The Body Keeps the Score: How Trauma Affects Your Brain and Body

Trauma is not something that you can just forget or get over. It leaves a lasting imprint on your brain and body, affecting how you think, feel, and behave. Trauma can make you feel numb, disconnected, anxious, angry, or depressed. It can also cause physical symptoms like headaches, insomnia, chronic pain, or digestive problems. Trauma can interfere with your ability to enjoy life, form healthy relationships, and cope with stress.
But there is hope. In his groundbreaking book, The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading expert on trauma, explains how trauma affects the brain and body, and how you can heal from its effects. He draws on decades of research and clinical experience to show how trauma changes the brain’s structure and function, and how various therapies can help restore balance and resilience. He also explores how trauma affects our society, and how we can create more trauma-informed communities.
In this blog post, we will summarize some of the key insights from The Body Keeps the Score, and how they can help you understand and overcome trauma.

How Trauma Changes the Brain

Trauma is an overwhelming experience that threatens your survival or sense of safety. It can be caused by a single event, such as an accident, assault, or natural disaster, or by repeated or prolonged exposure to abuse, neglect, violence, or war. Trauma can also be inherited from previous generations or transmitted through social or cultural factors.
When you experience trauma, your brain goes into survival mode. It activates the fight-or-flight response, which prepares you to either fight back or run away from the threat. This response involves a surge of adrenaline and cortisol, which increase your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and muscle tension. It also shuts down non-essential functions like digestion, immunity, and rational thinking.
The fight-or-flight response is adaptive in the short term, as it helps you cope with the immediate danger. But if the threat persists or recurs, your brain stays stuck in this mode, even when there is no actual danger. This can lead to chronic stress, which damages your brain and body over time.
One of the brain regions that is affected by trauma is the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for detecting threats and triggering emotional reactions. Trauma makes the amygdala more sensitive and reactive so that you perceive everything as a potential threat. This can make you more fearful, anxious, angry, or impulsive.
Another brain region that is affected by trauma is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for storing and retrieving memories. Trauma impairs the hippocampus’s ability to encode and integrate memories properly. This can make you forget important details of the traumatic event, or remember them in a fragmented or distorted way. It can also make you relive the trauma as if it were happening in the present, through flashbacks or nightmares.
A third brain region that is affected by trauma is the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for higher-order functions like planning, reasoning, decision-making, and self-control. Trauma reduces the activity and connectivity of the prefrontal cortex, making it harder for you to think clearly, regulate your emotions, and control your impulses.
Trauma also affects the communication between these brain regions. Normally, the prefrontal cortex helps modulate the amygdala and hippocampus’s responses to stress. But trauma weakens this connection, making it harder for you to calm yourself down or put things into perspective.

How Trauma Changes the Body

Trauma not only affects your brain but also your body. When you experience trauma, your body registers it as a physical sensation. You may feel pain, tightness, heat, coldness, tingling, numbness,
or other sensations in different parts of your body. These sensations are signals from your nervous system that something is wrong.
Your nervous system consists of two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS activates the fight-or-flight response when you face a threat. The PNS activates the rest-and-digest response when you are safe and relaxed. Both branches are essential for your health and well-being.
However, trauma disrupts the balance between these two branches. Trauma keeps your SNS on high alert,
making you more tense,
and reactive.
Trauma also inhibits your PNS,
making it harder for you to relax,
and heal.
This imbalance can cause various physical and mental health problems,
such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraines
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
    Trauma also affects your immune system,
    which protects you from infections and diseases.
    Trauma weakens your immune system,
    making you more vulnerable to illness and inflammation.
    Trauma also affects your endocrine system,
    which regulates your hormones and metabolism.
    Trauma alters your hormone levels,
    affecting your mood,
    and sexual function.

How to Heal from Trauma

Trauma can have devastating effects on your brain and body,
but it does not have to define you or limit you.
You can heal from trauma and reclaim your life.
The key to healing is to restore the connection between your brain and body,
and to create a sense of safety and trust in yourself and others.
There are many ways to heal from trauma,
and different approaches may work for different people.
Some of the most effective therapies for trauma include:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is a process of talking with a trained professional who can help you understand and process your trauma. Psychotherapy can help you identify and challenge negative beliefs, cope with difficult emotions, and develop new skills and strategies. There are various types of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT).
  • Medication: Medication can help reduce some of the symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, or flashbacks. Medication can also help stabilize your mood, improve your concentration, and enhance your functioning. However, medication is not a cure for trauma, and it may have side effects or interactions. Therefore, medication should be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, and under the guidance of a qualified prescriber.
  • Neurofeedback: Neurofeedback is a technique that uses sensors attached to your scalp to measure your brain waves. You can then see your brain activity on a screen, and learn how to change it through feedback and rewards. Neurofeedback can help you regulate your brain waves, and improve your attention, memory, mood, and sleep. Neurofeedback can also help you reduce the effects of trauma on your brain, such as hyperarousal, hypervigilance, or dissociation.
  • Meditation: Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on a chosen object, such as your breath, a word, a sound, or an image. Meditation can help you calm your mind, relax your body, and increase your awareness. Meditation can also help you reduce stress, enhance your well-being, and promote healing. There are various types of meditation, such as mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, mantra meditation, or guided imagery.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a system of physical exercises, breathing techniques, and mental disciplines that originated in India. Yoga can help you improve your strength, flexibility, balance, and posture. Yoga can also help you regulate your breathing, lower your blood pressure, and boost your immune system. Yoga can also help you connect with your body, release tension, and cultivate mindfulness. There are various styles of yoga, such as hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, Bikram yoga, or kundalini yoga.
  • Sports: Sports are physical activities that involve skill,
    or recreation.
    Sports can help you improve your fitness,
    and endurance.
    Sports can also help you release energy,
    have fun,
    and socialize with others.
    Sports can also help you cope with stress,
    build confidence,
    and overcome challenges.
    There are various types of sports,
    such as running,
    or basketball.
    These are just some of the ways to heal from trauma.
    You may find other methods that work for you,
    such as art,
    or volunteering.
    The important thing is to find something that makes you feel alive,
    and empowered.
    Trauma is a common and complex phenomenon that affects millions of people around the world.
    Trauma can have profound effects on your brain and body,
    impairing your health and happiness.
    But trauma is not the end of the story.
    You can heal from trauma and transform your life.
    By understanding how trauma affects you,
    and by seeking appropriate treatment and support,
    you can recover from its effects
    and create a new sense of meaning
    and purpose.
    If you have experienced trauma
    or if you think you may have symptoms of trauma
    please do not hesitate to reach out for help.
    You are not alone
    and you deserve to heal.

Thank you for reading this blog post. We hope you learned something new and valuable. If you’re interested in buying this product, you can easily do so by clicking on the button below.