Traumatic experiences can damage the brain—but the harm needn’t be permanent.
By Katrina Caruso
A traumatic experience is one that threatens our lives or safety, though it needn’t always involve violence or physical harm. Psychological trauma, anxiety can also be the result of an event that was overwhelming or isolating.
Given that so many people, especially women, have been speaking up about the trauma they suffered as a result of sexual abuse or assault, Dr. Dana Ross, a University of Toronto psychiatrist who has studied trauma, recently explored the effects of trauma in an article for the Toronto Star.
Ross laid out the four normal responses to trauma: fight (becoming angry and defensive), flight (the desire to run away), freeze (the “deer in the headlights” response that renders one incapable of moving, though the body is pumping out stress hormones), or collapse (fainting or disconnecting from reality). These responses are basic survival skills, the brain’s ways of protecting itself.
Ross also points out that trauma can have a lasting effect on the brain and lead to the development of mental health problems and illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD, as well as chronic or serious health issues, including heart disease.
However, the brain is immensely resilient and has the power to heal from trauma. Proven treatment options include psychotherapy and medication, and research has also shown that yoga can have significant benefits.
If this sounds like something you need, start by talking with your doctor, who can give you resources, referrals, and recommendations to start your healing journey. The most important thing to know is that you are not alone.