Trauma is something that many people will experience. More than half of adults in the United States have experienced a traumatic event at once during their lives (1). While trauma can affect people in different ways, it is vital to understand the ways trauma affects the mind and the treatment options available.
Trauma is a clinical name for an event or experience that has a lasting, harmful effect on a person. A traumatic event can be either physical or psychological. Physical trauma includes events such as car accidents, sexual assault or rape, or other injuries or attacks that can occur. Psychological or emotional trauma includes instances like threats of violence or witnessing something traumatic, such as violence or a natural disaster.
Despite the names, both physical and psychological trauma can negatively impact a person’s physical and mental well-being. After a traumatic event, a person may appear “twitchy” or become easily startled by sensory factors such as loud noises. Many people will find that they have trouble sleeping or concentrating after they experience trauma.
Trauma can also cause a variety of mental and emotional effects. People may experience nightmares or visual hallucinations of the event. They may also be easily confused or distracted and experience mood swings.
Experiencing a traumatic event can also lead to the development of, or symptoms related to, other mental health disorders. Explosive anger, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are also common symptoms following trauma.
Most people who experience a traumatic event will show some symptoms for a period after. Usually, symptoms will decrease or vanish in days or weeks. However, sometimes a traumatic event permanently affects a person’s cognitive state. This can lead to the development of chronic depression or anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD is a mental health disorder that develops after a person has experienced a traumatic or shocking event. Individuals with PTSD continue to show long-term, or chronic, effects related to their trauma for extended periods. Without treatment, a person may suffer from symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder for their entire life.
The brain and body will have a natural reaction to experiencing a traumatic event. This is normal and based on an instinctual warning to avoid danger. However, people who develop PTSD have a change in their psychology that causes instinctual warnings of danger even when a threat is no longer present.
Even without severe symptoms, trauma can directly affect how a person relates to other people or feels about themselves. It is recommended that every person seek some level of treatment after they experience a traumatic event.
Trauma is caused by an unanticipated or terrifying event that leaves a lasting psychological impact on a person. It can either be caused by a single event or something ongoing or recurrent, such as emotional or physical abuse.
While symptoms caused by trauma can drastically vary from individual to individual, treatment is often suggested after a person experiences a traumatic event. Symptoms associated with trauma can be short-term or long-lasting.
A threat of danger causes most traumatic events. Often these events are either life-threatening or at least seemed so at the moment they occurred. Events that occur in youth or adolescence can cause trauma that may not present symptoms for years.
Examples of events that could cause physical or emotional trauma include:
There are also overlooked causes of emotional trauma. These include the loss of a loved one, the end of a marriage or relationship, or a serious illness diagnosis. Any event that is unexpected and causes a person to feel intensely frightened can cause trauma.
When a person experiences a traumatic event, it can affect the brain in three significant ways. First, trauma can damage the hippocampus. The hippocampus controls memory and information storage. After trauma, the hippocampus can become damaged and can lead to memory loss, disorientation, or flashbacks of the traumatic event.
Second, the prefrontal cortex can be negatively affected by experiencing trauma. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that controls and regulates emotion. After trauma, the prefrontal cortex cannot function properly, and our emotions can become volatile. A person often shows irritability or anger issues after experiencing trauma and is sensitive to explosive reactions.
Finally, the amygdala is the last part of the brain that can be significantly impaired. The amygdala is the part of our brain that helps us process our emotions and feelings. This leads to feelings of depression, anxiety, or isolation. The inability to process emotions can often lead people to attempt to self-medicate through drug or alcohol abuse.
Every person should seek the help of medical professionals after they go through a traumatic event. Doctors may often prescribe medications, such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers, to combat symptoms. If the condition is preventing or interfering with healthy sleep habits, sleeping medication may also be used.
Although medication can be helpful, it should not be considered a cure for the condition. Any medications prescribed should be viewed as one aspect of a broader treatment plan.
Several talk therapy options can help people overcome trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy can help people manage their stress and regulate emotions associated with having experienced a traumatic event. EMDR is an alternative form of treatment specifically designed to help people overcome trauma and provide significant and fast results.
At AM Health Care, we are to help you deal with your mental health in any way possible. We believe in designing a treatment plan that precisely suits your condition and your needs. Mental health disorders can be disruptive and potentially dangerous when left untreated, so there is no reason to wait any longer. Please call us today at 818-383-1297 to learn more about how we can help you and potential treatment options.