When we picture the disorder, we often see a returned soldier, usually male, wrestling with emotional scars from the battlefield. In reality, one out of every nine suffers is female. Women are twice as likely to experience PTSD as men. Child abuse, sexual assault, rape, a physical attack, and being a part of or witnessing violence and bloodshed causes this trauma disorder. Now researchers are determining how being traumatized alters the brain itself, in hopes of understanding PTSD better, and hopefully finding novel ways to treat it.
When a trauma occurs, the reptilian brain takes over. This is the brain stem or the earliest developed part. It kicks in the “fight or flight” response. All nonessential body and mind functions shut down. When the threat ceases, the parasympathetic nervous system down-shifts and resumes those higher functions. For 20% of survivors, after effects remain, what we know as PTSD. The organ being plastic, trauma fundamentally changes how it operates. Victims may have vivid nightmares and flashbacks, cannot abide change, and have difficulty expressing themselves. They will also avoid those things that remind them of their trauma.
There’s more in the article, but if you’ve ever wanted to understand a little bit about why people dealing with trauma can’t just put it behind them, this is a good starting point.
It takes time to rewire the brain. Trauma wires it one way, and getting it reprogrammed is not about just “getting over it”.