Traumatized? Your Brain Changes Forever

Soldiers know what survivors of rape and assault and crime know.  Once you have been traumatized, your brain never goes back to what it was, even when there is no stress in your life.

According to a story at, once the brain has endured enough trauma, it functions abnormally even in the absence of stress.

Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions "can over-or under-react in response to stressful tasks, such as recalling a traumatic event or reacting to a photo of a threatening face."

But now researchers at NYU School of Medicine are studying what happens in the brains of combat veterans with PTSD when there are no external triggers, reports.

PTSD is known for triggering nightmares, panic attacks, flashbacks and instability. As someone who has suffered from PTSD also, it's not something you ever want to relive.  And yet, you relive it almost every day.

Studies have found that 20% of soldiers who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD. Suicide risk is higher in the people who have PTSD.  (And sadly, 2012 was a record year for military suicides -- at 350, it's more troops than died in Afghanistan last year.)

Researchers have found that the brain’s "fear circuitry," what processes fearful and anxious emotions, was significantly higher in 52 combat veterans with PTSD than in 52 combat veterans without PTSD, notes.  Those with PTSD also showed "elevated brain activity in the region of the brain that regulates sensitivity to pain and negative emotions."

In addition, studies have found that PTSD sufferers' brains have less activity in the part of the brain that processes information from the past and the future, causing victims to have  severe "re-experiencing" of the troubling event, over and over again, resulting in nightmares, flashbacks and frightening thoughts.

Though my experience of PTSD was not from wartime, it's all basically the same.  You can't breathe.  You think you are going to die.  You don't know how to live from one second to the next.  And actually, a lot of the time, you do want to die.

Fortunately, there are many options for soothing, even if not ending, this terrifying brain event.  Talk therapy helps some, meditation and yoga work for others, and sometimes -- but not always -- time can do the trick.


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