Chronic stress, trauma and intense negative experiences unbalance your nervous system and can cause you to get stuck in anxiety, anger or depression (and burnout) in daily life and also make you more vulnerable to addictive behaviour. Often, this lands you in a state of fight/ flight/freeze/ faint. This is such an unbearable feeling that we, consciously or subconsciously, seek a solution. A substance such as alcohol, drugs, sex, food (restriction), or other compulsive behaviour, is then often an obvious way to bring ourselves somewhat (and very temporarily) into an illusion of balance.
Fight/flight/freeze/faint responses are healthy in themselves because they cause us to immediately produce cortisol and adrenaline in threatening situations in order to survive intensely difficult situations. However, many people nowadays find that they also get this stress reaction in situations that are not so life-threatening and where this reaction actually gets in the way. For example, you can suddenly flare up in anger when your partner addresses you in a certain way because this is subconsciously linked to a negative experience from, for example, your parent in childhood.
Trauma, intensely negative experiences or chronic stress can overstimulate the nervous system and bring it to an over-active state of alertness. We can process these experiences during therapeutic sessions and thus leave them in the past instead of carrying them around with us as if the experiences continue even in the ‘now’. By processing trauma and negative experiences we give the nervous system a signal: “the danger is over”. Often clients find that this is enough to stop being ‘activated’ (some use the word ‘triggered’) in the present by events from the past. Thereafter, the need for addiction as a survival mechanism diminishes. In my experience, a calm nervous system is the basis of the experience of well-being.
Read more here about how we could work together to regulate your nervous system.