Trauma Affects Your Brain But PTSD Can Be Healed
How trauma affects your brain is a HOT topic in the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) world. Especially recently as neuroplasticity (the ability of your brain to change) becomes even more recognized and accepted as a law of brain function. Now, practitioners around the globe are understanding that while trauma can change your brain, other experiences can change it again.
In fact, one of the most exciting implications of neuroscience in the past decade is that your brain is always changing in response to experience. Healing, then, becomes more imminently possible than ever. Why? Because you can create experiences that help your brain change daily.
Learning About Your Brain and Trauma
There’s one thing you can count on with trauma and that’s CHANGE. Especially if you’ve developed PTSD, the changes that trauma causes have a huge effect on your life (PTSD Symptoms And Signs Of PTSD). Many people think that trauma changes you just on an emotional level. In fact, the changes go all the way down to every tiny cell in your body. Most importantly, trauma can impact your brain in ways that change who you are and how you live.
Trauma and the Brain Fact #1
Your brain has three different levels, all related to different types and areas of functioning. Trauma can affect them all and cause dysregulation in your overall functioning that creates the symptoms of posttraumatic stress you experience every day. Many of the changes can be reversed. The most difficult to reverse alterations occur in the area of your “reptilian” brain - the part of your brain with the fewest neurons, which means it learns really, really slowly. This is the area tied to your instincts and survival responses.
Trauma and the Brain Fact #2
There are many structures in your brain that engage during a traumatic moment, but there are 4 that play critical roles when you’re in survival mode:
- Brain stem
- Pre-frontal cortex
How these 4 structures interact and how they function individually affect how you feel during and after trauma. When they over- or under-function they change how you think, process information, sleep and even behave.
Trauma and the Brain Fact #3
Your body and mind are designed to fluctuate between response and repair. Due to the increase or decrease in several chemicals that send messages to different systems, your body knows to gear up to fight/flee/freeze or rest and restore. After trauma, however, some of these chemicals can remain high. For example, the stress hormone, cortisol. When this powerful stress response is pegged at the high end of its range, it causes far-reaching effects on your brain, including the inability to lay down a new memory, or even access an old one. The presence of cortisol also lessens how effectively brain cells communicate by interfering with the function of neurotransmitters, the way those cells send messages.
The more you know about PTSD and your brain, the more you reclaim control, which is a major element of how we heal PTSD.
Rosenthal, M. (2014, March 6). Trauma Affects Your Brain But PTSD Can Be Healed, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2014/03/how-trauma-affects-your-brain
Author: Michele Rosenthal
PS: Although there were many deaths, 5 months after my younger sister died of cancer my "kid" brother whom I was very close to was killed in an accident. That's when I had many different symptoms which you mention...more than grief and depression. My brain is so different.