What Is Trauma & What Is Its Impact?
Trauma is an experience--and the aftermath of an experience--in which powerful and dangerous events overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope (Rice and Groves, 2005). Whether an experience is traumatic or not varies from person to person, so it is important not to compare people’s traumatic experience or judge “how traumatic” they are.
Trauma at any age can cause physical changes in the brain and body, lower emotional control, impact learning ability, and lower behavioral control, and lead to unhealthy and/or dangerous habits, serious diseases, and early death. Early trauma (during childhood) related to basic needs not being met requires the brain to stay in the “survival” stage of development, strengthening those neurons that activate our “fight, flight or freeze” response.
“Our self-experience is the product of the balance between our rational and emotional brains. When these two systems are in balance, we feel like ourselves” (Bessel Van Der Kolk). However, when we experience trauma, this relationship gets distorted.