Reactions to trauma can vary widely depending on a myriad of factors – with 50% of the population estimated to experience trauma during their lifetime it’s beneficial to understand what trauma does to the brain. Understanding the physical impact of trauma is an important step to healing.
Trauma affects three areas of the brain:
The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) – known as the “thinking center” this part of the brain is responsible for rational thought, problem-solving, personality, planning, empathy, and awareness of both ourselves and others.
The Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) – the “emotional regulation center” of the brain, the ACC is responsible for emotional regulation, and handling difficult thoughts and emotions without being overwhelmed by them.
The Amygdala – the “the fear center” is the area of the brain that evaluates all sensory information to determine if it is a threat. When the amygdala is activated we feel afraid, vigilant, and ready to act.
In a traumatized brain the PFC and ACC are both underactive, while the amygdala is overactive. This causes chronic stress, vigilance, fear, irritation and difficulty feeling safe and relaxing. It can also cause trouble with thinking clearly and concentrating.
Even so, it is important to remember that the brain changes, just as it shifted due to trauma it can shift back. Changing the brain takes time, patience and effort. The best place to start is by looking into psychotherapy services geared towards the management of trauma and PTSD.