What is Trauma?
Trauma is anything that overwhelms our ability to cope. This is a broad definition of trauma since trauma can be processed differently for everyone. Trauma can refer to things like accidents, injury, natural disasters, and/or illness. It can also encompass far extreme experiences such as rape, torture, abuse, and/or death. Trauma involves a deeply distressing experience or experiences which often generate a lasting impact on a person’s mental, physical and emotional well-being.
Small t trauma
Small t traumas are experiences or events that exceed our ability to cope and cause a disruption in emotional functioning. Some examples of this can include divorce, relocation, starting a new school or job, adding members to your family, and legal trouble. These traumas do tend to get overlooked since society may construe our reactions as being overly dramatic. One small t trauma does not usually lead to significant distress but a bunch of small t traumas do add up and lead to an increase of distress.
Big T trauma
Big T traumas are unexpected or extraordinary experiences or events that leave us feeling powerless. Some examples of this would include natural disasters, terrorist attack, sexual assault, and accidents. One big T trauma is usually enough to cause severe distress and interfere with your daily functioning.
Trauma and the brain
Trauma can quite literally change your brain. The three most important places in your brain that trauma can change are prefrontal cortex (thinking center), amygdala (fear center), and the hippocampus (memory center). When the thinking center of our brain is strong we are able to problem solve, make good choices, and think clearly. After a significant traumatic event, these regions impact our stress response so that even long after the trauma, our brains continue to perceive and respond to stress differently than someone who is not suffering from the aftermath of trauma. A traumatic event can be embedded into our memories making it hard to discriminate between past and present experiences. If we come across something that reminds us of our traumatic past, it can trigger extreme stress because our brains are having a difficult time separating between past and present dangers.
The brain can be rewired! Therapy will help improve your symptoms, teach you skills to deal with symptoms, and improve self-esteem. The main treatments for people that have experienced trauma are psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Common therapy practices used to treat trauma include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), neurofeedback, Exposure therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and talking to your doctor about medications that may be a good fit for you. At Aspire Counseling, we respect that each situation is unique and work with clients to determine which treatment meets your specific needs.