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The Body Keeps the Score: Science of Emotional Trauma & Your Body


the science of the body keeps the score emotional trauma

Emotional trauma is like an invisible thread that weaves its way through our lives, leaving a profound impact. These experiences can cast long shadows, affecting not only our minds but also our physical health. In this blog post, we’ll embark on a journey to explore the intricate relationship between emotional trauma and the human body.

We’ll explore the science behind the brain-body connection and you’ll learn why it is vital for your overall well-being. Finally, you’ll learn why conventional medicine (western medicine) is failing trauma survivors by ignoring this crucial connection.

Emotional trauma leaves an invisible imprint on your body that can have a lasting impact. Emotional trauma involves an intricate interplay between the mind and the body. Your brain is the central coordinator, responding to trauma by releasing stress hormones. This stress response is an adaptive mechanism designed to prepare the body for immediate action. However, when this response occurs too frequently, it can disrupt the body’s balance.

How does childhood trauma lead to emotional trauma?

First, emotional trauma is a psychological and emotional response to a distressing event or series of events that have a lasting impact on you. These events can include experiences such as accidents, abuse, neglect, loss of a loved one, or any situation that overwhelms your ability to cope. Emotional trauma can lead to a range of psychological, emotional, and physical symptoms, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, flashbacks, nightmares, and difficulties in managing emotions and relationships.

Childhood trauma is a specific form of emotional trauma that occurs during a person’s formative years, typically before age 18. It often involves experiences of abuse, neglect, or exposure to highly distressing situations during childhood. Childhood trauma is particularly significant because it can have long-lasting effects on a person’s emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. It can impact how you perceive yourself, others, and the world around you.

Why does emotional trauma affect the body?

The science of trauma unravels the complex ways in which distressing experiences impact our minds and bodies. When we encounter a traumatic event, our body initiates a stress response. This response involves the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, preparing us for a ‘fight or flight’ reaction.

While this response can be life-saving in immediate danger, the prolonged presence of these stress hormones can result in a cascade of physical and psychological effects. It can disrupt our brain’s functioning, compromise our emotional well-being, and even affect our physical health.

One of the key facets of the science of trauma is understanding the profound connection between our minds and bodies.

Trauma doesn’t just affect our thoughts and emotions; it leaves an indelible mark on our physiology. The brain, often referred to as the central conductor, plays a key role. When faced with trauma, it activates the stress response, orchestrating the body’s reactions.

These can include increased heart rate, heightened vigilance, and muscular tension. Over time, this persistent stress response can lead to a range of health issues. The science of trauma delves into this intricate interplay, shedding light on how trauma can linger and impact our lives long after the initial distressing event has passed.

How does emotional trauma affect my physical health?

Trauma isn’t confined to the past; it becomes an echo of energy that is trapped in your body. But how exactly does trauma leave a mark on our physical well-being? The answer lies in the complex interplay between the stress response, our bodily systems, and the lasting imprint of traumatic experiences.

Trauma triggers a persistent stress response that creates a chain reaction within our bodies.

The release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, intended for immediate survival, can become chronic in the face of recurring or unresolved trauma. Over time, these stress hormones take a toll on our bodies. They can disrupt the immune system, making us more susceptible to illnesses, and strain our cardiovascular system, potentially leading to heart problems.

Additionally, the constant state of alertness associated with trauma can result in sleep disturbances and issues related to chronic pain. The science of trauma reveals that our health can become intertwined with our emotional well-being, underscoring the need to address and heal from trauma to maintain overall health and well-being.

Moreover, the impact of trauma extends beyond the physiological realm. It affects our behaviors and choices, often leading to coping mechanisms that may not be conducive to our health, such as substance abuse or unhealthy eating patterns. The connection between emotional trauma and poor health is a stark reminder of the importance of understanding and addressing trauma’s lasting influence on our well-being.

How Can I Overcome the Effects of Emotional Trauma from Childhood Trauma?

The journey to healing is possible, and it begins with understanding how to break free from the grip of trauma.

Healing from childhood trauma and developmental trauma doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process. But you do have to listen to your body; it won’t let you go any faster than it’s able. Healing has to happen on three levels: physiological, biological, and cognitive.

  1. Reconnect to your body
  2. Release the biological imprint of trauma
  3. Reprogram your thought patterns

How do I re-connect to my body to heal from childhood trauma?

Trauma often leads to a disconnection between the mind and the body, with individuals sometimes feeling like mere spectators to their own experiences. By focusing on mindfulness and practices that foster self-awareness, you can begin to rebuild this connection. Simple techniques like deep breathing exercises, yoga, or grounding exercises can help you become more attuned to the physical sensations in your body, which is a significant step toward healing.

How do I Release the Biological Imprint of Trauma?

As you know, healing isn’t just about addressing the emotional scars of trauma; it also involves dealing with its biological imprint.

Trauma alters the body’s stress response systems, leading to chronic physiological stress. Strategies like regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep play a crucial role in managing and reducing the physical impact of trauma. By engaging in these self-care practices, you allow your body to recover from the ongoing stress response and start the process of restoring balance.

How can I Challenge my Thought Patterns?

Healing trauma extends to the cognitive realm as well. Trauma often shapes negative thought patterns and beliefs about oneself and the world. Challenging these thought patterns is an essential step toward healing.

Cognitive-behavioral techniques can be highly effective when you work with a therapist to identify and modify negative thought patterns. By addressing and reframing these cognitive distortions, you can regain a sense of control over your thoughts and emotions, paving the way for healing on all levels.

The HUGE KEY here is to understand that you can’t begin to challenge thought patterns until your body is in a place to do so.

You can’t just jump into challenging thought patterns; your brain and body aren’t ready.

This is why cognitive behavioral therapy doesn’t usually work with trauma survivors. When your brain and body are stressed, you’re not able to learn and retain new information. The brain is in survival mode, not learning mode.

In order for you to heal childhood trauma, you need to balance each healing component little by little.

Imagine your brain is a container; right now, it’s filled to max capacity. Nothing coming in or out. If you want to learn and grow, you must create more space—this must happen at a biological level.

Supporting research and peer-reviewed studies on childhood trauma and the brain and body.

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