How 'Jessica Jones' Tackles Trauma And Addiction

By Victoria Kim 03/15/18

Jones, the show's gloomy heroine, uses alcohol to cope with past traumas.

still from the second season of "Jessica Jones"
Photo via YouTube

Warning: may contain spoilers.

Jessica Jones, the brooding, hard-drinking antihero played by Krysten Ritter at the center of the Marvel/Netflix series by the same name, is haunted by the trauma of her past, while she fights off evildoers and comes to terms with her ill-gotten superpowers.

It’s no wonder that she is often depicted with a bottle in hand, or getting tossed out of bars—a coping mechanism for the trauma she’s accumulated from a young age, according to Refinery29 writer Kimberly Truong.

Truong explores what’s happening around Jessica Jones to cause her to hit the bottle—hard. “While her drinking habit is sometimes played for laughs, it hints at a complex relationship that Jessica Jones explores: the connection between trauma and addiction,” writes Truong.

According to Truong, Jones’s drinking is rooted in her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—from having no memory of being the subject of secret experiments at the hand of IGH (a shadow government organization) that gave her superhuman strength, to dealing with Kilgrave (David Tennant), the villain in season 1 who wreaked havoc with his mind-control abilities.

“[Drinking is] the only way I get through my goddamn days after what you did to me,” Jones said to Kilgrave in the last season.

Season 2, which is available now on Netflix, focuses on Jones’s efforts to learn as much as she can about the IGH and its experiments.

The dark heroine’s lifestyle fosters her excessive drinking. When she’s not out taking care of business, she’s very much a loner.

She not only drinks to forget the hateful acts she carried out under Kilgrave’s control, she drinks to fill the gaps in her memories surrounding the demise of her family. As a teenager, she was the sole survivor of a car crash that killed her parents and brother. The IGH experiments followed soon after.

Drug use is also a battle for Malcolm Ducasse, Jones’s neighbor, who was forced to become dependent on drugs by Kilgrave so that he could control Malcolm and make him spy on Jones—exchanging photographs for a fix.

Truong interviewed mental health professionals who affirmed that there is a relationship between PTSD and addiction. "Generally speaking, if someone has a PTSD diagnosis, they’re at a much higher risk than someone else without PTSD for developing an addictive disorder," said Sumati Gupta, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma.

“Extreme anxiety, worry, and despair can lead to enormous physical and emotional pain. So yes, there is a relationship between trauma and addiction,” said Deborah Serani, PsyD.

However, using drugs and alcohol to cope with trauma is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution. “It can actually prolong the PTSD, because you’re not dealing with it directly; it can prevent you from seeking help in terms of therapy; and it makes interpersonal relationships difficult,” said Gupta.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr