Supplemental Talk: Trauma Redefined

What is Trauma? Three Types of Trauma
Dysregulated stress response:

– Experience that leaves people in a state of helplessness or terror
– An experience that shatters our current understandings of how the world and relationships work
– An experience that overwhelms our capacity to cope
– An experience that alters the way we process and store memories.
Acute Trauma: A single, brief event
Chronic Trauma: Prolonged traumatic events
Complex Trauma: Exposure to multiple traumatic events (often begins as a child) often invasive and interpersonal in nature and the wide-range, long-term effects of that.
Trauma Response: Over-adaptive coping mechanisms in response to the real or perceived presence of a trauma event. There are for most common trauma responses: 
Fight: Self preservation/protection.
Flight: Getting out of a situation as quickly as possible.
Freeze: Pausing instead of running.
Fawn: People pleasing (keeping someone happy) to neutralize threats.
What happens in the BRAIN as a result of trauma:
Amygdala: Detects danger and threats in the environment, which is important for safety and survival. Trauma leads the amygdala to be even more highly attuned to potential threats in the environment. This can lead to strong emotional reactions, difficulties concentrating, difficulties in new experiences or with socializing.

Medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC): Helps control activity of the amygdala. Activity in the mPFC is suppressed from trauma, which alters its ability to send messages to calm the amygdala, leading to increased fear and anxiety around trauma triggers.

Hippocampus: Involved in learning and memory. Trauma affects its ability to distinguish between past and present, leading to triggers being experienced as the actual trauma itself.
What happens in the BODY as a result of trauma:
Hypo-Arousal: Parasympathetic Nervous System OverloadHyper-Arousal: Sympathetic Nervous System Overload
Stuck on “OFF”

Also known as the “shut down” or “collapse” response

Depression, dissociation, quietness, emptiness, blank slate

Affects sleeping habits, eating, emotional expression

Emotionally numb, pull away from relationships/isolate.
Stuck on “ON”

Fight or flight response

Fear, anger, anxiety, panic

Sleeping, emotional regulation, and concentration are difficult. Body is tense and on the brink of “explosion.” Digestion and reproduction stop.

Rush of adrenaline, adrenals release cortisol which also signals the release of glucose. This can lead to blood sugar imbalances and burn out of energy and glucose stores. 
What happens in RELATIONSHIPS as a result of trauma
Trauma can affect our relationships with self, others and the world.

– Prior beliefs of safety in relationships be disrupted as the result of trauma
– Prior beliefs of danger in relationships can be reinforced and strengthened as the result of trauma.

– People may begin to distrust their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors
– Trauma can disrupt one’s trust in others and the world
– Feelings of betrayal can be strong.

– Trauma can disrupt one’s belief in the ability to manage problems and take on new challenges
– Trauma can lead one to feel helpless and out of control in relation to others
– One can become overly critical towards themselves and others as a result of trauma
– One may try to control all aspects of interpersonal relationships in an attempt to feel safe and secure.
– New relationships can be difficult as a result of trauma.
Healing Trauma: Our brains are remarkably plastic, meaning they can shift, change and rewire. It takes time, but here are some things you can focus on: 
1. Calm down the stress response (whether it’s hypo or hyper) and find balance in the Central Nervous System
Hypo: Increasing activityHyper: Decreasing activity
– Aerobic exercise
– Cold showers
– Eat the rainbow
– Stimulants in moderation (Coffee, chocolate).
– Yoga/mindfulness/walking
– Warm bath
– Decrease stimulants (coffee, chocolate)
– Protein
– Mindful eating.
2. Identify beliefs of self, others and the world in terms of safety, trust and power/control
– EMDR/Brain Spotting
– Cognitive Processing Therapy
– Gradual Exposure Therapy.
Mindful Awareness:
– Mindfulness can help us separate from our thoughts and feelings and increase awareness
– Tracking thoughts/feelings/behaviors
– Journaling.


  • Skyterra at Home
  • Challenge with curiosity, and support with neutrality
  • Books:
    • What Happened to You by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey
    • The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk