How Trauma Affects The Brain
I’m often asked about the impact of traumatic experiences on the brain. People wonder why it is that these memories are so much more vivid and impactful compared to mundane, or even “happy” memories.
What is Trauma?
Psychological Trauma is a specific type of damage to the mind as a result of a severely distressing event or series of events. Sufferers of trauma may develop extreme anxiety, anger, sadness, relationship issues, sleep problems, or PTSD.
A trauma may be a large, significant event, such as a car crash, a sexual assault, or ongoing abuse by a caretaker. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “trauma.”
But it can also be smaller, non life-threatening events that shape the way a person sees themselves in the world. Examples of this type of trauma include, a bad experience with public speaking, teasing or bullying in grade school, or experiencing a panic attack.
Traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain.
When a traumatic event occurs, it activates our “fight or flight” (limbic system) response center. This is the body’s way of helping us avoid similar situations in the future. Unfortunately, this response can make it very difficult for a person to move past these traumatic memories. It often colors the way they see themselves and changes how they react to other situations in the future.
The average person waits 8 years before getting treatment for trauma.
In light of recent news events, I’m sharing this article I wrote explaining how trauma affects the brain, and how EMDR (a technique I use in my practice) can literally change how these memories are stored so that a person can regain feelings of enjoyment, safety and control in their life again.