If you have been wondering if the brain and body are connected, you’re not alone. A recent book from Bessel van Der Kolk sheds some light on the brain and body connection. It describes how the body and brain operate together and how these two systems can be affected by stress and trauma.
Trauma interferes with brain circuits
It is possible that trauma alters the brain’s neural networks, and this could have a profound effect on how a person thinks and behaves. It has been known that exposure to physical or mental abuse can lead to psychological disorders like PTSD, and it has also been known to change brain volume. It is still unclear exactly how trauma influences brain development, however.
Regardless of the exact mechanisms involved, it is clear that trauma interferes with brain circuits that are involved in decision-making. This part of the brain is responsible for rational thought, planning effective responses to stressful situations, and remembering important information. However, traumatic events disrupt normal function of the prefrontal cortex, which makes it impossible for the person to rationally reason through situations and make wise decisions.
Many studies suggest that trauma disrupts the brain circuits that regulate memory, motivation, and rewards. In fact, many of these disorders co-occur with one another. This high comorbidity is a major clinical challenge. However, advances in basic science and genetics have paved the way to better understand the neural mechanisms that underlie these disorders.
Researchers have uncovered changes in specific brain areas associated with PTSD. These include the amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and the hippocampus. These changes may be responsible for the specific symptoms of the disorder. In particular, the hippocampus is involved in memory and is essential in separating the present from the past. People with PTSD often have trouble separating memories and can even be afraid to encounter situations that remind them of the trauma.
Stress hormones spike
In response to stressful situations, the body releases a cascade of stress hormones. These hormones cause bodily changes such as quickening of heart rate and breathing, tense muscles, and even beads of sweat. High levels of stress hormones can lead to adverse health consequences. The following are some of the possible consequences of high levels of stress hormones.
High levels of cortisol in the blood may have detrimental effects on cognitive function. They may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and have even been linked to the onset of memory loss and hippocampal atrophy. Nevertheless, researchers are still unsure of the exact mechanisms involved in the link between cortisol levels and cognitive impairment.
When the brain perceives a situation as threatening or challenging, the hypothalamus sets off an alarm system to send signals to the adrenal glands. These glands produce cortisol and adrenaline, which increase heart rate and blood pressure and boost energy supplies. In addition, cortisol increases the availability of substances necessary for tissue repair.
Chronic stress causes numerous health problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and artery-clogging deposits. It also affects the digestive system and can lead to sleep problems and a variety of psychological problems. The brain changes brought about by chronic stress may contribute to the development of depression, obesity, addiction, and anxiety.
Stress hormones decrease
During times of stress, the production of certain hormones increases in the body. These hormones influence a variety of processes, including blood pressure, digestion, and immune response. They also increase blood glucose levels and increase heart rate, so controlling their levels is crucial to reducing stress. Even when you don’t think stress is harmful, it can still be detrimental to your health.
In a fight-or-flight situation, the adrenal glands release three types of hormones, one of which is adrenaline. This hormone, also known as epinephrine, creates the initial effects of the fight-or-flight response, and causes the blood vessels to constrict, supplying more blood to major muscle groups. In addition, the blood pressure and air passages dilate.
In addition to increasing heart rate, corticosterone also increases blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and fat cell breakdown. This hormone is also a neurotransmitter, and it helps send signals throughout the brain. As the brain detects the danger, it sends signals to the adrenal glands to react.
While acute stress can increase blood pressure and heart rate, these physiological responses eventually return to normal. Chronic stress, on the other hand, can lead to narrowing of blood vessels and increased coagulation, which increase the risk of cardiac events. The combination of acute and chronic stress can lead to a heart attack.
Chronic stress also damages the brain, causing it to shrink in certain areas. This makes it more difficult for a person to cope with future stress. On the other hand, moderate stress is a healthy thing, as it strengthens the connections between neurons in the brain and improves memory, attention span, and productivity.
Trauma causes psychosomatic issues in trauma survivors
Trauma survivors frequently rely on friends and family for support. However, they may not be able to adequately manage their distress when triggered by reminders of the traumatic experience. They may withdraw from those who offer help, and may also be ashamed of their stress reactions. Fortunately, trauma can be treated, and trauma survivors can benefit from the help of a professional.
The emotional response to trauma varies among individuals, and it may be dependent on the person’s age, gender, and sociocultural background. However, some common emotions associated with trauma include fear, shame, anger, and sadness. Some people may have a hard time identifying these feelings, while others may deny them altogether.
Psychosomatic symptoms are common in trauma survivors, including fatigue, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. In addition, many survivors exhibit symptoms of subthreshold trauma that can be mistaken for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. The symptoms can also last for several years, although they do not necessarily indicate the presence of psychosomatic disorders.
Psychotherapy for trauma survivors often involves a combination of different approaches. Some methods entail cognitive restructuring, exposure therapy, and somatic experiencing. These therapies aim to teach clients how to manage their emotions without using substances. Others may benefit from trauma-specific desensitization approaches.
Other mental disorders such as mood disorders, substance use disorders, and personality disorders can be co-occurring. This can complicate clinical assessment. The presence of other disorders can also exacerbate symptoms of PTSD. It is important for trauma-related issues to be identified early so that treatment can be targeted for the most effective treatment.
Treatment options for trauma survivors
Treatment options for trauma survivors include the use of somatic therapies that aim to re-experience traumatic memories and feelings. Somatic therapies use physical movements to create a safe space for trauma-related expression. They also help a person relocate in the present, where they feel safe. This approach restores a sense of agency and resolution.
Treatment options for trauma survivors are based on research from leading trauma experts. They may involve various trauma-processing interventions, such as neurofeedback, yoga, theater, and meditation. These therapies can help trauma survivors reclaim control of their bodies. The book also addresses the power of relationships, which are an important part of overcoming trauma.
Several factors contribute to the development of PTSD. It affects not only the person directly exposed to trauma, but also their family and friends. For example, a soldier returning home from combat may frighten his or her family by exhibiting sudden and uncontrollable rages. The wives of these men tend to become depressed, and their children may grow up insecure. They may also have trouble forming relationships as adults.
A number of techniques, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), have been shown to help trauma survivors recover and connect with their community. But it’s important to note that these techniques can only help a small subset of trauma survivors. Psychoanalysis has been largely abandoned in recent years and other therapies are gaining popularity.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain imaging studies of trauma survivors reveal abnormalities in the brain area known as the insula. This part of the brain is responsible for processing sensory information and transmitting fight or flight signals to the amygdala when necessary. This is what causes trauma survivors to feel on edge and fearful. These feelings are generated deep in the brain and are not easily eliminated through reason.