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How Traumatic Events Affect the Brain and Body

Our world is full of tragedies. Rape is a common experience, particularly among women, and many people have been involved in abusive and violent relationships. Terrorism is constantly on the television screen, and natural disasters can quickly destroy lives. All of these experiences have one thing in common: they’re forms of trauma.

What is Trauma?

Trauma can lead to a range of mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So how does trauma affect people? The effects vary from person to person, and with life circumstances, but here are some things you need to know about trauma.

Trauma Changes Your Body

If you sustain injuries associated with your trauma, those injuries can serve as a constant reminder of what you’ve been through. But even if you experience no physical injuries, trauma can change your body. Trauma survivors are more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, and a host of other conditions. Some research even suggests that trauma can cause people to die prematurely. Addressing the psychological pain of trauma can help you undo its physical effects.

Trauma Changes Your Brain

The psychological effects of trauma are more than just the product of emotional pain. And they’re far from a choice. Trauma changes the way your brain functions, altering neurotransmitter levels and changing the way your mind processes information. This can make you more vulnerable to other mental health conditions, in addition to creating a vicious cycle whereby you view progressively more experiences through the lens of trauma.

Trauma Primes You for More Trauma

People who have a history of trauma are more vulnerable to future trauma. They may react poorly to stressful life events, or even allow their trauma to colour their behaviour, placing them in danger. For example, some research shows that a previous rape increases the likelihood of a subsequent rape. Involvement in an abusive relationship can alter perceptions about what healthy relationships look like, thereby subjecting a victim to even more abuse. This increasing vulnerability to trauma after one traumatic experience makes it clear that trauma treatment doesn’t just make lives better; it can actually save lives.

Trauma is Treatable

Many mental health conditions spring from unreasonable or fanciful thoughts. Depressed people view the world through a needlessly negative lens; anxious people see danger where none exists. But the after-effects of trauma are based on something real. It’s hard to tell someone their thoughts don’t make sense when they spring from a very real and very terrifying experience. So counselling for trauma victims must be sensitive to the trauma they have experienced.

That’s exactly what we offer at Three Seas. We understand that the symptoms of trauma are different from those of other mental illnesses. We know how to treat trauma survivors, so they can transition from victims to survivors, and lead thriving, happy lives. Trauma is treatable, no matter how bad it feels right now.