Different configurations of these symptoms form specific diagnoses within the classification of Trauma and Stressor-Related Disorders, but generally include:
- Intrusive Symptoms - People experiencing these intrusive symptoms describe it as though they are right back there, reliving and re-experiencing the trauma all over again. These are called intrusive symptoms because they are unwanted, unbidden, and therefore, involuntary.
- Distressing Images, Thoughts, Memories - A distressing memory, image or thought is something that you can't get out of your head related to trauma or stress. These may occur spontaneously, or they may be cued/triggered.
- Flashbacks, Dissociative Reactions - A flashback, while certainly intrusive, is also dissociative, which means there is a brief or extended period where time and reality are suspended.
- Distressing Dreams and Nightmares - For some survivors of trauma, nightmares occurred nightly, while for others, the nightmares are less frequent and unpredictable.
- Intense or Prolonged Psychological Distress - Exposure to reminders or cues associated with a traumatizing experience can trigger symptoms of severe psychological distress such as depression, panic attacks, and even hallucinations.
- Physiological Distress or Body Memory - The physiological, or body, response to trauma can include gastrointestinal pain, chest pain, light-headedness, tingling sensations, shortness of breath, and unspecified muscle pain.
- Avoidance Symptoms - Avoidance symptoms represent an effort to withdraw from certain situations that bring about body-level distress of trauma-related symptoms.
- Negative Thoughts and Feelings - Since unhealed wounds can affect our mood states, it make sense to pay attention to unhelpful thinking patterns, and to explore our feelings about ourselves and the world around us.
- Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms - This category of symptoms has also been called heightened arousal and includes behaviors like jumpiness, sleep disturbances, irritability and/or aggressive behavior, problems with concentration, and reckless or self-destructive behaviors.
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In trying to understand the impact of unhealed trauma on the human brain, it\'s helpful to have a basic understanding of the brain.
A simple model of the human brain is to envision it as three separate brains (the triune brain); each with its own separate functions and sense of time. These parts are:
- R-complex brain or brainstem - The base of the brain contains the cerebellum, and it directly connects to the spinal cord. This part is responsible for functions like reflexive behaviors, muscle control, balance, breathing, heartbeat, feeding/digestion, and reproduction.
- The limbic brain - This area is the center of emotion and learning. This part also includes the amygdala, which scans for any threat or danger, and sends out a signal to other parts of the brain when a threat is perceived.
- The cerebral brain or neocortex - this part is responsible for things that make us distinctly human: logic; reasoning skills; analysis and problem-solving; speech and verbal understanding; meaning-making; willpower; and, wisdom.
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