Incest has devastating psychological effects on both the target and the perpetrator. Children rely on their parents for protection, provision and care, but sexual exploitation from a parent or close family member causes both acute and chronic trauma for children. On the other hand, feelings of frustration and shame often haunt the perpetrators as well. When the resulting trauma and guilt go untreated, all affected parties are inclined to self-medicate their grief with alcohol abuse. This means that both perpetrators and their targets will need professional treatment to recover from the abuse and to avoid alcohol abuse in the future.
Trauma and substance abuse are closely related psychologically. When people experience acute trauma—a devastating problem that occurs once—they tend to shut down emotionally. Similarly to how a circuit breaker trips when overloaded, these sudden, emotionally overwhelming experiences cause people to freeze psychologically. On the other hand, many weaker instances of trauma—chronic trauma—can also affect people. Experiences such as bullying, verbal abuse and long-term sexual exploitation can devastate people’s emotional or psychological health. Because incest is rarely a one-time occurrence, most targets are abused repeatedly over several instances. As a result, they tend to blame themselves and to stifle their emotions while enduring abuse. Some may even feel loved while abused, but this is only a defense mechanism.
Trauma affects the same part of the brain that manages impulse control, panic response, the formation and recall of memories and emotional health. If people develop posttraumatic stress disorder as a response, they are likely to experience the following symptoms:
People will powerfully crave anything that relieves this part of the brain and the associated problems. These cravings are much more difficult to overcome than any physical need for alcohol or drugs. People who survive trauma often crave alcohol to quiet their problems of PTSD, while perpetrators use it to treat feelings of guilt.
For targets or perpetrators of incest to recover from alcoholism, they need specialized care, and they must learn about addiction. The most successful treatment programs offer some combination of the following services:
Many of the best programs offer these services in residential facilities that let patients focus their energy and attention on healing.
Unraveling the pain of incest is critical for survivors of this trauma and resulting alcohol abuse. If you have endured incest or have enacted it on someone, then please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are ready to connect you with the help you need, so do not suffer alone. Call now and let us help you find freedom from the pain of sexual abuse and alcoholism.