Can Trauma be Reversed?

By: Kristine Davis, LPCC, Certified NeurOptimal® trainer

Hearing ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, or PTSD, mentioned can sometimes evoke a specific image.  We tend to correlate trauma and PTSD to men, usually in the military, who are struggling to recover from emotional scars received in battle. This is actually only a portion of people dealing with trauma. In reality women are twice as likely to experience PTSD. Childhood abuse, sexual assault, rape, a physical attack or witnessing a violent act can all cause PTSD.

People with PTSD can experience a wide range of different symptoms. Flashbacks and insomnia are common, but PTSD can actually have constant daily effects on individual functioning that most people probably don’t realize, even if it has been years or decades since the traumatic event occurred. Things like anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, loneliness and isolation or difficulty connecting to others can be ongoing problems too.  These symptoms can be very hard for a person to manage.

We might be inclined to say, “That happened a long time ago, why can’t you just get past it?” The key element to understanding is how trauma can completely change the way your brain works! Experiencing trauma can actually rewire parts of your brain (primarily the amygdala which is the emotion regulator) to be in a constant high-gear, “fight-or-flight” state which can cause aggressiveness, worry, fear, withdrawal, oversensitivity, etc. When the brain is ingrained to work a certain way (good or bad), it's very difficult to change.

On the up-side, nothing is set in stone with PTSD. The amazing thing about the brain is that it actually is designed to create new pathways and heal itself. Think about the brain like your car on the road. There may be many well traveled roads that you use, and there may even be some ‘dead-ends’ or rough roads, but the brain is always looking for the best route to get to its destination in the most efficient way.  Another word for this is neuroplasticity, which literally means the brain’s ability to reorganize and change itself throughout an individual’s life.  New pathways can be created in lots of ways, through therapeutic techniques (like CBT or EMDR), changes to environment and neuro processes such as Neurofeedback.

Reversing the effects of trauma may not be something that is fixed quickly, but with time and effort and help from specialists in the field, it can be done.

More posts to come about the amazing brain! See you soon! ~Kristine