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Overview of the Impact of Trauma

The effects of trauma vary depending upon what type of trauma, the age and environment of the person and their past experiences. We know trauma is an experience that threatens the safety and security of the person. This threat can be directly to the person or indirectly to those who are aware of the traumatic experience, called secondary trauma. Post trauma symptoms are normal survival responses indicating resilience.

These traumatic experiences may be acute, such as the Vegas shooting, car accident or an assault, or trauma may be chronic creating more complexity to the recovery process. These chronic traumas look like poverty, emotional and physical neglect, ongoing illness or sexual abuse.

Trauma effects the brain, body and heart.

Trauma and the brain: The brain may become over active by increased startle responses, insomnia, hypervigilance, impulsivity and rapid thoughts. Or the brain may lower alertness, decrease in attention, poor concentration, increase in sleep or inability to keep track of time.

Trauma and the body: The body is deeply effected by trauma and will remember the incident lodging it deep within the body network. Fatigue, nausea, muscle tremors, chest pain, grinding of teeth, chills, profuse sweating, thirst, rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing are some of the ways the body responds to trauma.

Trauma and the heart: The heart may experience a wide range of emotions resulting in grief, denial, fear, uncertainty, panic, anxiety, intense anger, apprehension or irritability. The wide range of emotions that the heart goes through can create the feeling of “going crazy” for the victim who has experienced trauma. These emotions are normal for their experience. They are not crazy.

When your brain, body and heart are being affected simultaneously your behavior will alter. You may find yourself withdrawing or experience changes your normal routine, communication or sexual functioning. You may increase in your alcohol consumption and have emotional outbursts. These behaviors are a result of your brain, body and heart being on overload. In order to make behavior modifications you must understand how your brain, body and heart are being affected.

Written by: Sharon Ball