Experiencing traumatic events often changes the trajectory of our lives. When we experience trauma, our brains are flooded with adrenaline and other neurotransmitters. As a result, an imprint of the event is chemically tattooed in the emotional center. As a result the emotional portion of the brain continues in loop, disconnecting itself from the area of the brain responsible for reasoning and logic.
Not only does trauma affect our mental health, but it also affects us physically. It also affects how we manage our day-to-day challenges, the way we handle relationships, and think about life. For some, it could be in the form of nightmares or flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, loneliness, anger, and self-destructive actions. These are normal responses to trauma, but in many cases it doesn’t go away on it’s own.
That is where we come in! For overcoming trauma, neurofeedback training from Grey Matters of Carmel is an effective approach. It helps re-train the brain, creating new, healthy pathways that avoid the trauma area altogether. This doesn’t mean your brain erases the memories, but it does mean less adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress chemicals flooding your brain.
The Brain’s Response to Trauma
Many of us have experienced some form of trauma in our lives, be it a car accident, death of a loved one, or abuse. Prolonged exposure to these events sends the brain into a chronic fight-or-flight mode. Trauma usually affects three main parts of the brain: the amygdala, which processes the emotions and memories; the hippocampus, which regulates memory; and the prefrontal cortex, which performs functions of cognitive control.
The brain’s delicate structure and chemical balance is often affected by traumatic stress. It changes the way we function and can be minor or severe. Some develop PTSD, while others suffer from a heightened sense of anxiety. But regarldess of the level of trauma, one thing is common among all our patients: They struggle with emotional regulation.
Trauma Activates The Amygdala
As we’ve mentioned, the amygdala is one area of the brain where trauma is chemically stored. When we experience a frightening event, our fear responses become more intense because of the flood of chemicals to the amygdala. This often leads to flashbacks and nightmares. It also leads to insomnia because the emotion-driven thoughts become intrusive. When you are reminded of the traumatic experience, the amygdala goes into overdrive, and acts just like you are experiencing trauma for the first time, which causes you to be on high alert all the time. An overactive amygdala also causes:
- Increased irritation
- Chronic stress
- Heightened fear
- An inability to calm down
Trauma Shrinks The Hippocampus
Trauma stress affects the hippocampus which makes it difficult for us to differentiate the past and present. Studies have shown that stress from a traumatic event can actually reduce the volume of the hippocampus. Eventually, your brain can’t tell the difference between the trauma you experienced and the memory of it. As a result, environments that look, feel, sound, and even smell the same cause panic, fear and stress.
Trauma Decreases Prefrontal Cortex Function
According to research, the prefrontal cortex is suppressed due to trauma stress which makes us less capable of controlling our fear and negatively impacting our ability to solve problems, learn new information, and manage our emotions. In simple words, it makes logical thinking difficult for us and makes it hard to control our fears.
The Healing Process
While this might all sound scary, we’re here to tell you that trauma doesn’t make irreversible changes to your brain. It can feel like you’ll never escape or heal, but that’s not true. The brain is an astonishing organ that can be shaped and molded with the right help. By encouraging healthy, safe, and stable neuralpathway function, we can dramatically alter the way your brain functions. This doesn’t undo the trauma, or your memories of the event, but it does help you process and regulate your emotions. It also gets the brain out of that chronic fight-or-flight mode by showing it that you’re no longer in danger.
We do understand that overcoming trauma is a difficult process but it is not something unachievable. Neurofeedback training at Grey Matters of Carmel is here for you. So contact us today and come out stronger tomorrow!
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