According to the National Council for Behavioral Health, it’s estimated that 70% of adults in the U.S. will experience trauma at some point in their life. The emotional, mental, and physical symptoms trauma triggers can feel debilitating. Many people find it difficult to process what has happened or how they can even begin to heal. In this article, we’ll discuss how a trauma therapist in Chicago can help you in your path to healing and recovery.
Understanding how trauma impacts the brain
There are many reasons why trauma is so difficult to deal with. Trauma isn’t just experienced during the event; many people experience post-traumatic stress for months or even years after the event has occurred. This traumatic stress response leads to physical changes within the brain.
The amygdala enlarges and becomes overactive
After experiencing a traumatic event, the amygdala, or “fear center of the brain,” becomes enlarged and overactive, which makes you hypervigilant and always on alert. In turn, this can lead to increased levels of cortisol and norepinephrine responses, which only strengthens the memory of the traumatic experience and leads to flashbacks, nightmares, and distress.
An overactive amygdala also makes it more difficult to regulate emotions and tolerate stress, even when it isn’t related to your trauma.
The hippocampus shrinks
Studies have also found that trauma can shrink the hippocampus, which is responsible for long-term memory storage. This reality can make it difficult for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event to distinguish between past and present. As a result, individuals may experience flashbacks and relive past traumatic events.
The prefrontal cortex shrinks
Experiencing a traumatic event can also shrink the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that’s responsible for regulating thoughts and emotions as well as keeping us from responding to people and events in unfiltered, usually reckless ways. This makes it difficult for your brain to regulate fear, anxiety, and stress responses when something happens that resembles your original trauma.
It can also make it more difficult to feel safe, trust others, and have rational thoughts. Finally, untreated trauma in the past makes future trauma that much more likely to become full-blown PTSD in survivors of traumatic events.
Examples of traumatic events
Trauma is a very personal experience. It’s often difficult to define because there’s an unlimited number of things you can experience as being traumatic.
Trauma is less about what happens to you and more about how you experienced and then processed that event. Anything that causes your thoughts, emotions, and body to be overwhelmed can be considered traumatic. Some examples include:
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Domestic, dating, or family violence
- Community violence, such as a mugging, shooting, or assault
- Witnessing death, especially when it was unexpected or violent
- Childhood neglect
- Serious injury or life-threatening illness (e.g., dog attack, cancer, burns, etc.)
- War and/or terrorism
What is trauma therapy and how does it work?
Trauma therapy is a form of talk therapy that aims to treat the emotional and mental consequences associated with trauma. Trauma therapy often helps people process and accept what has happened to them. That’s often the first step in the healing process. There are several different types of trauma therapy, which include:
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
- Critical incident stress debriefing
- Body work that takes many forms
Trauma therapy can help provide you with coping skills, reduce fear and avoidance, build trust, reframe your thinking, and offer validation to the feelings and symptoms you’re experiencing.
Find a trauma therapist in Chicago
Experiencing trauma often has a profound impact on your life. It changes the way you think, feel, and experience life on a daily basis. Fortunately, therapy can help. If you’re interested in finding a trauma therapist in Chicago, reach out to us today at Wellington Counseling Group.
We are here to help support you on your healing journey.