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Trauma has a profound effect on society because it does not discriminate. It can happen to people from all walks of life and from all demographics. Although trauma doesn’t affect each person the same, there are some ways that trauma affects our bodies and behaviors that tend to be more common. No matter how trauma manifests in our lives, resources are available to help us heal. A good starting point is to understand trauma and how it can affect you. Trauma impacts us individually and as a society in many ways; this article only touches on the most prevalent.

Cognitive and Behavioral Impacts

Trauma has many profound cognitive impacts. Whether a person is aware of it or not, they may be in a constant state of hyperarousal. This leads to issues like sleep disturbances, muscle tension, and a heightened startle reaction. People experience hyperarousal after trauma because it is a subconscious way of being prepared to deal with other traumatic situations. Some may turn to substances to deal with the cognitive symptoms of trauma. The most prevalent of these is alcohol. Alcohol acts as a depressant which can inhibit feelings of anxiety and quell hypervigilant behaviors. Other dangerous behaviors arising from trauma are self-harm or eating disorders.

Other cognitive issues stemming from trauma can include:

  1. Trauma induced hallucinations
  2. Intrusive thoughts and memories
  3. Inaccurate realizations or idealizations of people or events

Triggers and flashbacks tend to be the most prevalent ways trauma affects our daily lives. Triggers are environmental stimuli that remind the brain of past traumatic events. Flashbacks are experiencing traumatic events as if they are occurring in that moment. Flashbacks can be caused by triggers, but sometimes our physical states can cause them. For instance, if you are fatigued or experiencing high levels of stress, you may be more disposed to experiencing a flashback.

Brain Function Related to Trauma

One of the most profound yet least understood effects of trauma is on brain development. Brain scans have revealed the possibility that childhood trauma can inhibit growth of the hypothalamus. This region of the brain is responsible for memory recall and stress control. Thus, we can see why trauma would affect a person’s ability to remember traumatic events or their ability to handle stress.  Another area of the brain affected by trauma is the amygdala, which holds emotional significance of events, including emotional impulse reactions to stimuli. When we experience traumatic events, adrenaline races through our limbic system imprinting memories of traumatic events on the amygdala. 

The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA, is also affected by trauma. Cortisol production becomes dysregulated which can lead to decreased ability to handle stress. These dysregulations can lead to many health issues including insomnia and irritable bowel disease. There is also dysregulation of neurotransmitters that can affect stress responses and prolong them far past the point of the original traumatic event. A full explanation of how trauma affects the brain and how it functions is beyond the limits of this article, and neuroscientists still strive to answer some unresolved mysteries of the brain.

Trauma’s Impact on Interpersonal Relationships

A person’s ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships is affected by trauma as well. Many who experience severe physical or emotional trauma in childhood feel a sense of betrayal and this can put a strain on their ability to trust others in adulthood. This can put a strain on relationships with counselors and peers during recovery as well. Also, people who experience trauma may feel that their responses or needs are a burden to others and feel hesitant to look to others for support.

Trauma can also lead to codependent behaviors in relationships. People may experience attachment issues after experiencing trauma, whether in childhood or adulthood, which may lead to overcompensating behaviors. For instance, someone who experienced neglect in childhood may be an enabler in a dysfunctional relationship in order to prevent being “abandoned” by a loved one. In other cases, people may subconsciously seek out dysfunctional relationships because they feel unworthy and often people do not realize they are in a dysfunctional relationship to begin with.

Trauma affects society as a whole, too. Substance abuse is a major public health crisis, and right now it is labeled as an epidemic. Many people have turned to substances as a way to self-medicate their symptoms. Substances become an easily accessible way to displace emotions and behaviors associated with trauma. Once the substance is no longer being used, however, depression and anxiety may become prevalent. Some substances such as alcohol can further exacerbate problems like anxiety and sleep. 

The impact of trauma on our daily lives is profound yet many people do not recognize these issues or behaviors in their own lives. It can be hard for us to come to terms with the fact that we have been traumatized and need help healing. Many of our issues can be influenced by the trauma we have experienced, substance abuse being most prevalent among these issues. Resources are available to help treat trauma and substance abuse as co-occurring disorders. At The Guest House Ocala, we pride ourselves on our ability to help people recover from trauma and substance abuse. Our staff is dedicated to seeking out the roots of your issues and helping you find ways to move on. Located in the tranquil Ocala National Forest, we offer many treatment modalities to ensure a sustainable recovery while providing comfort and peace of mind. Do not hesitate to call us at (855) 483-7800.