Karyn Ellis, M.A., L.M.H.C.

Trauma and Abuse

When most of us hear the word trauma, we think bike accidents, car accidents, or witnessing a traumatic event. There are more ways to experience trauma than you would think. Trauma can be living in an environment where there is a lot of emotional, psychological or psychical abuse. When an individual is in a bad situation for too long it actually alters their brain processing.

Trauma affects two major areas of the brain: the Prefrontal Cortex and the HPA Axis. The Prefrontal Coretex is more sensitive to trauma and stress in children because it is still developing. Stress creates high Cortisol levels which puts the body in the "fight or flight" response. This response is meant for acute stressful events and is not meant for long term stressors.

The longer an individual, more especially a child, is in the stressful environment their brains will adapt to the chemical and communication changes, making it so they are perpetually in a stressful state. It is the sensation of always "walking on eggshells" or "waiting for the last shoe to drop." They are never able to feel safe, comfortable, or like they can relax. This takes a major toll on the body psychically as well. More seen in adults, chronic stress or trauma can lead to fatigue, lowered immune system and failed adrenal glands.

Do whatever you can to reduce the amount of stress in your life, see what responsibilities you can release. Exercise and get plenty of sleep. Counseling can also be helpful. If you or a loved one is (or has been) experiencing domestic violence or abuse, take precautions to protect yourself and tell someone: