Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What is Trauma?

Most people are familiar with the word trauma when it has to do with sudden painful serious physical experiences, but did you know that Trauma can be as devastating if it is created from an emotional experience?  Emotional trauma is a term used to explain events that are emotionally distressing, and that engulf people’s ability to cope, leaving them with a feeling of helplessness.  It comes from terrifying thoughts and distressing emotions.  Mental trauma can cause individuals to act in very fearful ways, create a sense of vulnerability and remoteness, sleeplessness, irritability, hostility, hyper awareness, or even flashbacks.

Many forms of trauma exist. Violence and physical assault are the most readily understood forms of physical and mental trauma; however, it is important to know that more subtle forms of trauma are as insidious and equally as devastating. Continued Discrimination, poverty and destitution, witnessing violence, or any continual or prolonged fear, anxiety or a chaotic lifestyle can be considered trauma as they are life altering and they have effects on the health and life situations of the individuals involved.

Scientific studies have found that children who are consistently subjected to stress and trauma are wired differently than children who live and are raised in a safe secure environment. But how is trauma detrimental to the development of a child?  When stress or threat occurs, the individual’s body responses with a “fight or flight” reaction.  The powerful hormone cortisol is released, and although it is important and can be a protection device in emergencies, if chronic stress occurs, the levels become toxic, and they damage and kill neurons that are present in crucial parts of the brain.  Hyperarousal, which causes an elevated heart rate, body temperature, and continuous angst, are continually present in the person’s life.  An internal reaction is that the child disassociates, shutting down, and detaching from emotions and feelings in order to adapt.  The younger the child, the more likely they are to suffer from posttraumatic stress. This takes place due to the fact that they are helpless to be able to fight or flee. A state of helplessness becomes a learned response to life and the effects will reverberate throughout the child’s development unless treated.

If you or someone you love suffers from trauma, give us a call: (310) 310-9249  We can help!  Join us in May as we continue to discuss the impact of trauma.            

 “Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaptations to life.”  — Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery