It’s difficult to watch the news today without coming across another scandalous story about sexual harassment and misconduct. We at Iris Healing Retreat are proud supporters of the #MeToo campaign and the movement to expose those who use their stature and power to abuse. Though we continue to hear many high profile accounts of celebrities and studio executives crossing the line, there are countless others across all industries who fail to get that recognition. And it is not uncommon for the victims in these circumstances to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with the pain.
We will start by making one point perfectly clear. Sexual abuse and harassment can by all means be classified as a trauma. In one of our previous blogs, we highlighted the effects of PTSD and how damaging it can be on both the emotional and physical being. There are clear statistics that illustrate the large amount of trauma victims who turn to substance abuse as a way to “numb their pain.” We also emphasized how there is absolutely no shame in this. In fact it can be a very common coping mechanism…But one that only leads to more damage.
At Iris Healing Retreat, we focus specifically on recognizing the links between mental health and addiction. Our facility is grounded in Dual Diagnoses, which means that clients are guided on a recovery journey that includes therapy, detox regimens and comprehensive programs designed for both the mind and the body. What we focus on is building a support system and creating a restorative experience that works to resolve the root of individual traumas.
Bringing things back to the recent disturbing headlines, we wanted to emphasize how (unfortunately) common sexual misconduct is in modern society and how a traumatic event like this can lead to a dangerous downward spiral. For example, women who have been sexually assaulted or molested are 13 times more likely to develop an alcohol problem according to The National Women’s Study (NWS). Even worse, the same study showed that they are 26 time more likely to develop a drug habit.
A recent NBC report echoed that sentiment, illustrating how women who have been harassed also tend to suffer from depression and acute stress. Part of this stems from the fact that many feel they need to suffer in silence (especially when an incident occurs at the workplace).
“Sexual harassment can register as a trauma, and it’s difficult for the [patient] to deal with it, so what literally happens is the body starts to become overwhelmed,” Dr. Nekeshia Hammond told NBC News. “We call it somatizing: the mental health becomes so overwhelming one can’t process it to the point of saying ‘I have been traumatized’ or ‘I am depressed.’ Essentially, it’s a kind of denial that when experienced for a long state can turn into physical symptoms.”
Those physical symptoms include chronic pains and temptations to use. A high profile example of this includes actress Rose McGowan who has famously spoken out against film studio head Harvey Weinstein and his abusive nature. She herself battled addiction issues after those incidents and, thankfully now, is clean and sober.
The emphasis here is for victims to know that they are not alone and they do not need to suffer in silence. Sexual harassment and abuse is a traumatic event and one that can easily lead to addiction. If this has happened to you or someone you are close to, understand that there is absolutely no shame in turning to a coping mechanism. The important thing is to recognize it, find a support system and set yourself on the path to healing.