Trauma is an emotional response to a disturbing event, such as an accident, assault, a natural disaster, or the loss of a loved one. Although trauma is emotional in nature, it can also cause various physical problems, especially when the trauma is left unprocessed. For example, people who experience childhood trauma have a higher chance of developing heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and strokes in their adult years.
People who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experience physical symptoms that begin in their brains. Studies have shown that PTSD sufferers have more activity in their amygdalas, which is the part of the brain that deals with emotions and fear. Trauma leaves their brains in a type of hyper-alert “danger mode,” long after the danger has ended. As time progresses, the effects of PTSD can permanently change the brain, shrinking the hippocampus and reducing short-term memory functions. This is one of the many reasons why it’s essential to reach out for help early after experiencing trauma.
This abnormal brain activity is just one of many symptoms that PTSD patients might encounter. People with PTSD often have flashbacks to the trauma they experienced, and they can also have trouble sleeping and experience feelings of guilt, anger, or numbness. Similar to those with depression, they may also lose interest in activities that they once enjoyed.
How to Deal with the Physical Effects of Trauma
If you or someone you know is dealing with the physical effects of trauma, reach out for help as soon as possible. It is not enough to address the physical symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. For example, if a trauma survivor has gained weight as a result of their experience, a weight loss plan is not a sufficient treatment. Even if the person in this scenario is successful in losing weight, they must address the root issue and begin to process the trauma they experienced, or they risk returning to their original state.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one way that therapists can help trauma victims to process their trauma. Among other outcomes, CBT has been shown to successfully help patients reorient their thinking patterns and stress hormones in the body.
If you have experienced trauma, whether or not you have been diagnosed with PTSD, don’t hesitate to get help. Trauma must be processed, or it will continue to wreak havoc on the mind and body. Reach out to a licensed therapist as soon as possible and begin your healing process today.