The Trauma Tree of Broken Christians shows how adults can "grow" addictions, anxiety, relationship failures and more from the "roots" of childhood abuse.
The loss can be described in the following way.
God has “coded” mankind with a need for significance…worth. Ultimately, that significance & worth must be met and fulfilled through the Christ, the Redeemer, Jesus. The precursor or setup for that is parents are to demonstrate Godliness to children by behaving toward them in ways that present God’s love. As parents, our words and actions are to “remind” our children of Jesus. The result of that demonstration is a child experiences love that says to the child, “you are significant, you have worth.”
Thus, when a child is shown love, they have a sense of belonging & protection; they feel safe. When that need is not met, the child learns to survive alone, exposed, vulnerable, afraid. The child’s needs can remain unmet due to parent abandonment, divorce or from a parent who is “distant” in terms of relationship & care of the child.
If the child lives in that sense of aloneness, fear & vulnerability, and then further encounters sins such as sexual abuse, they then learn lies on the deepest level. The lies can sound like: “This is all I’m good for.” “I’m good for nothing.” “I’m dirty.” “I’m stupid.” “I deserve this.” Of course, if they are actually told those same statements, it only further confirms what the child believes. All of it is a lie because it is not what God says. The child has been diminished from what God says about them to what the abuser says or implies by their actions. The child then begins to lose the personhood God gave them.
The sum of abuse and the diminished sense of personhood leaves a child without the safety of a sense of true identity. I believe, that on a subconscious level, the child lives in a somewhat sustained state of fear, which often translates to anxiety. In the meantime, the brain’s Limbic System interprets that fear & anxiety as a form of pain and pain is a threat to survival, because the Limbic System is tasked with the fight or flight reaction to threats of survival.
If the child cannot fight or “flight” to truly alleviate what is causing the pain of fear & anxiety, they eventually learn to do what all humans do when they encounter pain—seek relief.
The feeling of pleasure is the opposite of the feeling of pain. It stands to reason that alcohol, drugs, sex, and any other thing that induces a dopamine increase in the brain will become the “medicine” or “drug of choice.” This all happens at a semi-subconscious level with an almost automatic practice.
A more in-depth presentation of this effect & process can be found in my article on broken Christians.