Psychology behind Traumatic Events


Recently, Japan faced a severe earthquake and it had an impact on the environment, animals, and people. This natural calamity has left a long-lasting effect on individual mental well-being as they lose their homes and livelihoods. As a result, this develops the symptoms of trauma in people’s minds. People’s personal experiences, including accidents, domestic violence, and childhood experiences like sexual abuse can also affect their mental well-being. Traumatic events include feelings like fear, helplessness, and overwhelming. Some individuals experience a single traumatic event that leaves a lasting impression, while others experience a series of smaller events that build up over time. Regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status, anyone can experience these events.

The Science behind Trauma

To begin with, fight and flight are the natural physiological reaction when an individual faces any threat or danger in their surroundings. The amygdala detects the danger. The sympathetic nervous system and the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are triggered by the transmission of a signal to the hypothalamus.

Also Read: Beyond Trauma: Illuminating the Power of Post-Traumatic Growth

The origin of this response can be traced back to our evolution process. Our ancestors tend to react quickly whenever there is any threat aiding them in fighting off predators or escaping danger. Moreover, traumatic events also cause changes in the brain structure and function. As we know, the amygdala is responsible for regulating emotions and whenever it detects dangers, it becomes activated, and hence physical reactions like an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, start happening to prepare the body.

Simultaneously, the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for rational thought and decision-making, becomes less active. The amygdala sends a signal to the prefrontal cortex, preventing it from functioning and enabling an earlier response to the perceived threat.
Because of this, some people feel very high stress during any tense situation.

Lastly, traumatic events also Disruptions in hormones and neurotransmitters. The fight and flight response is one such example. Moreover, Endorphins, which act as natural painkillers and can cause a sense of euphoria, are also produced by the body along with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Factors That Influence Trauma Response

There are many factors that influence the traumatic events, we’ve experienced in our lives. In this section, we will understand them one by one.

1) Type of trauma

So, everyone faces different types of trauma in their life and this experience impacts the individual’s mental well-being. Firstly, we all know the importance of our childhood holds for us and whatever we face at that time will affect the rest of our lives. If a child experiences, childhood trauma then it will affect their adulthood. This includes child sexual, emotional, or physical abuse and because of these, they develop coping mechanisms that can be harmful to their physical and mental well-being. These mechanisms become evident in later life also, which makes it difficult for an individual to cope with any future traumatic experience.

Also Read: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A private war?

Secondly, army officers who’ve experienced combat trauma may show a very heightened reaction toward any situation as it reminds them of their traumatic experience.

2) Resilience

How a person adapts and copes with a given situation and trauma is defined as a person’s resilience. This factor plays an important role in how individuals face the trauma and helps them to cope with the situation effectively.
Moreover, people who have the higher resilience, ability can control their emotions nicely, have a positive outlook, and search for different ways to cope with the situation. On the other hand, people who have lower resilience, ability may find it difficult to cope with the traumatic experience and develop negative effects like PTSD.

3) Social Support

Social support plays a key role in the lives of those people who are struggling to cope with their traumatic events. Social support provides a feeling of connection. People might feel less isolated and would be able to share their experiences, and thoughts more freely, and hence all this reduces anxiety, and depression and makes them feel secure. Apart from emotional assistance, they also provide financial assistance, and help them in their daily tasks. Social support also makes individuals higher in resilience and it will contribute to their recovery from traumatic events more quickly.

Treating the trauma

1) Psychotherapy

In this therapy, there is a contribution of both the therapist and the patient. The therapist aims to make an individual understand their traumatic experience and develop coping mechanisms. Various techniques have been used by the therapist like cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

Also Read: The psychology behind Fantasies

With the help of these techniques, individuals are able to bring a change in their thoughts, beliefs, and values. Learn about the healthy way of coping with the traumatic event. Psychotherapy also allows individuals to freely express themselves and their emotions related to that traumatic experience without any judgment.

2) Alternative Technique

Alternative therapy works on the principle of understanding the psychological and emotional effects that an event has on an individual mind. One of the alternative therapies is creative therapy. Creative therapy makes people express themselves non-verbally and this therapy can be beneficial for those individuals who find it difficult to express their feelings verbally. It is also one of the ways of learning healthy coping mechanisms. Moreover, it also ensures that the person is empowered and realizes a sense of control over their recovery.

This process includes setting up realistic goals and building self-care activities. Another therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy aims to turn the negative thoughts that are the result of the experiences they have faced into positive ones. It includes various techniques like mindfulness techniques, meditation, and Deep breathing that can help them.

Also Read: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Traumatic events can be bad for anyone’s life and impact their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Coming out of it might be difficult for some people, but with proper guidance and support from the people around you can make this process easy to achieve. These therapies can reduce the risk of developing many psychological conditions like PTSD, anxiety, depression, and stress among people with traumatic experiences. It is important to recognize what works best for you and go for that option.

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