What is Trauma Brain?
Many people have what I call Trauma Brain and have no idea that it is the cause of their current symptoms.
Big or Little Trauma = Current Anxiety
To some, trauma sufferers are only “war veterans,” those exposed to violent wartime events. There are many people who are suffering from trauma and do not believe that they are because “they did not go to war.”
While PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is definitely symptoms caused by trauma, traumatic experiences can be either “big” or “small”. Trauma stems from any event that overwhelms an individual’s coping mechanisms and thus it is stored maladaptively in the brain.
Maladaptive means not providing adequate or appropriate adjustment to the environment or situation. Maladaptive processing consists of cognitions, body sensations, and feelings. This maladaptive processing actually creates more anxiety.
The result of maladaptive processing is anxiety, nightmares, internal distress, dissociation, re-experiencing the event, and a depressed mood. Once an event occurs and maladaptive processing begins, all similar events are stored in the same way in our brains.Adaptive processing is wise-mind focused, where one can see the whole picture, balanced, for lack of a better word. An example of maladaptive processing is when victims blame
themselves while in a hyper-vigilant state.
Adaptive processing would consist of “I did my best and it was not my fault.” Once events are stored in an adaptive way in our brain all events similar will illicit the same internal response.
Body Chemistry Proven to be Changed by Trauma
There is an amazing book, The Body Keeps the Score. In this book, Bessel Van der Kolk, a psychiatrist discusses how the body is chemically changed after a traumatic event.
Trauma can be a sudden event that overwhelms our senses, or it can be of a lot of small events that repeatedly occur over time. Both types of trauma can affect functioning due to the brain’s chemistry being in a reactive state.
There are more technical ways to discuss this but I am keeping it simple. Just remember the trauma response is biological and not simply a thought or feeling that needs to be changed.
Healing your Body
Once body chemistry is changed all hope is not lost, you can return your body back to a relaxed state through skill-based approaches and processes done with therapists in order to “heal” your body.