What are the Long-Term Effects of Trauma?

childhood trauma
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Trauma can happen to anyone at any age. It also affects people differently. Two people can go through the same experience and have very different reactions to it. Some common examples of trauma are accidents, violent attacks, natural disasters, physical or sexual abuse and neglect. How you’re impacted by trauma has no bearing on how strong you are. 

When faced with trauma, your body is naturally prepared to respond through the fight or flight response. This is an automatic process that you have no control over. This is why you may notice your heart pounding or your thoughts racing when you feel uncomfortable or frightened.

Once the threat is gone, your body calms down. But traumatic experiences don’t just impact you in the moment. These memories can live in your body and mind, and put you into danger mode even when there is no threat. You may also experience flashbacks, nightmares and trouble sleeping. 

Unresolved trauma is a main trigger of mental health and substance use disorders. Let’s look at how trauma can affect you in the long-term.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 

PTSD is a mental health disorder triggered by a traumatic event. The symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety. It’s important to know that the onset of symptoms can happen at any time, not just immediately after the event. Therefore, you could be experiencing PTSD even if your symptoms are appearing decades after the trauma occurred. 

The best ways to treat PTSD are with trauma-focused therapy, exposure therapy and EMDR in Princeton NJ. Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants. It’s crucial to catch PTSD early on, otherwise you may try to numb the symptoms with drugs, alcohol, gambling or food. 

Re-Experiences or Flashbacks

Even if the trauma happened many, many years ago, it’s still possible to experience flashbacks. Typically, flashbacks occur when someone or something reminds you of the trauma. Because these reminders are so vivid, you may engage in unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to numb your emotions. 

Flashbacks are a common symptom of PTSD, so the treatment is similar. Your doctor will likely recommend therapy, lifestyle changes, medication and good coping strategies. For example, if you begin to have a flashback, you can breathe deep and return to the present using your five senses. 

Physical Health Problems 

Experiencing high levels of anxiety on a regular basis can lead to a host of problems, such as chronic inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity and cancer. Since the fight or flight response is constantly activated, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones like cortisol into the body.

It’s these hormones that boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides. But when these resources aren’t used for physical activity, they can instead cause problems like a weakened immune system, digestive disorders, premature coronary artery disease, muscle tension, short-term memory loss and heart attack. 

Cognitive Decline 

When your brain is hijacked by emotional trauma, your memory and cognitive functions can become impaired. Some people have trouble focusing at work or school, leading to problems in their development or professional lives. 

In fact, a recent study showed that childhood trauma is linked to cognitive decline in adults. This is probably because trauma leads to stress and depression, both of which impair cognitive functioning. 

As you can see, trauma has many long term effects that can plague your life as an adult. Fortunately, you can eliminate these problems from your life by properly dealing with trauma. Contact CTRLCare Behavioral Health to learn more about our trauma therapy in New Jersey and how it can help you recover and build a healthier life.