Updated: Sep 22
Trauma is a term that is commonly used in every day society, yet it is often misunderstood or misinterpreted. At its core, trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms a person's ability to cope. It can be a single incident, such as a car accident, or it can be an ongoing experience, such as childhood abuse or neglect. Regardless of the nature of the event, trauma can have significant and long-lasting effects on a person's mental health and well-being.
The Biology and Physiology of Trauma
Trauma has a profound impact on the human body and brain. When a person experiences a traumatic event, their body reacts by entering into a state of hyper-arousal. This is commonly known as the "fight or flight" response, and it is designed to help us respond quickly to danger. During this state, the body releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause a range of physical symptoms, including increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing.
If the trauma is severe enough, the body may also enter into a state of dissociation, where a person feels disconnected from their body or their surroundings. This can be a protective mechanism that allows a person to distance themselves from the traumatic experience and avoid further emotional harm.
Over time, repeated exposure to stress hormones and other physiological changes associated with trauma can have a significant impact on a person's physical and mental health. Chronic stress can increase the risk of a range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders. For most people staying in a constant state of fight-or-flight sounds like a hellish nightmare, but this all too often is a reality for many people.
How Trauma Impacts Our Mental Health and Well-being
Trauma can have a significant impact on a person's mental health and well-being. One of the most common effects of trauma is the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and other symptoms related to the traumatic event.
However, trauma can also have a range of other effects on a person's mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, as well as difficulties with substance abuse and addiction. Additionally, trauma can impact a person's relationships, leading to issues with trust, intimacy, and communication.
One of the most insidious effects of trauma is its impact on a person's sense of self. Trauma can shatter a person's sense of safety and security, leaving them feeling vulnerable and helpless. This can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame, which can further compound the impact of the trauma.
How Therapy Can Help Us Resolve Trauma
Despite the profound impact of trauma on our bodies and minds, there is hope for recovery. Therapy is one of the most effective ways to address trauma and its effects on our mental health and well-being.
One of the most common therapies for trauma is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a short-term, goal-oriented approach that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. CBT can be particularly effective for treating PTSD and other anxiety disorders, as it helps individuals develop coping skills and strategies for managing their symptoms.
Another approach to treating trauma is eye
movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This therapy involves using rapid eye movements to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce their emotional impact. EMDR has been shown to be particularly effective for treating PTSD and other trauma-related disorders.
Other therapies for trauma include psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on exploring unconscious thoughts and emotions related to the trauma, and somatic therapy, which addresses the physiological aspects of trauma and its impact on the body.
No matter which approach to therapy is used, the most important factor in resolving trauma is a strong therapeutic relationship between the client and therapist. A compassionate and supportive therapist can help individuals feel safe and supported as they explore the impact of their trauma and work towards healing.
It is important to remember that recovery from trauma is a process that takes time and patience. There may be setbacks along the way, but with the support of a therapist and a strong commitment to healing, it is possible to overcome the effects of trauma and live a fulfilling life. If you or someone you know is struggling with the effects of trauma, please know that help is available. Book a complimentary consultation with our team to get started and explore your options.