3 Ways Trauma Changes Your Brain (PTSD & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

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3 Ways Trauma Changes Your Brain (PTSD & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Have you been told that your brain can't heal from trauma... that you "just have to live with PTSD"?

The myth that PTSD and trauma changes your brain forever just isn't true... at least not 100% true.

The goal of this video is to show you what actually happens in your brain and, more importantly, what you can do about it!

If you think your past traumas have doomed you to a damaged brain forever, you need to watch this video to the very end.

Here's what we'll cover:

  • Three main ways that trauma affects your brain
  • How to identify where work needs to be done
  • What happens when you take the appropriate action to heal from your past

Check it out, and let me know what you think in the comments!

To your recovery,
Kayleen & the team at OvercomingPTSD.com

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0:00  Hey everybody, Brad Schipke here. And today I am going to be talking to you about three ways that trauma---and PTSD--affects and changes your brain. So I have three ways up here on the board, I have three parts of the brain that I'm going to talk about today. And now, there are a lot of ways that trauma affects the brain; I'm going to talk about the three main ones.

0:19  And if you stay to the end, I might actually... I have a little secret down here. I don't know if you can see this. I have a little question mark down there. That's a secret for you, just for you, for the end of this video. Because what most people do when they talk about trauma in the brain is that they just explain kind of like what happens, but then you don't know what to do afterwards. And this last little secret down here is going to teach you kind of what to do, and show you that it's actually not so hopeless, not as hopeless as it seems.

0:47  Alright, so let's jump in here. I'll bring you over to this first part of the brain right here. So this first picture right here has these highlighted two spots right here. And this is the amygdala, This is a part of your brain called the amygdala. And these little things?They're like about the size of an almond, and I love almonds, so... but I don't love the amygdala when it's on trauma. And I'll tell you why. Because the amygdala is what controls the fight, the flight, and the freeze response. So basically, when you go through a trauma, when you have PTSD, that trauma--that traumatic memory--overrides your brain, and kind of hijacks your amygdala here. And, you know, just makes it go crazy, it makes it like run off the charts. So every little small, or big situation seems like the end of the world so like, you know, if you get triggered...

1:41  There was actually a story with me, which is like a really like funny story looking back because I had PTSD myself, and my girlfriend had it as well. I remember this one day, where I was just driving my car and this like, piece of paper just flew up, like the the wind caught it and it flew up and hit my windshield. And like, to a normal person, it's just like, it's just like, "Oh, it's just like a leaf hitting the windows like, and not that bad." But to me, it like, freaked me the heck out.

2:05  So like, that was my amygdala going crazy. So the amygdala is the fight/flight/freeze, but it also controls, like, the fear response, the anxiety response, the hypervigilance. So it's kind of kind of like that feeling where you're just like always on edge, you're always fearful, you're always tense, and all those bodily sensations that go along with those emotions. So this really is what controls the majority of the symptoms.

2:29  But in the second part, it controls something else, a lot of the other symptoms as well. A few other symptoms. But um, that's the fight/flight/freeze. So that's kind of the first and biggest part of the brain that gets affected, which is the amygdala, the almond-sized part of the brain.

2:45  Now let's move over to the second part of the brain. Now there are a lot of parts of the brain, I'm going to talk about just the top three. And the second part here is this. I know people call it like a horseshoe, they kind of look like fancy earbuds to me, but um, this is called the hippocampus. And the hippocampus is what is responsible for creating memories and storing memories. And what happens when you go through that trauma is your hippocampus actually shrinks; it actually gets smaller, actually gets weaker. So where your amygdala, you know, becomes more active, it becomes stronger, you know, your fight/flight/freeze response gets stronger; this part of your brain actually gets weaker. And the funny thing... like these two, you can see they're connected. So you can see this part where it's not highlighted right there. That's the amygdala connected to the hippocampus.

3:35  And what the hippocampus does--also another major function that it does--a really important function is that it calms down the amygdala. So it stores the memories creates the memories, but also has the function of calming down the amygdala. So when you go through a trauma, your hippocampus shrinks, it gets weaker, meaning that it has less power, has less control over the amygdala. So basically, that's another reason why the amygdala kind of goes off the chart is because of the hippocampus right here.

4:05  And another part of this that is very important when it comes to trauma is that this is a major reason why people experience... since the hippocampus is connected and related to memory storage and creation, this is kind of the reason why trauma causes you to have flashbacks and nightmares. So at night, you're kind of like reliving the memories because you're hippocampus is not stronger as it is. And the same thing with flashbacks during the day. So these two parts, right here, are what kind of build up the... or make up the emotional part of your brain, kind of the older part of your brain, and it's part of a system called the limbic system.

4:50  So the limbic system is just the part of your brain that controls... it's an older part of your brain that really controls the emotions; that's what it does. A few few other things, but the biggest thing that relates to what we're talking about today is that it controls emotions. And these are the two biggest parts that are affected with PTSD in regards to the limbic system and the emotional part of your brain.

5:11  So in summary, with these two first parts is like your limbic system, your emotional brain, your old brain, the brain that was developed before your more highly processed brain, is just overriding every other part of your brain. That leads into this third part right here.

5:30  So this third part of the brain that I'm going to talk about is called the prefrontal cortex. So this is like the newer part of your brain if you're talking about evolution and stuff, but this is the front area of the brain, right here. And what this controls, it's like the higher functioning, it's like the critical thinking, it's what is like self awareness. So it's really just like, when you think of like you and like thinking, and awareness, and consciousness, it's this, the prefrontal cortex. And like I said before, when you have a trauma, the limbic system, the emotional part of your brain gets hijacked, and hyperactive, right? So this is in total control. And what it does is it takes resources from your prefrontal cortex.

6:17  So again, like... the prefrontal cortex is about thinking it's about concentration, it's about focus. So what this does, like this kind of interactionright here, is it kind of messes with your focus. So you can have focus problems, you can be overwhelmed with things. Because you're not thinking clearly, right? It also causes dissociation, you don't feel like you're in reality, because your emotional, the emotional part of your brains are getting all the energy and your logical brain is isn't getting any. So all your resources are going to that emotional brain, and nothing is left over for this. So you can't think clearly; like you don't even feel conscious sometimes. And that's the reason why, is because the emotional part of the brain is just taking all the resources from the logical part here.

7:05  Now, I know that was a lot, I hope I simplified it in a way that you could understand. But you know, maybe some people might be going through this and be like, man, Brad, I am totally screwed. Like, you're telling me that my brain is hijacked, that my trauma has changed my brain here. So I'm always in fight or flight mode, that I'm having flashbacks and nightmares because this part of my brain has shrunk. And I basically, you know, can't even think straight, like, I can't even think logically because all my energy and resources are being taken up by this emotional part of my brain. But that's where most people stop when explaining the brain. And that's where my little secret down here comes, comes into play.

7:48  So, you're not screwed. And the secret is, none of this stuff matters. None of this stuff that I just spent the last five, six minutes explaining to you matters, none of it matters to your recovery, to your healing. It really doesn't, but it's interesting to know, right? It's kind of like it maybe helps you bring some some awareness to what you're going through. But it doesn't help you. It's like, you don't need to know these things.

8:20  And you shouldn't be focusing on these things. First of all, because your brain isn't permanently changed; that's one huge myth in the PTSD community. And I see online on Facebook groups, and everything like that is that people hear this information. And they're like, my brain is permanently changed. But that's just not the case. Your brain is not permanently changed. And they actually have brain scans to prove it. So they've actually done brain scans of people who have gone through certain recovery processes, and scanned their brain beforehand, and after they healed. And what they found--actually super surprising. super interesting--was that, and it ties back into everything that I was talking about here today. That when they still had PTSD, when their brain was still traumatized, and they thought about the traumatic event, this part of their brain, their emotional part of the brain was like lighting up like crazy on the scan. But after they healed their trauma, after they healed, after they correctly processed everything, they scanmed the brain again after and asked them to think about, you know, the traumatic event from the past. And they found that almost no energy, or no activity was in the emotional part of the brain. And the activity moved to the logical part of the brain.

9:42  So essentially, this part of the brain just like... it got a lot less active, and this part of the brain got a lot more active. And more than that. What's even more interesting is that they found that different structures in the limbic system actually grew. So like, the hippocampus actually grew in size; and certain types of therapy like EMDR therapy, I believe after like 8 or 12 sessions, there was a study done, where the hippocampus actually grew like 6%, in like 8 or 12 sessions! That's like if you do one a week--you can do more than one week, but that's like two months, and then your brain changes by like 6%; which may not sound like a lot, but like, they saw a difference, in the short amount of time of two months, to the hippocampus.

10:30  So things are not hopeless! Your brain can change; you can heal. And it really just comes down to being able to go into the limbic system, the old part of your brain, identify what those traumatic memories are, process those traumatic memories with the right techniques so they are stored correctly, and then you will be back out here. So you're not screwed, you are okay. Everything is going to be fine. Your brain has not permanently changed. And that was the little secret that I wanted to tell you was that everything is okay.

11:08  Now that's all I have for you in this video. I hope you really enjoyed it Hope it like opened your eyes to this big myth about your brain changing; and your brain does change, but it can change back. If you liked it--I hope you enjoyed it--make sure to click the like button and leave a comment below with how you liked it or didn't like it.

11:26  And let me know if there are any other topics you'd like me to cover; because I will personally read them myself, and I will record a video on those topics. And lastly, we release a video like this... I release a video like this once a week. Also have my girlfriend Kayleen does a show once a week, and we also do kind of a podcast once a week as well.

11:45  So if you like this content, you want to see some more of it, hear some more of it: make sure to click that subscribe button and that little bell notification so you get notified when we release our next episodes.

11:56  But I hope you enjoyed it! Hope you have a fantastic day. I totally believe in you 1,000% and I always will, and your brain is not permanently damaged! You can heal, you can grow your brain and you can fully recover. Here for you. Bye!

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