How does Trauma impact the body and mind?
Trauma’s impacts are far-reaching and not always easily perceived. Our muscles, bones, ligaments, blood, and fascia are affected. Our heart and all organs get affected as well. And on a subtler level, our brain tissue, thoughts, beliefs, self-image, attitudes, and worldview are also affected.
Research suggests that the first stage in a cascade of events produced by trauma involves the disruption of chemicals that function as neurotransmitters (e.g., cortisol, norepinephrine, dopamine), causing escalation of the stress response. These chemical responses can then negatively affect critical neural growth. A physical imprint is left inside the autonomic nervous system which may lead to a host of symptoms, including dissociation, cognitive decline, excessive or inappropriate guilt, trauma-induced hallucinations or delusions, sleep disturbances, self-destructive thoughts and intrusive thoughts and memories.
Trauma survivors may experience impulsive behavior, self-destructive thoughts and behaviors, and often experience dangerous interpersonal situations, addictions, and ongoing dissociation. They also often experience the world as unsafe, a place where they can consciously or unconsciously re-enact earlier traumas.
Some people reduce tension or stress through self-medicating (e.g., alcohol abuse), compulsivity (e.g., overeating), impulsivity (e.g., high-risk behaviors), and/or self-injurious behaviors. Avoidance is common as the world is seen as unsafe, so loneliness and isolation may ensue.