About 70 percent of people experience at least one traumatic event in their life. How this trauma affects us can vary widely. In many cases, the intensity of the trauma causes our brain to store it in fragments. It’s almost as if your brain is trying to protect you from the memory. However, this dissociation ends up causing a lot more problems.
Unless and until the traumatic memories are effectively resolved, they are stored in your body. They reappear as nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and perhaps post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Also, they affect your body in various negative ways.
How trauma can change your brain
Most of the damage takes place in three areas of the brain:
- Hippocampus:TThis is where you process and store emotions, as well as memory. After a traumatic event, the hippocampus shrinks. As a result, your relationship with memories and the feelings they provoke becomes dysfunctional.
- Amygdala: As the center of creativity in your brain, the amygdala is also responsible for fixation and rumination. Trauma causes an increase in size and activity in this part of the brain. This can increase the likelihood that you will dwell on the past.
- prefrontal cortex (PFC): Under normal circumstances, the PFC is where a rational plan and logical organization are made. Trauma causes the PFC to decrease in function. This change can cause impulsive and irrational behaviors to become the norm.
Simply put, you can get stuck in a state of high alert. Your mind behaves as if danger is always present. In turn, this creates a wide range of physical problems.
How the body expresses trauma
Aches, pains and tension
Your body is receiving chronic alerts that the risk is near. He braces himself by tensing up and bracing himself for impact. Such a constant state of unexplained tension can exhaust and injure muscles in ways that cannot be easily connected to trauma.
On the contrary, if our body receives warning signals non-stop, we may develop a very high pain threshold. Your brain numbs your pain receptors in a misguided attempt to protect you. This inability to experience normal sensations can increase dissociation.
Sleep disturbances and resulting fatigue
It is common for someone with PTSD to have difficulty maintaining a healthy sleep rhythm. At the same time, this fatigues your body even more than it already is. Being in a constant state of hypervigilance is exhausting on its own. When you combine that with sleep disturbances, the result is very detrimental to your physical well-being.
This is the physical manifestation of repressed emotions. When emotions are not expressed, they hijack the body. If you’re not ready or unable to face negative memories, your body may express them in other ways, such as:
- severe and chronic headaches
- skin problems
- Digestive problems
- sexual dysfunction
Such symptoms can cause more distress because their source is not apparent or obvious. It only adds to the heightened sense of danger you feel.
You can dislodge trauma from your body
Trauma can be processed. It can be resolved. You can move on without it inhabiting your body and causing you daily problems. It starts with accepting that you need help. Trauma healing is not a solo act. It requires the support and guidance of an experienced therapist.
I have worked with many clients who were struggling with a similar scenario. Using a variety of techniques and approaches, these clients are able to work through the trauma. Like them, you can prosper again. I encourage you to seek more information so that we can help you begin this journey of recovery.
Everyone, sooner or later, goes through a potentially traumatic experience. It can be neglect, abandonment or abuse. In other cases, the experience may involve illness, injury, or disability. Other factors may include crime, accidents, war, or natural disasters. If not processed and resolved, such an event can have serious long-term effects.
Fortunately, even traumas that occurred in childhood can be processed as an adult. In the presence of a trained mental health professional, this type of healing is not only possible. It is also common. With this in mind, let’s explore the impact of trauma and how to move beyond its control.
The impact of trauma on your mind and body
When you are subjected to intense stress, your brain initiates the fight or flight response. This reaction can save your life right now. However, once the stressor is removed, you should return to a more stable state. In the case of trauma (repeated or single), the stress may be more than you can handle. For children, in particular, this may be the norm.
If you can’t process the trauma, there’s a chance you could get stuck in a state of high alert. You can no longer differentiate between safety and danger. Stress hormones that could once help you now become an unhealthy presence in your bloodstream. All of this adds up to a host of physical and emotional symptoms that can constitute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These symptoms often include:
- Nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive thoughts
- Social isolation
- Sleep disorders
- inability to trust
- high blood pressure
- Avoid anything related to trauma.
- poor concentration
- Unexplained aches, pains, and muscle tension
- reckless behavior
- Digestive problems
- Thoughts of death and suicide.
5 ways to process trauma
It may seem impossible to understand your situation from your angle. Therefore, a powerful step is to accept that you need help and why. You must be willing to heal and commit to the process.
2. Lean on the support of your loved ones
This is very difficult to do alone. Ask for help. If you feel like you don’t trust the people in your life, consider connecting with a support group, online or in person. It can be a game changer.
3. Practice self-care
Your mind and your body have been through an ordeal. It’s time to heal on every possible level. A big step in this direction is to commit to a daily self-care routine, such as sleeping, eating, exercising, and managing stress.
4. Keep a journal
The simple act of writing (with a real pen on real paper) has been shown to help processing happen; monitor your triggers, emotions, and progress. This diary will also be very helpful in your therapy sessions (see below).
5. Practice visualization
Retrain your brain to be ready to live in your desired reality. You don’t have to get stuck in the past, desperately reliving or avoiding painful details. Get in the habit of allowing yourself to feel what it is like to process and resolve the trauma as you move forward and thrive in your new life.
don’t do it alone
This publication is not intended to imply that this job is easy or difficult. That part is in the eye of the beholder. The points I’m trying to get across are these:
- Processing the trauma is necessary for you to heal.
- Processing trauma is No a solo act.
Trauma survivors need to work with qualified mental health professionals. This collaboration is the proven path to resolution, recovery, and healing. I would love to guide you along the way. Let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation soon.