Psychobiology of Trauma

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Trauma

Trauma: A real or perceived experience, one time or ongoing, that affects a person’s coping ability

Secondary traumatization: trauma that affects people indirectly; a result of hearing about someone else’s trauma or a traumatic event (not firsthand)

Coping ability is individual, variables:

-       genes

-       lived experiences

-       support/community

How we respond and rebound from trauma is largely based on our coping ability.

The Brain

Amygdala: implicit memory, not available for conscious awareness, stores senses and emotions (this memory can only be triggered)

Hippocampus: explicit memory, conscious memory, facts, events, etc. Also moves short term to long term

Hypothalamus links to nervous system –activates sympathetic nervous system during stress

-       racing heart

-       sweaty palms

-       nausea

During trauma hippocampus shuts down, amygdala and hypothalamus are active.

Stress responses:

Fight

Flight

Freeze

Faint

Trauma bond

Chemicals:

Adrenaline

Cortisol

Oxytocin

-       this chemical helps create the trauma bond

Trauma bonds occur when brain chemicals interfere with memory consolidation and increase feelings of bonding (RE: oxytocin)

State Dependent Form: someone has to be in similar state they were in when they were traumatized in order to remember it (ie. triggered)

-       Important RE: processing trauma