How can Trauma Affect the Brain?

Brain and Trauma

A trauma profoundly affects a person’s life in such a way that the brain and body start behaving differently than they used to do before. A person’s response, behavior, thinking, actions, feelings change which are easily noticeable and this shows how a traumatized brain differs from a normal brain. There can be many reasons behind the trauma for car accident, bankruptcy, physical abuse, etc. Such events have a long-lasting effect on a person’s life and mental health.

The aftermath of trauma is quite severe as the person could have flashbacks or nightmares, loneliness, intruding and suicidal thoughts, and more. Every other person who suffers from trauma responds to it differently and the way it has influenced their brain development varies from person to person. A trauma may impact a person’s life more than they realize, but the good news is these changes in their lives are not permanent as recovery and healing are possible!


What parts of the brain are affected?

The trauma does not just hit on the surface rather it goes all the way down impacting different parts of the brain. Amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex are the parts of the brain that are most influenced after facing a traumatic event.

As a response to trauma, the body releases a stress hormone called adrenaline in the bloodstream which activates the part of the brain called the amygdala– the emotional reminiscent. The amygdala is responsible for controlling emotions. It responds to emotional memories and detects fear responses. If a person goes through a traumatic event and shows signs of PTSD, their amygdala would become more active than it is normally.

The trauma impinges a person’s brain in such a way that sometimes they feel like reliving the traumatic moments as if their past becomes their present. People who suffer from PTSD gave extreme fear reactions as a consequence of changes in their amygdala.

When a person feels threatened or in danger, their body releases another stress hormone called Cortisol. This hormone damages a part of the brain known as the hippocampus which is mainly related to learning and memory. According to researchers, it has been proved that people who suffer from chronic trauma for example domestic violence tend to have a smaller hippocampus. Also, the function of the hippocampus decreases in a person having PTSD when they are open up to something that reminds them of that traumatic event. The hippocampus varies in structures as it changes and grows to depend on the effect of trauma on the person. It is also researched that people who have suffered from PTSD have a smaller hippocampus than those who faced the trauma but did not have PTSD. In such a case, the effect of PTSD on the brain is more intense than the trauma alone.

The third part of the brain which is affected by trauma is called the prefrontal cortex which is found in front of the brain. It is responsible for managing emotions, planning, and reasoning that include high-level thinking. People suffering from PTSD decreased functionality and activity of the prefrontal cortex when exposed to anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. This is a sign which shows they are still facing difficulty in recovering from the trauma.

A trauma can impinge the brain of a person in different ways which may have a long-lasting negative effect on their life and mental health. The best way to recover from traumatic events or PTSD is to find a treatment center for trauma and with the help of therapies and medication the brain can heal itself.