Kelsey Howard, MSW, Temp LSW
My name is Kelsey Howard and I am a therapist with Crosswinds Counseling. Today I’m going to talk to you about trauma and the effects it has on the body. So trauma is defined as an overwhelming life-altering event resulting in persistent physical, psychological, or emotional distress. This can happen either firsthand as a witness to the trauma, or learning about the previous event. Examples of this include intimate partner violence, being in combat, experiencing natural disasters, or being a first responder.
Everyone experiences trauma differently, and there’s no right or wrong response when it comes to trauma. So when our bodies encounter threatening situations our brain reacts within seconds to the threat which releases cortisol, which is our stress hormone, and this prepares the body to be more focused and able to exert any energy needed for survival. This is that fight, flight, or freeze response that many people have heard of.
While it’s crucial for survival, too much of the cortisol can become toxic to a person. Traumatic experiences can cause the body to continue to produce cortisol if the brain thinks you’re still being threatened, and this can cause physical, cognitive, or even emotional distress like giving you high blood pressure, having heart disease, depression, brain fog, or even recurring flashbacks.
To change this we have to reshape how we handle stress and process the negative situations from our past. When you process this, you should be speaking with a trained professional who can help you decrease the stress hormone, and that ultimately will decrease the unpleasant effects of the stress. The trained professional will use trauma therapy and other evidence-based practices to help the individual to better understand why they responded the way they did to their trauma, or why they still feel the effects of their trauma. They do this by providing education, providing coping skills, practicing coping skills, but also developing a safe therapeutic relationship to help the client feel more safe and understood.