How Trauma Affects You
Trauma affects aspects of your daily life, and until you can process those traumas, you likely overuse some parts of your brain. In contrast, other parts of your brain are not used to its capacity. Someone experiencing trauma may be in overdrive, thinking something could go wrong and looking for signs of danger. However, in contrast, the part of the brain that is not used as often celebrates success no matter how little it may be, being in the moment and enjoying the little things, relaxing, pursuing goals, using gratitude, and bonding appropriately with others.
PTSD can make you feel like you are in “fight, flight, or freeze mode.” When triggered, you may become angry, elope, or shut down. People enter fight, flight, or freeze mode because the nervous system enters survival mode. Instincts to protect self-go into overdrive, triggering the neurological system that resists taking on new information. When experiencing a trauma response, you feel unsafe and may lack self-worth. Information may not be getting to your brain; you could be looking at your current situation through the eyes of your trauma, which may not be the current environment in which you are safe. Still, you get stuck in the past thinking, ignoring the present reality.
Avoiding Your Trauma isn’t Healthy.
If you are struggling with trauma, contact a mental health professional. They are here to walk alongside you with your struggles, provide coping skills, and allow you to process through traumatic events. Often, when people try to avoid their trauma and pretend like it never happened, they develop unhealthy coping mechanisms such as:
- Heavy Alcohol Consumption
- Substance Abuse
- Sexually Compulsive or avoidant
- Compulsive exercise
- Unhealthy relationships
- Dangerous and Impulsive Behaviors
The feelings of worthlessness, emptiness, low self-esteem, abandonment, rejection, and helplessness can be common for those who struggle with trauma. The unhealthy habits may suppress some of these feelings for a while. Still, new problems can develop and damage different areas of your life. Often, the traumas will break free because of a unique stressor that triggered past traumas to emerge. You may experience somatic symptoms or physical ailments that make you more vulnerable. Eventually, you may face burnout or pure exhaustion by not dealing with past triggers. Transitions in life such as a new family member, baby, shift in a relationship (a break-up or divorce), fired or laid off from a job, or a death in the family could trigger old traumas, causing you to feel helpless, unwanted, or lonely.
Coping Skills and Self-Regulation May be More Difficult to Access
Experiencing triggers or flashbacks from a previous trauma may make it more difficult for your brain to function and concentrate, and you may become impulsive in your behaviors. When you cannot process your trauma, the content could be stored in your brain, groggy memories, or difficulty recalling the events at the total capacity of the context. Once you are triggered, it can be difficult for your brain to access the coping skills you have learned because parts of your brain may focus on a raw event, making it difficult to self-regulate. If you are trained in coping with trauma through techniques like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Brain spotting, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), it allows you to process your traumas and use muscle memory to pull out your coping mechanisms and provide you the ability to use your coping skills. Using healthy coping skills can assist in de-escalating the fight, flight or freezing the trauma that may be causing. Some examples of healthy coping skills are:
- Being out in nature
- Talking to a friend
- Listening to a Podcast
- Art, crafts, painting
Learning how to process your trauma is essential so your brain can rewire to discover new experiences with a more positive mindset. You can learn how to rewire your brain with the help of a trained therapist by making small changes continuously and consistently practicing changing your mindset and understanding the complexion of your feelings. Taking trauma head-on with the guidance of a therapist is more productive than avoiding it or pushing it down. Being consistent is critical in processing your traumas and rewiring your brain to persevere, allowing the new mindset and strategies to feel stronger and in control of yourself. Dealing with your trauma is a slow process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but understanding your triggers and learning strategies to assist in calming down allows you to feel more peaceful. Understanding your traumas, triggers, and strategies to combat them is the first step to healing. Changing your mindset and recognizing that you are capable of learning new things can assist you in finding a new version of yourself that feels worthy and safe and recognizes you did the best you could. You won’t be able to forget your trauma member completely. Still, you can change your mindset and rewire your brain by using new beliefs connecting you to resilience and acknowledging that you are in control of your life. The trauma is not in control.
Greenberg, M, 2021, Understanding the Trauma Brain. Neuroplasticity provides hope if you suffer from trauma or PTS. Psychology Today
Psychology Today Staff, 2020, Trauma. Psychology Today
Linder, J, 2021 7 Hidden Effects of Trauma and Complex Trauma. Psychology Today
Psychology Today Staff, 2020, Trauma. Psychology Today
Shapiro (Third Edition). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Theory. Basic principles, protocols, and procedures. Guilford Press