What Does Trauma Do to the Brain?

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The regions of the brain that control emotional regulation, fear and stress responses, and executive functions can be affected by trauma. Trauma increases the likelihood of development of emotional, behavioral, and mental health problems, especially when it occurs in childhood.

Thankfully, with the guidance and support of a trauma-informed therapist, the effects of trauma on the brain are reversible.

Several miniature people posed around and on a model brain as though studying it.

Can Emotional Trauma Cause Brain Damage?

According to the Highland Springs Clinic, emotional trauma and PTSD both cause brain and physical damage. Neuropathologists have seen overlapping effects of physical and emotional trauma upon the brain.

We see through this overlap that both of these traumas have a detrimental effect on the Amygdala, the Hippocampus, and the Prefrontal cortex of the brain, which means that emotional trauma or PTSD does indeed result in brain injury or damage.

Emotional Trauma Affects the Amygdala

The section of the brain that controls emotions, memory, and survival instincts is called the amygdala. The amygdala gathers information and uses your memory to determine threats.

Through the use of your senses, the amygdala will respond to perceived threats with a feeling of fear. People who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder have been found to have hyperactive amygdala responses.

People suffering from emotional trauma often experience enhanced fear of the stressors that caused their trauma. These stressors cause overactivity in the amygdala, so the person feels more fear than people who have not suffered from the traumatic event.

An overactive amygdala may also cause chronic stress and increased irritation, along with heightened fear. This overactivity is why people with emotional trauma often struggle with remaining calm and sleeping.

How Does Trauma Affect The Brain?

The hippocampus is the main part of the brain responsible for the storage and retrieval of memories. It also differentiates between past and present experiences.

Research has shown that people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder have a smaller hippocampal volume than other people. A smaller hippocampus will affect the brain’s ability to recall certain memories.

Some people with reduced hippocampus volumes often experience vivid and repetitive memories of their traumatic experiences. Certain environments and situations may trigger feelings of stress, fear, and panic because their hippocampus does not differentiate their current situation from their previous trauma.

The brain, therefore, perceives a threat and activates a fight or flight response.

Mental Health Issues From Emotional Trauma

People who have experienced trauma also have significant changes in their brains. These changes often lead to depression and anxiety.

People who develop post-traumatic stress disorder are particularly susceptible to having their brain rewire itself in response to the trauma. The developing brains in children are also susceptible to the impacts of trauma.

Variations in the function and volume of the brain are associated with childhood trauma.

Researchers are working to understand the effects of trauma on the brain in an effort to help ease the suffering of painful emotional symptoms. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are the most extreme manifestations of emotional distress.

Research on changes within the brain caused by trauma is being used in the recovery process of sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

How Do Researchers See the Difference Between a Healthy Brain and a Traumatized Brain?

Researchers use neuroimaging to create maps of the brain when they study sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, and they compare these images to the brains of people who have not experienced trauma.

They are able to see significant differences in brain function and structure between the two types of people. The traumatized brain changes cause the person to experience continuous stress.

What Is the Treatment for Brain Damage Caused by Emotional Trauma?

The symptoms of the significant effects of emotional trauma on the brain may be reversed.

Treatment methods are used to help improve emotional regulation and memory. The brain responds to these treatments with improved functioning in the affected areas.

There are also therapeutic methods and medications that rebuild the lost volume of certain sections of the brain, such as the hippocampus.

People have made progress through trauma-releasing exercises that help them reconnect with themselves and improve their brain function. Management of post-traumatic stress disorder helps to improve the individual’s emotional and mental health.

Treatment of emotional trauma helps heal the effects on the brain. There are many ways to treat emotional trauma, and medical professionals should be able to help you to find a plan that best works for you. Some helpful tips that you can practice on your own to aid in your recovery include the following:

  • Participate in physical activity. Walking or swimming have positive effects on the brain.
  • Talk to people about how you are feeling. It is important to avoid isolating yourself.
  • Calm yourself when negative feelings start to build up. Deep breathing or removing yourself from certain situations can keep your emotions under control.
  • Take care of your brain with plenty of sleep, exercise, water, and a healthy diet.
  • Follow your regular routine. Get up and do something, even when you do not feel like it.
  • Participate in activities that give you meaning. Volunteering, gardening, or taking care of animals is extremely beneficial for your emotional well-being.
  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, as they make symptoms worse.
  • Talk to a mental health professional if symptoms persist.

Mental health can be significantly affected by trauma, and a person’s brain functioning suffers serious impacts. Through treatment methods that focus on emotional regulation and rebuilding brain volume, recovery is possible for anyone who has suffered from emotional trauma.

How Does Childhood Trauma Impact the Development of the Brain?

Experiencing trauma early in life is very common. People react differently to trauma, and children who develop post-traumatic stress also develop variations in the volume and surface area of the insula of their brains.

According to Science Direct, the insula is a cortical region linked with salience detection, self-awareness, interoception, pain processing, and addiction.

Early treatment to minimize the effects of childhood trauma is important because children tend to be more significantly impacted by trauma than adults. Teaching children how to cope with trauma events and stress can prevent long term damage to their mental health.

Children typically make full recoveries and improve their brain functions with treatment.

Contact Tatum & Atkinson to Get the Compensation You Deserve

If you or your loved one has suffered emotional trauma as a result of someone else’s negligent actions, you may be entitled to receive compensation.

Our team of brain injury attorneys at Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters are experienced with emotional trauma and brain injuries. We will build a strong legal case to prove the extent of your injury with the help of medical experts.

Contact us today at (800) LAW-0804 for a free consultation to learn more about your options.

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