How Traumatic Events Change The Brain

There are some things that change your life forever. The days where everything seems normal and routine, until it isn’t. These days go by many names, but most of us call them trauma, and they can stick with us forever. For most individuals, trauma is a long-term condition, and it sometimes develops into post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Whether it was a car accident, a natural disaster, a dysfunctional parent or the scarring loss of a loved one, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects those suffering from it tremendously. There are two different types of PTSD, one concerning physical trauma and the other concerning severe emotional trauma. Below are some of the common symptoms, and how the brain is changed after a traumatic brain injury or emotional upheaval. 

Physical trauma

Physical trauma is the type of trauma that results in archetypal PTSD. Some traumatic events, such as a car accident or natural disaster, can lead to traumatic brain injuries which limit or alter brain function. Other symptoms of physical trauma include: 

  • Loss of consciousness or memory
  • Headache, nausea, and vomiting
  • Fatigue or sleep problems
  • Speech issues
  • Dizziness and loss of balance
  • Changes in sensory function, such as blurred vision or loss of hearing
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Changes in mood
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidance responses to triggers (such as a fear of driving after a car accident)

Emotional trauma

Emotional trauma, if repetitive, results in what mental health professionals call complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or CPTSD. This can be coupled with a physical trauma, or be the result of a traumatic emotional event. Those suffering from CPTSD often exhibit different side effects than those suffering from PTSD due to physical trauma. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Intrusive thoughts or flashbacks
  • Changes in mood; anxiety and depressive episodes
  • Hypervigilance
  • Avoidance responses to triggers
  • Trouble with emotional regulation
  • Difficulty with self-image and relationships with others

Those who suffer from PTSD or CPTSD exhibit similar changes in the brain due to the trauma. Those with traumatic brain injuries may have additional symptoms depending on the severity of the injury, but many feature the same changes in the brain: 

How Your Brain Changes

Your amygdala is on hyperdrive. The amygdala is the part of the brain that activates fear and aggression responses, as well as associating memories with emotions. In a survival setting, it helps you to learn what is dangerous and avoid it, as well as trigger the fight-or-flight response to protect you. However, those with PTSD have an overstimulated amygdala. The trauma causes you to be fearful of things that you shouldn’t be, such as driving a car or forming bonds with certain people. This is what often causes the “triggers” of PTSD and CPTSD.

Your hippocampus is changed. During a traumatic event, your body produces excess stress hormones. While this increases your awareness, it can also cause problems in your hippocampus, where long-term memories are stored. This causes those with PTSD to have trouble remembering the details of the traumatic event consciously, while still suffering from its impact. It can also cause your body to react as if the threat is still active, long after you have escaped the dangerous situation. 

These changes can cause those with PTSD and CPTSD to have difficulty living a normal and healthy life. If these symptoms resonate with you, it may be time to find help with Reboot. 

Reboot offers noninvasive QEEG/brain mapping and neurotherapy services that target your symptoms to achieve results. We offer options such as EMDR to help you change the way your brain and beliefs about yourself work, to stop suffering from post-traumatic stress symptoms. If you’re looking to make a change in your life, contact Reboot today.