Adult Survivors of Traumatic Events

Does the psychological effects from traumatic events one suffered as a child follow them into adulthood? According to MacDonald, long term effects may appear a few months later, or take years to emerge, depending on when one has a “trigger.” Children develop their own distinctive style of protecting themselves, and during the time it may have worked for them. When people experience a trigger, the way the adult has learned to emotionally protect themselves is challenged, and that person is tempted to return to childhood thought patterns about safety. If a person had a nurturing, fearless childhood, this revisiting might only mean that they seek out family and friends to receive comfort; however, if someone has had an abusive childhood or experienced a traumatic event, the return to childhood ways of protection might mean following a coping style that is not beneficial to their being. One of the most damaging effects of experiencing terror is the relapse to the way the adult protected themselves as a child. (1). “Children are often viewed as highly resilient and able to bounce back from just about any situation; however, traumatic experiences in childhood can have severe and long-lasting effects well into adulthood if they are left unresolved.” (NCTSN). “Research shows that children and adults with histories of child abuse often respond excessively to minor triggers. Traumatised children and adult survivors become increasingly responsive to relatively minor stimuli due to decreased frontal lobe functioning and increased amygdala sensitivity or impulsiveness.” (ASCA). The amygdala has the ability to have emotions processed before the cortex has the chance to be rational. When a person is faced with significant perceived threats while adaptive, is often perceived by others as overreacting, unresponsive or detached. (ASCA). “When controlling for subjects who engage in high-risk activities like smoking, drinking, and overeating, childhood trauma produces the same increased risk for everyone. Across the board, for example, respondents had a 360% increase in risk for heart disease.” (Rosenthal). Adaptation to trauma, especially early in life, becomes a “state of mind, brain, and body” around a later experience. (ASCA). Once a person understands why things are happening, they are able to learn how to fix, or better control the problem. Patients must be willing to learn how.

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