doctor and prescribe meds.

If you are one of the “other” kinds of psychiatrists, who deeply believe in psychological trauma recovery and are trying to fix the system from the inside, then I sincerely commend you for your work.

I probably know more psychiatrists than you do, so I'll offer a counterpoint: Outside of starting your own practice, nobody will pay psychiatrists to do talk therapy when they can pay somebody who didn't go to medical school to do it. For this reason, we end up doing mostly medication management, but at a good clinic this is as part of a team of social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, etc.

Ironically, most US readers of HN will never have seen such a clinic, as the only places actually staffed this way are things like county mental health departments in states where they can get funded.

So, anyway, psychiatry training REQUIRES that each of us provide many hours of supervised psychotherapy. Some training programs are better than others, but we all graduate with a working knowledge of psychotherapy. Many of us have less opportunity to use it than we would like.

Which brings me to my final point: it's not either / or. That's a false dichotomy. It's about the right tool (or combination of tools) for the job. There are plenty of problems that there is no pill for, and a few problems that no amount of talking about it is going to fix. Horses for courses, and all that.

edit: I'm sorry to see you are getting downvoted. I think many people arrive at the same conclusion you have, based on their experiences. I can totally understand how you arrived at that opinion.

I don’t mind the downvotes. What concerns me more is the obvious logical circles you are spinning in order to make a weak argument in defense of psychiatry.

Your parent comment:

“I have never worked at any addiction program where psychological and behavioral interventions weren't the primary mode of treatment.“

Your latest comment: “Nobody will pay psychiatrists to do talk therapy... for this reason we end up doing mostly medication management...”

So let me get this straight. You are currently doing mostly meds, and you’re presumably working at “one of the good places” where psychological methods are the primary mode of treatment. So either you are completely okay with being relegated to a secondary role in treatment (unlikely, given how psychiatrists tend to dominate the conversation thanks to that Dr. title), or, more likely, you are not being sincere when you state your belief that psychological methods are primary. Which is exactly my point. Psychiatrists by their nature and training don’t believe non-pharma methods are the primary solution. Most really try to pretend that they care, but end up prescribing meds in the end. Which was my original point.

You've crossed into incivility in multiple places here. That's not ok on HN. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and refrain from posting like this, even when you feel strongly.

I've spent years working with past trauma and many hours in therapeutic circles with traumatized people, so I completely get where you're coming from and our views are probably sympatico. But there's a risk, when one's opinions come from the same intense experiences as one's feelings do, of not leaving enough space for other people. On HN, other people means other commenters, especially ones who are coming from an opposite position. Forum comments tell us very little about who we each are, and inevitably we sketch in the gaps from material of our own past experience. This leaves exchanges fraught with misunderstanding, especially when feelings are strong. We're all responsible for guarding against that.

dang, I appreciate your efforts to maintain civility and I sincerely apologize if my tone came across as disrespectful towards any member of the HN community. I also appreciate you mentioning your experience with past trauma.

Looking back on this comment, I agree that I could have worded this more respectfully. I will strive to do so better moving forward.

I would hope that HN is a space where you can call out illogical ideas, which is what I was trying to do. I reacted emotionally because I felt like I was being trolled, which is extremely common for anyone who exposes themselves by speaking about trauma. I can see now that the intent may not have been to troll me.

However, I do feel like I’m being singled out a bit unfairly here. Again, not excusing the tone of my own comment, but I’ve received a few replies that feel at least as aggressive as my own. There’s one in particular referring to the “stench” of my comment that felt a bit harsh. All I would ask is for the same standards of civility to be applied to all members.

If you see that comment and legitimately believe that mine was noticeably more over the line, please let me know.

"Patronizing stench" is not a fair phrase to direct at someone on HN, and I've replied to it. But there's still a difference, it seems to me. Your comments have been the ones sort of inducting this thread in a generally flamewarrish direction. That's understandable when strong views meet strong feelings meet strong experiences, and easy to fall into without fully realizing. This is provocative territory for a lot of us. But HN is lucky to have a user like phren0logy show up to offer his obviously relevant experience on the topic, and if other users respond by somehow questioning his choice of profession, that's a move that's unlikely to lead to better discussion.

The best ways I know of to avoid this are to stick to describing one's own experience and to look over one's comment several times for anything unduly personal. It can sneak in in a lot of ways.



I have friends who are in orthopedics, and they work with lots of physical therapists. They don't do the physical therapy themselves. Similarly, I'm the medical part of a team, and I'm cool with that. I do the parts that other people can't. It's a pretty standard arrangement and most psychiatrists who treat addiction work this way without much issue.

I think we understand those comparisons. The comparison that is missing, and where experience seems to be lacking with practitioners due to its how it has become structured, is doing therapies without harmful medications - that for many people have extremely negative side-effects, withdrawal symptoms - that some would argue cause more permanent problems/changes.

Would you also say that complex jobs require a whole toolbox, rather than just a hammer, wrench, or driver of some sort?

> going to med school just so you could have the title of Doctor and prescribe meds

Your comment really isn't with respect when you make this assumption about someone's profession based off no knowledge of that person's chosen career path.

I'm not sure what kind of a person knows many psychiatrists but doesn't understand that the boundary between psychiatry and psychology isn't some high garden wall whereby a psychologist tosses the ball over when they can't figure out the case.

Undoubtedly there are some psychiatrists who pursue the title for reasons other than the fact that psychiatrists have the vast majority of the power and funding in western medicine as compared to psychologists. Surely there are some who are genuinely motivated to solve the problem of human psychological suffering.

To those I have a serious question: why did you choose psychiatry over for example a PsyD degree? And: what are the key data points that make you believe that the pharma-centric approach is the one worth devoting your career to?

>why did you choose psychiatry over for example a PsyD degree? And: what are the key data points that make you believe that the pharma-centric approach is the one worth devoting your career to?

The patronizing stench of this comment aside, you’re attempting to wedge these two careers into the same hole when they are apples to oranges. At their foundation, the curriculums between the two are nowhere comparable.

My psychologist has been taught to conduct _psychotherapy_ at an expert level. My psychiatrist is trained to be a _medical doctor_ on all bases with additional expert knowledge in their sub field.

While you may have a certain disdain for the field of psychiatry, attempting to devalue the importance of the balance they maintain for a patient stems from ignorance of what they do.

> patronizing stench

That falls under what the site guidelines refer to as name-calling and ask you not to do.


> I'm not sure where you are getting this from.

Not GP, but the prozac shrimp story probably didn't help the reputation of psychiatry in the United States at least. And to clarify: I do mean "reputation" - I don't know if it actually says anything about the state of medication - could very well be sanitation.

That is completely and utterly peripheral to if the medication works for humans. It is a sanitation and environmental issue period until someone can come up with an alternative that can be absorbed fully or pass into a degraded non-effective state which is a tall order given that even penicillin couldn't. That is also an issue for birth control medication but it is accepted as generally 'environmentally worth it' compared to the costs of increased r-strategy population growth.

Although there are certain parties interested in badmouthing psychiatry at every turn out of dogma and self interest - from the obvious of Scientology and their means of control to the fundamentalist and homophobe contingent angry over their role in destigmatization and having to look for new targets. They're pissed off that gay marriage is widely accepted - saying someone was for gay marriage in the 80's doesn't make them look wacko fringe like it did then but visionary from how utterly vindicated they were. They are angry that science "didn't stay in its lane". And psychiatry is science. Even in its bad old days of abuse of electroshock and lobotomies considered a valid treatment and despite qualitative aspects keeping it from hard equations and laws the fact that they let the evidence speak and draw the conclusions - 'no society is clearly wrong here - homosexuality is not a mental illness' is profoundly science in a 'and yet it moves' way.

So the next target for their otherphobic garbage of strawmen that I sadly am not making up is that psychiatrists and liberal parents want to reassign gender and provide hormone treatments and surgical treatments at will and everyone trans is a bathroom sexual predator.

Meanwhile back in the /bad old days/ of the past when gay-bashing was relatively accepted a trans Bond girl was treated as mere trivia with perhaps a few tasteless jokes that were still better than the horrific 80's AIDS 'jokes' instead of a 'franchise ruined forever' reaction.

This wasn't meant as snapping at you but at a clear frustrating trend that I have noticed.

Hm. According to her, Caroline Cossey (the Bond girl) was more or less hounded into giving up her modelling, TV and acting career due to the backlash. Not sure it's as simple as mere trivia.


Huh I didn't know that - just that it wasn't of concern. I guess it might have been a case of tolerance bubble striking.

Just because you, and some people you know, have had addiction and trauma, does not mean there is a connection, and certainly that connection is not obvious.

I have relatives and friends with serious addiction problems who had no serious past trauma (of the kind described in this article)

Introduce me to any one of these people. I can almost guarantee that every single one has some form of developmental trauma. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but after seeing a dozen ish cases up close and personal, I’m currently batting 1000.

I would bet that the reason you are unaware of the past trauma is because the individuals have chosen not to disclose it to you, due to the stigma and shame associated with opening up. Also, in the most severe cases, the core wound is generally repressed until some shock to the system causes it to be more accessible.

I'm a former heroin addict. I don't have any physical trauma i'm aware of. I don't have anything in my past that I consider to be 'emotional trauma'. I had lots of friends that were also addicts (many of whom I remain friends with to this day), some of them had various forms of trauma, but many do not.

It is definitely the case that trauma can cause addiction. However, I think it's over-reaching to describe it as the sole cause, especially when it comes to physically addictive drugs like opioids. Sometimes addiction just is what it looks like it is - the brain's neural nets finding a trivial solution to their prime directive.

First, thank you for helping fix the addiction problem by reducing stigma through the act of writing about your experience. Not trying to sound patronizing here - that takes courage and I deeply respect it.

I don’t believe I ever claimed that trauma is the sole cause. As stated in an earlier comment thread, I believe based on experience that it is the primary cause especially of the most severe cases.

I do think you bring up a good point about some substances which are so physically addictive that it might entrap people who are less psychologically vulnerable than trauma survivors.

That said, if you don’t mind me pushing for a bit more clarity here - you must have known going in that heroin is an exceedingly bad idea due to its physical addictiveness. What was it that caused you to start taking it? I am genuinely curious, not here to judge you.

I might guess based on your comment that peer pressure may have been a factor, given many friends who were addicts. But if so, what was the root cause of the insecurity that caused you to be vulnerable to peer pressure in the first place?

(If it wasn’t peer pressure, whatever it was... basically I’m just trying to understand what was the root cause of you personally making the unhealthy decision to try heroin)

> That said, if you don’t mind me pushing for a bit more clarity here - you must have known going in that heroin is an exceedingly bad idea due to its physical addictiveness. What was it that caused you to start taking it? I am genuinely curious, not here to judge you.

I may be an odd case. I started reading about drugs on the internet, on Erowid, and various forums. I started experimenting, first with psychedelics and dissociatives, but then others things as well. Eventually I discovered opioids, and I just really really liked them. I sort of didn't believe the hype about their addiction potential, thought that I was strong enough not to have that happen to me.

I also have some social anxiety, and drugs generally helped me to socialize with other people. Both by reducing my anxiety in social situations chemically, and also by having something to talk to people about that we were both interested in (drugs).

> I might guess based on your comment that peer pressure may have been a factor, given many friends who were addicts. But if so, what was the root cause of the insecurity that caused you to be vulnerable to peer pressure in the first place?

I wouldn't say it was peer pressure that got me into these things. I sought them out, consciously. That being said, you are right to ask about the root of the vulnerability, but it wasn't so much vulnerability to peer pressure as it was difficulty socializing, probably caused by my generally introverted nature. If you want to try to connect that back to trauma, you could say that I had a difficult time in middle school socially, but I think that's a fairly common experience.

> (If it wasn’t peer pressure, whatever it was... basically I’m just trying to understand what was the root cause of you personally making the unhealthy decision to try heroin)

To summarize as best I can:

  - Genuine curiosity
  - Distrust in authority and their narratives about drugs
  - Social anxiety
  - Belief in my own invulnerability, common around that age (18-21 was the time in my life)
  - Really really liking the way opioids made me feel

Thank you for sharing this.

“If you want to try to connect that back to trauma,”

Guilty as charged :-)

you could say that I had a difficult time in middle school socially, but I think that's a fairly common experience”

Okay, great. This is a real thing that I can relate to. “Trauma” may sound like too big and scary of a word for something that we almost all experience to a certain degree in school. We could call it “bullying” or “social isolation due to kids being mean”, ultimately I’m referring to the same thing: some core experience of getting hurt which stuck with you for a while.

But, I would caution you not to downplay the impact of this on your development. Speaking from personal experience, downplaying the extent is very common for survivors of trauma/bullying/etc. There’s many different degrees of “difficult” time. Me, I got punched in the face in 5th grade for standing up (verbally) to the school bully. Later in high school I was socially shunned for being a small geeky kid in a big high school where I knew nobody.

That in itself wasn’t so bad, like garden variety schoolyard bullying. But for me, again only speaking personally here, the reason why I let myself get bullied at school was because I was being bullied at home. The home situation is what led to me not having the self confidence which attracted the bullies. Or rather, the occasional possibly ill advised self confidence, which is what led to me getting punched in the face.

Anyway, it sounds like you’re in a much better place now. So thanks for sharing your perspective.

Ya, I agree, it could, in a sense, be trauma. But I think my experience was not at all uncommon. I don't think I had it exceptionally bad, and given that, I find it hard to use as an explanatory variable. If almost everyone has a certain experience, but only a fraction of those people develop an addiction, what good is it at explaining the addiction?

I like Maté's theory but I think you may be getting at its weak spot here. He uses "trauma" and "addiction" in very general senses, so general that it begins to sound surprising if there's any person on Earth who's not both traumatized and addicted.

Yea I think some people can be quick to label discomfort as trauma nowadays. Like you said, if we’re going to expand usage of a term to include whole swaths of experience, the term itself becomes less meaningful.

This is probably super rambly. I chalk it up to new parent sleep dep and make no apologies for it.

What if trauma is simply a response to discomfort we don't learn to accept and grow through?

It stands to reason that if it's a common issue and situation, not learning from it could compound over time.

I consider this to be "trauma," though I take a more expansive and meaningful take on trauma, in that I consider, for example, the lack of initiating into capitalism and the overwhelming difficulty of living a life outside of a capitalist society to be traumatic because it can keep us from meeting our need for autonomy.

In that sense, I may be considering trauma to be a chronic denial of some need (needs being defined as the minimal set of things required to thrive). Without a clear awareness of needs, then, it becomes easy to deny trauma.

I also consider codependency (which has also been said to be too broad to be meaningful) to be a form of trauma, in that it's a chronic denial of the need for interdependency.

Personally, I think expanding a term to include everyone gives everyone an opportunity to more deeply self-examine and connect with others. I find it to be a way to bring more meaning in, not less. If you judge an expansive definition as meaningless, that doesn't actually make it true for others. It'll simply be true for whoever chooses to believe it. The issue, I think, is everyone really wants to hear very specific and targeted descriptions before accepting some diagnosis. I've seen it in friends suffering from depression, anxiety, and/or addiction: until they hear someone with a story really similar to theirs, they won't allow themselves to connect. I view this as one of the reasons black-and-white thinking is so difficult to heal through/from.

> I consider, for example, the lack of initiating into capitalism and the overwhelming difficulty of living a life outside of a capitalist society to be traumatic because it can keep us from meeting our need for autonomy.

What difficulty is that? Is something stopping you from living on public land in the wilderness?

> Personally, I think expanding a term to include everyone gives everyone an opportunity to more deeply self-examine and connect with others. I find it to be a way to bring more meaning in, not less. If you judge an expansive definition as meaningless, that doesn't actually make it true for others.

It's not that it's meaningless. It's that you can't use it to explain something. If everyone has experience X and 10% of people have outcome Y, then X cannot be used to explain Y.

I would like to see the results of a double blind test - if we look for trauma we can find it; or create it: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_memory_syndrome

From the article:

"in his 40s and 50s, he began to unravel the root cause – and that took him all the way back to Budapest, where he was born in January 1944. Two months later, [snip] “Right now,” the doctor replied, “all the Jewish babies are crying.” This is because, explains Maté, what happens to the parent happens to the child: the mothers were terrified, the babies were suffering,

Later, Maté’s mother, fearing for his survival, left him for a month in the care of a stranger. All this, he explains, gave him a lifelong sense of abandonment and loss which had an impact on his psychological health. [snip] To compensate for his buried trauma, he had buried himself in work and neglected his family."

I get that is a truth for him, but it sounds contrived as only a psychologist can do (without more context)

As stated in the Wikipedia link you provide, so-called “False Memory Syndrome” is fake news in the sense that it is not even recognized by any psychiatric manuals (not that the DSM is necessarily a reliable guide for actual illnesses given the things that make it in there these days).

To your point: yes, humans have the ability to make up stories about anything and do so frequently. Yes, there are bad or misguided psychologists out there who may manipulate some patients into saying something that isn’t true in order to, say, boost their career. Yes, there are bad psychiatrists and social workers who do the same thing.

On the other hand, child abuse is a real thing that due to the crushing societal stigma tends to be severely underreported. It’s like sexual harassment cases, except the risks are even higher, so most people just never talk about it. Some people go insane because they never even admit it to themselves and end up dying of addiction trying to fill an un-fillable hole.

Meanwhile, people talk about False Memory Syndrome like it is a problem of the same magnitude. It isn’t.

I certainly didn't wish to imply that abuse and trauma don't exist (don't we all have friends and family with horror stories?). And it seems obvious enough that trauma and abuse has hideous effects on people, including addiction.

I certainly can believe he was sad at 2 months old, for the reason given. I just find it unbelievable that that sadness became "buried trauma" that could be held in part responsible for neglecting his family later in life.

I originally said "if we look for trauma we can find it" which I wished to be the main point.

Dealing with trauma generally involves intensive therapy - maybe attention and help are the key - not finding "buried" trauma. E.g. the facility I am obliquely familiar with has a patient to staff ratio of 2:1, and is intensely into talking with patients.

Can you direct me to the facility you are familiar with?

Are you in New Zealand?

some form of developmental trauma

Depending on how you define that, doesn't nearly everyone have some form of developmental trauma? Is there really such a thing as a perfect childhood with no trauma whatsoever? Isn't going to puberty itself already enough of a traumatic experience for a lot of people out there?

I can guarantee that there are many people who have no past trauma who have addiction. I can't say exactly how common it is (it may be a minority for all I know), but I know for a fact that they are there.

I hypothesize that occasionally the trauma is being in the wrong social environment; being peer pressured in to something that digs in hooks.

I’m sure there are some of them out there. The world is a big place. My point is, the vast majority of serious cases can be traced to developmental trauma.

> the vast majority of serious cases can be traced to developmental trauma.

Citation needed.

Let me qualify that: every single case I have personally encountered, which is on the order of a dozen, can be traced to trauma. I’m making an educated guess about the wider prevalence. Getting societal scale data is practically impossible for many reasons including privacy. However, for those looking for some data points, I’m sure Gabor Mate’s book mentioned in the original article is full of examples. The most convincing academic references I am aware of at this time is are Dr. Bessel van der Kolk (“The Body Keeps the Score”, focused on PTSD) and Christine Courtois’s books including “Treatment of Complex Trauma“ and “Healing the Incest Wound”, both of which cite a large amount of research literature.

Lack of purpose itself can be a low-key trauma in itself. As infamously seen by the opiate epidemics. Their parents may not have been beating them but a sense of no future can still be damaging.

We're looking at emotional abuse, not physical abuse. Trauma isn't necessarily being beaten half to death by your parents, it's also having nurturing and support purposefully withdrawn, or being made wholly unavailable.

A kid can feel neglected and abandoned because they might have food and a roof over their head, but they're not getting nearly enough hugs and cuddles as they need. Or they grow older and they're not given any trust, the parents assume the worst intention the whole time and the kid becomes a scapegoat.

Or it's applied so inconsistently that you don't even know what's right and wrong, because you do one thing one day and it's praised and you do it the next day and you get your ass beaten for it.

It's not the sense of no future, it's the lack of nurture and care. And it festers because there's this whole belief that parents know best. The kid knows a damn lot too and needs to be heard.

I'm aware that emotional abuse can be quite damaging as well - despite how I may have phrased it poorly. I meant it more 'less than obvious' than emotional didn't matter.

Still that is interesting and I wonder if it maps well to the rates of depression with the rise of paranoid helicopter parenting or if that is a spurious correlation in itself. I have remarked that parents these days seem to consider it /ideal/ to be acting like they are antagonists of a YA Dystopian novel where they see devices sold boasting "Track your children secretively through technology" and think "That sounds like a good idea." instead of "That sounds incredibly messed up and would be considered satire a few decades ago." It might be more of a middle class issue - I'll admit to not having intimate details across the economic spectrum.

Dr. Gabor Maté touches on many of these issues surrounding addiction. There is a very insightful interview with him on Russell Brand’s podcast: https://www.russellbrand.com/podcast/053-dr-gabor-mate-damag...

What kind of trauma results in the sort of mild addictions a lot of us have (like netflix, internet addiction)

There's a distinction between addiction and habits and conditioning and, from my personal experience, you need to understand what is making you tick there.

There isn't a mapping of trauma to protection (which may lead to addiction). You do what you can to survive in one moment and, as you grow up, your methods of survival can become much more dangerous. And what you did to protect yourself as a kid won't serve you at all as an adult.

You might be addicted to Netflix because you were brought up in front of a TV. Is that trauma? That's between you and your therapist. You might be addicted to Netflix because it drowned out the sound of your dad yelling at your mum, and it gave you an escape. That's also between you and your therapist.

There's no prescription here, you have to explore how it all was for you and then you have to process it, how you protected yourself, and how you are now.

For example, an alcoholic might rely on booze because it numbs their emotions, and in their younger years they relied on suppressing their emotions in order to not be abused. Therefore to get emotional is overwhelming.

Or for me personally, I enjoy a drink or two because I have feelings I struggle with, that I wasn't allowed to feel, and I use the alcohol to maintain that. Before I could drink, I was withdrawn and I avoided people, after I could drink, I could go out and wear a mask. By drinking, I don't allow myself to feel what is really happening in me, to process it. A huge indicator of trauma.

I believe this is one of the few ways, if not the only way, to be compassionate with yourself and what you're going through and how you try to keep yourself together in it all.

I believe the technical term is “mild trauma.”

No, but seriously, like everything it’s a spectrum. On one end you could call it “somewhat lax parenting” like occasional neglect or emotional/verbal abuse when parents are stressed out. On the other end you have severe/chronic emotional abuse, sexual abuse, brainwashing, etc.

I would also caution against the term “mild addiction”. It’s either an addiction or it isn’t. I get what you’re trying to say though. Maybe “less harmful” or “less dangerous” would be more accurate at the risk of being less concise.

those are not mild addictions at all.

Avoidance is triggered when the mind is scared and it will grasp at anything external rather than go inside. Going inside will bring you to your self and this means ego death.

Try it. Next time you observe the mind when you reach for the phone. Wait just a tiny bit and observe the emotion just under the surface noise.

Trauma can be a rapid gateway to addiction, but it’s not required. The brain will seek to repeat anything that brings with it a happy shot of dopamine.

That’s pretty much what I think. Sometimes it’s overwhelming how much emphasis is placed on trauma and addiction. It seems some people would be quick to label seeking any behavior that feels good (sex, having drinks with friends and being silly, etc.) as addiction and therefore the user must be burdened by past trauma. I have no doubts that trauma and it’s connection to addiction is real, but the distinction between addiction and “normal use” is blurry and often a meandering line.

What starts as normal use may evolve into unhealthy use and spiral out of control. Or it might just stay normal forever. Like everything, there’s a range. Sometimes the trauma is self-inflicted, in form of isolating and loneliness - and a self-destructive circle inwards. I have personal experience with this.

Those don't rise to the level of addiction any more than people foisting their control anxiety on others is 'OCD'.

They're definitely addictions to some. Internet addiction is very real.

In which case, they aren't "the sort of mild addictions a lot of us have".

> The question is, why is mainstream psychiatry still so obsessed with "curing" addiction via chemical means, as opposed to through psychology/trauma recovery?

Substance misuse treatment, especially for opioids, _must_ include medically assissted treatment or it fails. The US has a bunch of opioid addiction treatment centres that don't offer any medical assisstance at all - purely psychogical - and all the evidence we have show that they don't work.

You're right that people need a holistic package of care, and that this often isn't provided in substance misuse treatment. But I don't know any treatment in the UK that is mostly medication.

Some addictions are more socially acceptable than others. On a continuum:

Least acceptable: Meth, heroin

Most acceptable: work (SV issue)

Middle: alcohol

You could add caffeine to the most acceptable list.

Middle: porn

Because it would mean facing their own issues and actually understanding psychology instead of thinking that there's such a thing as a chemical imbalance which can act as an original source that leads to disorders like OCD, bipolar, etc., rather than it operating in the inverse direction (past action leading to internal state). In other words, it's hard for those who maintain positions by claiming to know, to admit that they don't know.

Unfortunately I agree with you. Members of mainstream western society want to take a pill to solve all their problems. And there’s an entire Pharmalogical Industrial Complex supported by countless clinicians and academics, all of whom are highly incentivized to quash any attempts to approach the problem from the only angle that has a chance of working. And why would they? They’re all getting rich and tenured.

I have seen several psychiatrists, and all of them have prescribed therapy in addition to any medication. The medication is supposed to be a temporary aid while you get fixed, and generally it is the patients who only take the medication.

Right. That’s what everyone says, meds are temporary. In your case, were they temporary or are you still taking them?

I took them until I finally found and went to therapist that could help. That part was significantly more difficult, many people stumble there and stick to the medication for years.

Look at us getting downvoted :)

> chemical imbalance

No psychiatrist or psychologist still believes in the chemical imbalance model.

Aside from me having definite significant anecdotal evidence to the contrary, with all humility, do you have any resources that I can study to substantiate your reply so that I can confirm what makes you say this?

Pills are relatively cheap compared to psychologist time so are sometimes dispensed without therapy to cut costs (some state MedicAid programs were notorious for this - their clients were lower income thus uninformed and powerless).

>> never learned healthy self-soothing rituals. Can you talk more about the rituals you learned ?

In no particular order: breath meditation, bullet chess, exercise, sauna, Netflix, pizza, friendship, and deep house. Mostly bullet and deep house, if I’m being honest.

>mainstream psychiatry still so obsessed with "curing" addiction via chemical means, as opposed to through psychology/trauma recovery?

Because that method can't be scaled and monetized, so it can't pay for its own political representation.

Of course it can be scaled and monetized.

Psychologists are experts in branding and developing models which you can apply to your clients if you buy the workbooks and get the training and gain the accreditation.


Workbooks aren't therapy, and therapy cannot be mass produced.

> Workbooks aren't therapy

You may want to look at the hundreds of computer based or book based CBT courses available for one example.

See also things like Headspace.

I have a master's in Psychological research and have worked on clinical smart apps. Only insurance companies and entrepreneurs, rather than qualified subject matter experts, are trying to replace therapy with them, because they aren't therapy. The only FDA approved 'smart app' currently is for forcing compliance from outpatient drug addicts in court mandated treatment programs.

The apps you refer to are appropriate for the 'worried well', and people unfamiliar with the basics of mental hygiene. They aren't remotely intended as a replacement for anything currently in the clinical arsenal, which requires a safe, human space with a trained and talented professional to make a difference. And, even then, it's not a sure thing. It's not something you can wrap in a chatbot, journal, or 'daily checkin' survey.

We have had the paper equivalents for decades, and yet they have never grown to be anything more than adjunctive tools that they are today. The self-help section of bookstores has always been the butt of jokes, for good reason.

Your Americo-centric viewpoint is blinding you to stuff happening in the rest of the fucking world.

> at which point a boatload of repressed childhood trauma began surfacing.

Can you describe this? How did they surface, how were you able to identify the repressed trauma?

A lot was through dreams, which I began writing down in my twenties when I got fairly fascinated with lucid dreaming.

Other times there were specific memories of abuse that popped into my head after not having conscious access to them since childhood. A strange sensation, like recovering a lost piece of my identity.

I also greatly benefited from keeping an online searchable journal for years where I would record all of these stray memories and thoughts, even the ones I couldn’t make sense of at the time. Later on when I had more pieces of the puzzle I could refer to these notes and understand what my unconscious had been trying to tell me all along.

Do you think psychedelic use had any role in helping facilitate your awareness?

Yes. Extremely useful for undoing the effects of conditioning. For severe cases I would say it’s almost indispensable.

However, I would strongly recommend proceeding with more caution than I did. That means taking psychedelics in a safe space with a clear medicinal intent and with a trusted guide, as opposed to rolling the dice by taking them casually or recreationally. You want to be 100% safe when your demons finally come out of hiding to reveal themselves to you, otherwise you can harm yourself in the process of trying to heal yourself. Safety third, that’s what I learned at burning man.

I made my own Changa to handle my own severe stress causing tinnitus so I could barely hear which it took away with one trip and also made me quit a 20 years heavy weed smoking. Gave it to others with the same benefit.. some even told me it stopped them from being suicidal or saved their marriage.my variant will often be memories and real life visions. Friend revealed a sexual abuse he had experienced as a kid that came back to him and explains why he has issues with relationships and religion and only able to deal with it now after his trip.

how do you know these memories are real?

Does it matter? Presumably the memories were troubling and addressing them helped their wellbeing.

Oh it does. I've met people who thought dead relatives came back to punish them. That's a bit far.

If they dealt with that fake memory and left better, I still don't see why it mattered. Though, those sound more like hallucinations or delusions than a false memory.

In the short term it's not very damaging, but it will cripple them later in life as false memories can very well damage a persons reputation.

If you go out to dinner with some lovely individual who believes their dead great aunt talked to them on one or more occasions, would you really go out with that person a second time?

People have all sorts of crazy sounding stories, partially because so many of our memories are fake, and it doesn't cause huge issues. And if they can't realize that their problems were impacting their memories I doubt they're truly over them.

Because I was able to cross check them with legal filings made during my parents’ divorce proceedings.

I have also obtained documentation of similar instances of abuse in previous generations on both sides of my family. So at some point the whole “your memories aren’t real” attack starts to fall apart and ultimately be revealed as more gaslighting.

I encourage you to use more caution the next time you question an abuse survivor.

That's a bit of a misstep my dude.

>I encourage you to use more caution the next time you question an abuse survivor.

Is not a great response, but I understand where you are coming from. That is a perfectly reasonable question to ask, and as long as you don't attribute malice to the writer, it should not illicit any negative response. A little context, I've dealt with abuse growing up (not from family, externally) and gas lighting, so I understand the response. But they weren't attacking you, just asking how you knew. I had to ask myself for years if what I remembered was actually real and I was able to confirm it. It's not an attack, it's an inquiry.

I appreciate the context. Didn’t realize we were already at “my dude” level, my good sir. Note that I was careful myself not to attribute malice to your question.

But I do stand by my original request to push you on your “trauma etiquette”, for my own sake and for all the other trauma survivors who are much less comfortable speaking about what happened. If you have experienced abuse and gaslighting then you must know that the typical response when speaking out is more gaslighting. For this reason, actual trauma survivors (as opposed to people playing victim) tend to be hyper vigilant. When speaking to a fellow trauma survivor, you must know that this is one of the issues that will come up, and if you are going to ask an innocent sounding question that could also be easily construed as skeptical as opposed to curious, it behooves you to add an extra word or two to make your intent clear. Literally a phrase like “not saying I don’t believe you, I’m genuinely curious” is enough to differentiate between a good faith question and more abuse.

Oh just for clarification, I didn't write the initial question. I just figured it wasn't malicious. :)

I understand what you're saying.. my policy has always been to respond (even to incendiary comments) as if they are genuinely curious or, anyone listening/reading would learn something new or give credence to my position.

If you can master that, you will almost never lose ground in an argument/discussion, and no one would take issue with you on the basis of a response. Not saying that your response was anything but reasonable, it just wasn't the most fortuitous for such an audience as this. Hopefully this is helpful to you or anyone reading.

I get people saying “Well of cause”. But this is just a fluff piece. I honestly would love to see a scientific breakdown of just how often we are actually seeing people become addicted due to purely psycological or environmental factors. I come from a family that has seen all to many cases of addiction so I am absolutely certain that there is a genetic component to it, and as a result I have consciously stayed away from anything addictive short of caffeine, to which I honestly feel I have an unhealthy addiction that I just cannot cut. I’d love to see someone break down the science. And I truely think that if the consensus became that addiction was most often due to past trauma, then we would see a revolution in how fundamental where distributed and in treatment.

"Trauma is Just One Risk Factor Out of Many Possible Contributors to Addiction Disorders" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

But to your point, there are well-described genetic risk factors. And socioeconomic, environmental, etc. risk factors. Like any complex behavior, there's no "one weird trick" that explains it all. But that doesn't get clicks. (I am an MD who treats addiction)

Yes, but also trauma is treatable without Pharma drugs eg by meditation, hypnotherapy

"Stress" experienced by people who are traumatized (fresh trauma or PTSD) has effects on the physical body. There are some good prescriptions that can help with the biological effects of stress: MAOI's [0], various supplements, etc. Sometimes "depressed" patients really just need thyroid medications.

MAOIs are good for getting people out of bed while their team figures out what other sorts of interventions they'd benefit from:

  [...] New research into MAOIs indicates 
  that much of the concern over their 
  supposed dangerous dietary side 
  effects stems from misconceptions 
  and misinformation, and that it is 
  still underutilized despite 
  demonstrated efficacy.[4] New 
  research also questions the 
  validity of the perceived severity 
  of dietary reactions, which has 
  been based on outdated research.
[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoamine_oxidase_inhibitor

Later anti-depressants (Tri-cyclics, SSRIs, etc) tended to be less-effective than the MAOIs, but the MAOI's patents had expired.

B-vitamins can boost the metabolism. There's a prescription version of Methyl-Folate that's approved as an add-on for depression treatment (imho, this vitamin should really be a primary treatment).

There's lots of space for the medical perspective on a treatment team.

Yes, I agree. Depending on the person and the circumstances, there are always options.

I can tell you I've got two people in my life suffering addiction and in both cases it can be directly attributed to a trauma they experienced.

To the OP's point, how does one scientifically determine that to be causal?

I couldn't tell you. What I can tell you is a normal functioning adult who was a casual drinker became an alcoholic essentially overnight. While obviously anecdotal, that seems pretty obviously causal to me.

Like most studies of human behavior and physiology, it's quite easy to imagine unethical ways to test it

It's been known for quite some time that overexpression of DeltaFosB [1] is a key component of addiction, and in my view this is essential to understand. But for some reason, these types of articles seldom refer to it.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11572966

Be careful about being certain of genetic factors. Addiction is undoubtedly passed down through generations to a certain degree, but to my knowledge there is no scientific consensus about whether the delivery mechanism is genetic or cultural/symbolic (ie the meme/“monkey see monkey do” theory).

Research into my own family has convinced me that the cultural conditioning is a huge factor. Key data points for me were seeing some very specific behavior patterns replicated across generations by certain women in my family. I just can’t explain that level of “copycat” behavior with a gene.

There is a clear and robust genetic factor, demonstrated in twin studies.


Not that genetics are the only factor.

FYI the expression is “of course” I.e. “well, of course!”

I really like Gabor Mate. I recently watched a video in which he discusses the connection between addiction, ADD, and trauma. Extremely eye-opening for me, as someone who's witnessed and experienced a bit of the three. I'm not going to attempt to paraphrase, but here's the video:


That video was discussed a bit on HN two days ago:



"social media is a pale copy, the less it meets your real needs the more addictive it is, because you need more of it you need to get"

reductionism applied to society, sadly

Dr. Maté's Scattered Minds is an excellent book for those dealing with ADHD

I've read it, and it blew my mind how it described my various quirks, which I thought were unique to me, but are common to those that suffer ADHD

I'll RTFA, but you know what else helps? Changing the physical environment.

Getting away from severe, chronic stressors. Getting to a community that provides services and allows for mobility.

"By your bootstraps" doesn't work so well, when you don't have boots. Or when someone keeps "stealing them from you" (metaphorically).

Is this not what Freud, Fromm, &c have been saying for about a century?

Psychoanalysis is designed as a therapy through which the patient "deals with their past trauma".

Psychedelics helped me a lot but I'm in a good place today where I only vape a little weed. No drinking or smoking. Cutting down on porn a LOT! Still hard to completely avoid to be honest until I have a steady again.

I am starting to just lay out everything in front of me as a CHOICE. I can feed the side of me that is a world-class designer and a sincere servant to society OR feed the hedonistic self-destructive megalomaniac that will probably die unfulfilled.

Pretty easy choice when I lay it out like that...

Did you take psychedelics in a clinical setting?

Nope. Just knew the right people at the right time, pure intentions and an open mind.

All a person needs to have a good experience.

Are there any techniques to release or resolve trauma of which there are no clear memories? Not to say repressed, but which occurred at a very young age before clear memories could form. Being born, for example.


I had a relatively normal, good childhood until I lost a parent to cancer (shortly after discovering she had brain tumors) at eleven years old.

I am now 29, and for all intents and purposes believe to have overcome the grief and able to talk normally about my mother, etc. although of course it is still sad and I can go to that crying-space, if I focus in on it. I don’t blame anyone for what happened although it was sudden and tragic.

I do recognize there are things I may not have learned and I missed out on a mother’s love and nurturing from 11 years old until now (and for the rest of my life). My dad was often traveling and not a huge presence in my teens, either, so a lot of the burden of emotional support was transferred to my older brothers and a close family friend. I do not blame my father for this; he worked his ass off to provide for our family and it just so happened that his work (oil and gas) required lots and lots of travel and he would not have been able to provide the same lifestyle for his children without being away most of the time working internationally. All of this on one hand has made me a much more independent person and I learned to do things for myself that my friends in university had their parents doing... it seemed silly how 18-22yr olds had parents scheduling doctor appointments, taking their cars to oil changes, etc. - stuff that any 18 year old with a brain and money (either earned or given from his parents) should be able to handle on his/her own.

There’s a lot more to my story but in my late 20s I started having emotional problems and addictive habits.

What would therapy look like for trauma in my case and how can I possibly believe that my childhood trauma is still the cause and root thing underlying all of my troubles? I could talk to you for hours about my mother, she was the most amazing woman and I desperately wish I could have known her longer, but I believe my healing level to be normal and positive.

I won’t say the grief or healing of losing a parent can ever be complete, but I do think that one can come to a point where he is accepting of the loss, not broken into shatters when discussing it, and able to move on. I wish I could list the ways it changed me as a person, but that’s probably an endless list. I stopped wondering “what if?” because that’s not a healthy thing to do, but I do wonder what kind of person I would have been if she was still around: would I have gone to the same university? Selected the same career path? Still be single?

I’m on mobile and can only see about 5 lines of text at a time, so I’m losing track of the overall arc of this comment, and I’m going to end it here, but if anyone wants to reach out, I will update the email on my profile after posting this.

Being born I consider a little odd, I doubt its encoded at all.

But I do agree about unclear memories. Being physically beaten is rather cut and dry. Being emotionally abused becomes super unclear as to what is and isn't abuse.

I broke an addiction successfully by relocating and leaving everything behind. The addiction came back after I returned. Very sad. For now, I'm stuck here, but I know I have to leave.

Doesn't sound like you broke it successfully. Hit me up if you want to talk, I've been there.

I appreciate the offer and you are of course right. I broke it but I did not get enough time in the "addiction-free" state before I returned to the circumstances that caused the addiction. Something like 1% of the time. I think I would need to be in at least 20-30% of the time to break the addiction.

I emailed you.

My wife is a neuropsychologist and the core part of their treatment for PTSD is CBT, and bringing up the traumas of the past until it becomes boring and normal.

Sam Harris recently released a podcast episode titled Addiction, Depression, and a Meaningful Life that goes exactly in this topic. I found it to be one of his best episodes, and I am sure you will find it useful too. Link here:


Also, the connection between responsibility and a meaningful life is one of the recurring themes of Jordan Peterson's work, a message which is sadly lacking in the modern culture. No wonder he has gotten so popular so fast.

As a reader from the world of medicine, and not tech, I'd like to request that readers approach medical topics with an equal amount of criticism they'd reserve for their own field.

Politely put, this is a short opinion piece in a newspaper. Cynically put, this is a paid for advertisement hidden in a newspaper to sell a book.

Lifelong sufferer of various addictions here. I've kicked most but one thing I want to say is most addicts I've known. (myself included) are so worried about " how they feel" It's very helpful to an addict to just put those " feelings" aside and get on with your life. Not trying to sound like Nancy Reagan but stop being such a pussycat and grab ahold of life Just say no Edit, your feelings aren't that important. Get a life, Without an addiction


Is trauma not endemic among Australian aborigines?

Aborigines are alcoholics because they haven't had enough time to build the genetic resistance to alcohol. It has nothing to do with trauma.

I'm not familiar with the australian context but this is simply untrue in the american case: https://psmag.com/news/whats-behind-the-myth-of-native-ameri...

There has not been nearly enough time since the invention of distilled liquor (really only 600-700 years of widespread consumption by Europeans) for a significant amount of evolution to have occurred. In any case, the 'genetic' theory of native american alcholism has been debunked. Poverty, destitution, and a history of trauma, a great gaping wound since the arrival of Europeans in the new world, is a better explanation than a naturalistic fallacy that is just barely disguised colonial racism.

There are cultural challenges too. Leaving certain communities and moving away from certain problems, physically or metaphorically, can result in attack from within those communities. There are some similarities with cults and with extreme conservatism.

It has nothing to do with trauma.

Is that true? I mean, what's the evidence for saying it has nothing to do with trauma?

They seem to be speaking without any knowledge of the matter. Australian indigenous people are some of the most traumatised people in the world. Addictions to many substances other than alcohol are rife, and begin at a very early age, and it's clear to any observer that multi-generational trauma and consequent poverty and despair are a primary cause.

Yes, Sydney here, I've had a few good aboriginal friends in my suburb over the years, who are homeless most of the time. Long story short: It's such a different world. How they survive I have no idea. One is alcoholic, and often talks about wanting to go back to jail - at least there's food, shelter and a bed there. I can't imagine being forcibly deprived of my culture, family, language, land - like many/most of their families, then treated as failed humans. A neverending nightmare.

One of them is always introducing the (mostly white) locals to each other in the street, (she knows everyone) and we joke she's doing Aboriginal reconciliation... For a while I was always poor, and she noticed and started giving me food or cigarettes every time she saw me.

Your argument is totally circular and basically prejudiced or idiotic

"Addiction is not caused by trauma because aborigines suffer from addiction. Aborigines are not traumatized because its genetic. Its genetic because trauma could not have caused addiction"

It would be really surprising if alcoholism were not genetic but height and IQ and homosexuality were. "I drink because daddy diddled me" is not a great scientific hypothesis, but we have tons of evidence that pre-1492 populations have problems with alcohol.

That might make them get drunk more quickly. Low tolerance is not what makes a person alcoholic.

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