What is TRAUMA?

When a person or an animal is being threatened, a built-in survival instinct is activated.  It is a natural response in the body to a perceived threat that allows us to react quickly to danger.  The brain triggers the release of adrenaline and other hormones that cause automatic changes in the body: the heart beats faster, the muscles tense up, the eyes dilate and the mucous membranes dry out.  All of these changes help the body to fight harder, run faster, see better and breathe easier.  All of this happens in less than the amount of time between two heartbeats. 

The survival instinct in human beings, instinctually prepares us to go into one of three modes: fight, flight or freeze.

fight, flight or freeze

Fight mode: When the fight mode is activated, our bodies have extra strength and energy to fight off an attack. The body is activated for aggression, reading to fight for life.

Flight mode: When the flight mode is activated, natural changes in the body chemistry during a threat allow us to run faster to be able to escape the danger. 

Freeze mode: When the freeze mode is activated, we feel that there is no chance of surviving a fight, or we are unable to run away, the freeze mode is activated. 

After the threat has passed, the body releases tension, the heart rate slows down, and returns back to a resting state. The fight, flight or freeze response was designed to be activated for only short periods of time. 

What is trauma?

Some people describe trauma as what happens when the fight, flight or freeze mode is activated, but the energy and chemistry in the body are not able to return back to a resting state.  When a person experiences stressful, dangerous, overwhelming events, it registers  in the body at a cellular level.   

Post Traumatic Stress (Disorder) (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychological term that describes the feelings and experiences that many people have after they have experienced a traumatic event  or many traumatic events over a long period of time.  These feelings are not "disorders" as the mental health field would have you believe, but normal responses to stress.

People who have survived traumatic events in their lives may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Distressing memories of the trauma that come at unexpected momments
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling like the trauma is still happening
  • Seeing or hearing parts of the traumatic event at unexpected moments
  • Feeling distressed when something reminds them of the trauma
  • Avoiding things that remind them of the trauma
  • Not being able to remember the traumatic even
  • Isolating and not wanting to do things that used to be fun
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Always feeling like something bad is about to happen


Trauma and healing… Talking to someone that feels safe, is an important step in healing from trauma, but sometimes talking about a traumatic experience can make a person feel worse.  Since trauma is experienced in the body, healing from trauma needs to involve the body. 

The most effective treatment for symptoms of trauma involves working with the body. If a Doctor, Psychiatrist or Counselor suggests prescription drugs, it probably means they do not understand trauma. Psychiatric drugs only numb the symptoms and create more health problems.

written by S.M. Asiedu