115: Trauma and the Brain
At some point in our lives, we’ve had traumatizing experiences in some way, shape or form. These traumas affect how our brain works and how we react to things and unfortunately, for some people, the profound impact of their traumas could be worse and further affect their overall well-being.
It's important to recognize that not everyone responds to trauma in the same way, and some individuals may be more resilient than others. Nonetheless, it’s important that we discuss why and how traumas affect the brain and the body.
It doesn’t matter what age you are, the body holds trauma.
Trauma is an emotional consequence from living through a distressing event or series of events. It can happen at any age and it is unique to each person. What may be traumatic for one person might not have the same impact on another. There are different kinds of traumas – acute trauma, chronic trauma, complex trauma and developmental trauma.
Among those mentioned, developmental trauma is what is likely to stick longer as it occurred in the early developmental periods of the individual. That’s why it’s really important to seek proper help immediately. For some people, their traumas stick with them for a long time. Sometimes, it has something to do with temperament, disposition, and of course, the mindset.
If you haven't read the book entitled The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel van der Kolk, you’re definitely missing out especially if you’ve experienced trauma or you know someone who has experienced trauma. It’s such a game changer as it deals with the struggles in the advancement in brain science, particularly in the world of traumas. It greatly helps people to understand just how important getting that trauma out of the subconscious and the body really is.
What we know besides the role of temperament in the long-lasting effects of trauma is that what you bring to the table is what helps you get through. As such, if you have other clinical issues, the trauma is more likely to stick with you. However, it is important to note that this doesn’t mean that it’s going to be there forever.
How trauma affects the brain and the body.
When trauma affects the brain, what happens is that our limbic system determines if there is a threat or not. Once you are in a trauma state and activated, it's going to start activating more and more. Consequently, it will misperceive sensory information, sound, or other things that are triggering you to activate causing a cascade of cortisol which in turn negatively affects the body’s responsiveness.
As for those who start to react to things negatively like having panic attacks or difficulty in waking up, what is different is you're having constant activations of things that are triggering your past trauma. In fact, many trauma survivors experience heightened anxiety and panic attacks whereas others experience mental health issues or memory and cognitive issues.
The importance of working with a trauma specialist.
Considering the fact that traumas badly affect the brain and the body in various aspects and can get stuck for a long period of time, it’s essential for you to have a highly trained trauma therapist who will provide you with expert care as he/she is equipped with extensive training in trauma-focused therapeutic approaches.
The good thing about working with a trauma therapist is that we believe in the benefits of somatic therapy. Personally, I also like EFT tapping and EMDR therapy. But of course, to each his own. Whatever you choose, you’re gonna have to work with your trauma specialist and trace the root causes to have the appropriate treatment that you’re going to stick with.
Remember that when you do therapies that go in through the body, you're able to anchor and regulate your brain and body. These therapies aim to help individuals regulate their emotions, manage stress, and process trauma by focusing on bodily sensations and physical experiences.
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