Our brains are the command centers of our bodies and are responsible for how we live, grow, and learn. We feel things because our brain utilizes a delicate balance of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that send signals to special parts of our brain. However, this balance can be interrupted and causes a cascade effect that impairs our ability to function correctly. One of the most common causes for our brains to not function correctly is trauma.
How Our Brains Are Damaged by Trauma
Trauma is when we experience an event that is frightening, shocking, or upsetting. Many things can cause trauma, with common examples being violent acts, war, natural disasters, loss of a loved one, accidents, and invasive medical procedures. When we become traumatized, we experience the effects of the trauma long after the event is over. It makes it hard to feel safe and secure, especially if we are constantly reminded of our trauma.
Trauma affects a specific part of our nervous system that is designed to protect us from danger. This is known as our fight-or-flight response. When we are in danger, our bodies prepare themselves to either run to safety or fight for our lives. It does this by flooding our bodies with a special type of hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline causes us to breathe heavily and our hearts to beat faster, so we absorb more oxygen into our muscles and bloodstream. We also begin to sweat to keep our core body temperature down.
Usually, someone’s brain can turn this response off by itself after the danger has passed. For someone with trauma, the brain believes it is in constant danger and cannot turn off this response, even if someone knows there is no danger present.
This inability to stop this constant feeling of danger can cause someone to develop a mental health disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the disorder most commonly associated with trauma. Anxiety disorders are also common after traumatic experiences. Trauma can profoundly affect someone’s life and prevent them from living their lives to the fullest. Thankfully, there are several treatments and methods available to help someone heal from their trauma.
Healing the Brain Through Therapy
To heal our brain from trauma, we must first fully process our trauma. This is usually done through psychotherapy, which helps someone discuss their trauma in a safe environment. Helping someone talk about their trauma helps them understand it. Understanding is the bane of fear, and psychotherapy helps someone process what happened to them and the emotions that come from it. This type of therapy also teaches someone coping skills to use in situations where their fear may get the better of them. Practicing these skills helps the brain learn when to recognize when danger doesn’t exist.
Therapy can also help someone resolve complex emotions related to trauma, such as guilt, sadness, anger, and disgust. Doing so helps remove the stress of these emotions from an already overloaded system. This is another part of the healing process, especially if someone blames themselves for their trauma.
There are other types of therapies besides talk therapy that can help someone heal from trauma. Neurofeedback therapy works by letting someone watch their brain waves in real-time as they practice self-calming techniques. Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy helps someone confront their trauma without becoming retraumatized in the process. With new treatments being researched every year, it’s possible that even more effective treatments can appear in the future.
Medication, Meditation, and Other Approaches
There are other healing techniques a person may use to help them in their healing journey that is sometimes used in conjunction with therapy.
One such technique is meditation, which is often encouraged for everyone to try, not only those with a mental health disorder. Meditation works by achieving a state of mental clarity to keep emotionally calm and stable. This can help people calm an over-active mind to help their bodies come down from a fight or flight response. Meditation is often encouraged as part of a self-care routine, not just for therapy alone. Learning how to meditate takes dedication, but practice can help someone further control their mental state.
Medication is sometimes used in therapy. Usually, these medications are there to help reduce the physical symptoms of trauma, such as racing hearts and tremors. Sometimes these symptoms make it hard for someone to rest, which is important in the health and healing of a person. Medications are often used in this way, so someone can get the rest they need so can start to heal. Sometimes it’s also used to help regulate moods that cannot be regulated on their own. Not everyone needs medication as part of their treatment, but it does help many people heal from their trauma.
Other people may turn to things such as creativity and nature to help heal their brains. Creativity helps someone tangibly process their emotions, letting people get out of negative emotions safely and productively. Green therapy has been proven to help many people feel at peace with themselves. Others may make use of animals, such as emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals, to help them function. Having a companion that will not judge or belittle them is important to have during the healing process.
It’s important to speak with a mental healthcare professional before trying anything new or replacing treatment with something else. A professional can help guide you to treatments and techniques that are safe and effective. Many will be able to point you in the direction of qualified teachers or providers that can help you as well.
How you heal is up to you, but remember that healing is possible. It takes effort and time, but anyone can recover from their trauma as long as they have the right support. It’s never too late for help.
Trauma can continue to haunt someone long after the traumatic event has passed. This trauma can cause several health concerns, one of which is the development of a mental health disorder. It can sometimes feel like you will be trapped in a constant state of fear forever. However, with help, you can begin to feel like yourself again and leave your fear in the past. Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, offers specialized treatments to help anyone cope with and heal from their trauma. If you or someone you love is struggling with their trauma, call (949) 647-4090 today to speak with one of our compassionate staff members. Everyone deserves help, including yourself and those you love.