Trauma is all too common these days, and it can damage your brain.

When you think of trauma, you might picture some major life experience, like war, abuse, or crime. Unfortunately, common life experiences, such as divorce, the death of a loved one or pet, a family member’s substance abuse, mental or physical illness, or incarceration, bullying, natural disasters, a car crash, witnessing violence, poverty, etc.

Almost anything can be traumatic. Trauma is whatever is traumatic to that person’s brain. Any experience that makes an individual feel unsafe, physically or emotionally, and that overwhelms and disrupts their brain’s ability to cope or function qualifies as trauma.

The bad news is trauma can actually alter the operation of your brain during a stressful event and result in lasting changes in specific brain regions. The good news is the brain can reverse the changes and heal.

What Is PTSD Exactly?

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a mental health condition that can develop in people who have experienced or witnessed trauma. PTSD can result in changes in the brain that exhibit as a range of symptoms including:

  • Intrusive Memories: Persistent flashbacks, nightmares, or distressing memories related to the trauma can disrupt a person’s life.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of the trauma, including places, people, or activities that could trigger memories is a common behavior of people with the disorder.
  • Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood: Persistent negative thoughts about oneself or others, feelings of detachment or estrangement from others, and a diminished interest in normal activities can be symptoms.
  • Changes in Emotional Reactivity: People can experience heightened irritability, anger, or other emotions or, at the other extreme, shut down and become emotionally numb.
  • Hyperarousal: Persistent heightened nervous system arousal, including difficulty sleeping, irritability, trouble concentrating, and an exaggerated startle response, are symptoms of the condition.

In the case of PTSD, symptoms and behaviors are persistent and significant enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function in their daily life. A mental health professional typically makes a diagnosis based on behaviors. A blood test can also help diagnose the condition by detecting genetic and cellular changes that accompany the disorder.

Here’s How PTSD Changes Your Brain

PTSD can have observable physical effects on the brain, which research shows cause structural and functional changes. The brain is a highly malleable organ, and exposure to trauma can lead to alterations in many areas, resulting in the symptoms. Some ways PTSD impacts the brain are:


The hippocampus, a region crucial for memory and learning, can be affected by trauma. Studies indicate that individuals with PTSD often have a smaller hippocampus which is associated with difficulties contextualizing and integrating memories. This can contribute to symptoms like flashbacks, intrusive memories, and not being able to distinguish between past and present experiences.


Research shows the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with the processing of emotions and fear responses, tends to become hyperactive in individuals with PTSD. This heightened sensitivity leads to hypervigilance and an exaggerated amygdala response to emotional stimuli

Prefrontal Cortex

The prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making, emotional regulation, and executive functions, is central to fear processing and may undergo changes in individuals with the condition. PTSD can be viewed as a disorder of fear dysregulation, which could result in difficulties with impulse control, emotional regulation, and other cognitive functions.

woman enjoying the sun out in the field

Neurotransmitters and Hormones

Changes in the balance of neurotransmitters have been observed in cases of PTSD. Specifically, PTSD patients, especially people who have endured repeated interpersonal trauma, like. abuse, torture, and combat, usually exhibit low levels of cortisol and serotonin, with high levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and DHEA-S. This can contribute to co-occurring mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and mood swings.

It’s important to note that these changes are not uniform across all individuals with PTSD, and the severity and nature of the brain alterations and symptoms can vary.

This Is How To Heal PTSD

While trauma can alter your brain in ways that lead to PTSD, healing can alter your brain too. Neuroplasticity, the ability of your brain to change both physically and functionally in response to input, is your greatest ally when it comes to healing from trauma.

Healing a traumatized brain takes effort, repetition, and time, but it can be done. Just as humans are biologically equipped with mechanisms to deal with threatening situations, our brains are capable of re-establishing normal operations and feelings of calm, security, and happiness. Research shows the methods below to be helpful in assisting the brain in processing trauma.

Neurofeedback Is a Superior Solution

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive and painless practice that guides and teaches a person’s brain healthier functioning through real-time monitoring of brainwave patterns and positive reinforcement. The brain actually learns to perform at optimal levels and continues to self-regulate at these levels after training.
Trauma-focused neurofeedback can return a hyper-aroused brain to a state of calm so it can respond and operate in healthier ways. There are many studies showing that neurofeedback can significantly improve symptoms and alter the function of people’s brains. In fact, the positive results with neurofeedback in some research has been greater than any medication used for PTSD.

Here’s What the Science Says

In one 2020 study, a group of people participated in 20 weeks of neurofeedback training to reduce their alpha brainwave intensity. At the end of the study, researchers found that the severity of the PTSD symptoms was reduced for over 61 percent of the people receiving neurofeedback. In fact, they no longer had symptoms that defined them as having PTSD.

In 2014, R.C. Kluestsch, MSc, and a team of researchers studied using neurofeedback to relieve symptoms of people living with PTSD. The scientists performed a single neurofeedback session on 21 individuals. Their findings showed that the participants reported a greater sense of calm after just one session. There are different kinds of neurofeedback. Two modalities proving especially helpful for trauma based on the research are Infra-low Frequency Training and Alpha-theta Training.

Other Healing Therapies

Healing from PTSD typically involves a combination of therapeutic interventions, a supportive network, and sometimes medication. Here are some other common approaches which have proven helpful in treating and managing PTSD:


Seeking the assistance of a mental health professional can be crucial to healing successfully. A person who is knowledgeable and experienced in treating PTSD can provide guidance, support, and evidence-based solutions.

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with their traumatic experiences.
  • Exposure Therapy: In this method, a person gradually faces and processes memories or situations that are frightening or traumatic in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR involves focusing on traumatic memories while engaging in side-to-side eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation to help process them and reduce their emotional impact.


Antidepressant medications, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are commonly prescribed to help manage symptoms of PTSD such as anxiety and depression.

Supportive Relationships

A strong support system is crucial to recovery. Family and friends can provide emotional support and understanding. Connecting with others who have experienced similar traumas,like in a support group, can also be helpful.

Happy couple smiling at eachother


To facilitate healing, you will want to engage in activities that promote physical and emotional well-being, such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep. Mindfulness and relaxation practices can also help manage stress and anxiety and calm your nervous system.


Learning about PTSD, what’s happening in your brain and body, the symptoms, and various coping strategies can empower individuals to better understand and manage the condition.


Healing from PTSD is a gradual process.. Often, a multi-faceted approach incorporating several of the practices mentioned above produces the best recovery results. Grey Matters neurofeedback can be a vital part of your healing network. Neurofeedback can reverse the trauma damage and restore healthy brain function to decrease or eliminate the symptoms of PTSD.

At Grey Matters, we are passionate about helping people live their best lives, including optimizing their brain’s health and function through neurofeedback training. Neurofeedback has been scientifically proven to help many conditions, including anxiety, depression, autism, apraxia, ADD and ADHD, concussion and brain injuries, OCD, stroke recovery, addictions, seizure disorders, migraines, chronic pain, chemo brain, and more. Give us a call at (317) 215-7208 or send us a message today to find out how we can help you.

When your brain works better, your life works better.