incredible-marketing Arrow

Is Trauma a Mental Health Disorder?

Many people assume that trauma is a disorder relating to a person’s mental health. After all, trauma affects a person’s mental wellness, and mental health issues are often present in those recovering from trauma. Many in recovery from trauma experience depression and anxiety, which are typically considered mental health disorders.

Trauma, however, is more accurately a disorder of the central nervous system rather than a disorder of the mind. While trauma has an effect on a person’s mental health and wellness, the traumatic response is more of a bodily response to danger.

The central nervous system consists of both the brain and the spinal cord. In simpler organisms, such as worms and fish, the central nervous system operates in a more reactive state to the environment than complex beings, like humans. However, the basis of our central nervous system has a similar mode of operation.

We are exposed to the environment and our bodies react via impulses within the central nervous system. We refer to this as the flight-or-fight response: the automatic reaction to either run from or to face a potential threat. In human beings, however, we have much more complex brains, which process information that inhibits the automatic response.

Herein lies the reason why human beings experience trauma where other animals do not: we are not always able to respond in the way our central nervous system would in the wild when we face threats. As an example, let’s consider a veteran dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The soldier is put into harm’s way, bombs exploding around them, bullets flying by, and people getting hurt right next to them. Our central nervous system tells the soldier to get out of there, where the soldier’s training and cognitive processes fight this instinct to fulfill his or her duty as a soldier.

Trauma exists in the place where we override our strong, instinctive drive for survival, putting ourselves in harm’s way when our bodies tell us not to. Our central nervous systems tell us to do one thing and the executive, higher-order brain functions tell us another. Due to the suppression of our bodily instincts during traumatic experiences, holistic approaches–or whole-self, including our physical bodies–are the best practices for trauma recovery.

Have you experienced trauma in your life? Have you tried to talk through your feelings and are still having a difficult time with recovery? Remember that trauma is a bodily response in the central nervous system and you will have more success in recovery by taking a holistic approach to wellness. Call The Guest House at (855) 483-7800 today for more information on our comprehensive, whole-self approaches to trauma recovery.