What is Trauma Memory?
Remember a time when you were under immense stress. Maybe your palms were sweating, your heartbeat rapidly sped up, you couldn’t speak, your breathing increased, or maybe all you could do was run in order to escape. During these times you may experience what is normally termed a “flight or fight” response which enables individuals to react quickly to life threatening situations.
As a child, if you were exposed to unpredictable or extreme stress, the body’s core regulatory systems can be altered by these experiences that are known as “traumatic experiences”. According to the CDC a traumatic experience is categorized as “When the event, or series of events, causes a lot of stress, it is called a traumatic event. Traumatic events are marked by a sense of horror, helplessness, serious injury, or the threat of serious injury or death.” When untreated, traumatic experiences can lead to PTSD; Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders of the event that last for many weeks or months after the traumatic event. The symptoms of PTSD fall into three broad types: re-living, avoidance and increased arousal (CDC, 2021). There is a correlation between long-term stress and mental and medical health conditions such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes (Dr. Perry, 2021).
So what is a trauma memory?
A trauma memory is the implicit or explicit memory of past traumatic events that are consciously stored in different parts of the brain. Implicit memories are effortlessly and unconsciously remembered. Explicit memories are purposefully remembered. Therefore, your response to a seemingly threatening event can lead to different responses. For instance, if as a child you were involved in a car accident involving a large truck, as an adult you may notice yourself become increasingly vigilant or nervous whenever you pass by a truck, despite the accident happening years prior. For others, the trauma memories were developed because of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, community violence, bullying, or natural disasters.
If you believe that you continue to experience the effects of trauma memories that are impacting your life in different areas such as work, your relationships with others, your ability to sleep, increased anxiety or depression, you can work through this with mental health counseling. Find a licensed therapist in your area, or online as a lot of therapists are working through telehealth now. Make sure that you feel comfortable with the therapist in order to revisit the past traumatic memories that are continuing to impact you even today.
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