Oprah Winfrey’s story is not just one of incredible success but also resilience in the face of immense adversity. Having endured harrowing abuse as a child, she became intimately familiar with the far-reaching consequences of early trauma.
In a candid and revealing video interview with Doctor Oz, she courageously talks about her past trauma and how it affected her relationships later in life. She reveals that she became resentful of everyone and couldn’t trust even her closest friends.
However, Oprah’s story is also one of hope and triumph.
Through a journey of self-discovery and healing, she managed to break free from the shackles of her past, paving the way for a future defined by excellent mental health and inspiration for other trauma survivors.
In this article, we’ll delve into how post-traumatic stress disorder affects your mental and physical health. We’ll also look at how it can impact your adult relationships. Keep reading to learn how to heal from trauma and create healthy bonds as an adult.
How Does Past Trauma Affect My Brain and Body?
When you experience a traumatic event, it has far-reaching effects on your body and overall well-being. Let me break it down:
The Prefrontal Cortex
Your prefrontal cortex is responsible for making decisions and regulating emotions and memory. During a traumatic event, the prefrontal cortex can become overwhelmed, impairing its ability to process information effectively. This can lead to difficulties in concentration, problem-solving, and emotional control.
The Nervous System
Trauma also triggers the nervous system, specifically the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The sympathetic nervous system initiates the “fight-or-flight” response, flooding your body with stress hormones like adrenaline. Your heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and muscles tense up.
On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system works to calm the body down, promoting rest and recovery. However, trauma can disrupt this balance, leaving you stuck in a state of hypervigilance or chronic stress.
Autonomic Body Processes
Further, trauma impacts many autonomic body processes. The release of stress hormones affects the immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses and impacting your body’s ability to heal.
Digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can arise as trauma affects the gut-brain connection. Sleep disturbances are common since trauma can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or nightmares.
Trauma can disrupt brain chemistry, causing changes in the way your brain functions. It can affect the balance of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit messages between brain cells, leading to symptoms like depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
Can Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Affect My Relationships?
Emotional trauma from your childhood can have adverse effects on your adult relationships. The lasting effects of trauma can cause emotional barriers, making it tough to trust and fully open up to others.
You might find yourself instinctively withdrawing or reacting intensely to specific triggers. It becomes a challenge to feel secure and express vulnerability, fearing potential harm or abandonment.
Additionally, some harmful coping mechanisms you might have developed in response to trauma might hinder healthy emotional responses and cause conflict with your loved ones.
Someone I know Is Having Trouble Maintaining Adult Relationships. What PTSD Symptoms Should I Look Out For?
Regarding post-traumatic stress disorder, it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms that might indicate its presence. PTSD can occur after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, significantly impacting the victim’s mental health.
One common symptom to watch out for is difficulty processing emotions related to the traumatic event. The person might start displaying intense anger, fear, or sadness and struggle to make sense of them. Sometimes, they’ll even lash out at people around them without provocation.
The amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for processing emotions and fear responses, can be particularly affected by PTSD, leading to heightened anxiety levels and hypervigilance. In this case, the victim is constantly on high alert, expecting danger even in non-threatening situations.
However, it’s important to note that everyone’s experience with PTSD is unique, and not everyone will exhibit the same symptoms. If you suspect you might be experiencing PTSD, it’s vital to talk to a licensed health professional or find another way to start the healing process.
How Do I Recover From Childhood Trauma?
Recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder is a courageous and deeply personal journey. It’s important to remember that healing takes time, but with the proper support, you can work towards reclaiming your life.
Once you heal from your traumatic experience, you will have an easier time creating healthy bonds and lasting adult relationships.
Below are a few things you can do as you embark on your recovery journey:
Acknowledge Your Traumatic Experience
First and foremost, acknowledging the traumatic experience and its impact on your life is a crucial step. Recognizing the emotions and difficulties you’ve faced can validate your experiences and lay the groundwork for healing.
Accept that you’re suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and welcome any help that can aid your recovery from the emotional trauma.
Practice self-care activities that promote healing and well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and a sense of grounding, including journaling, exercise, mindfulness or meditation, and creative outlets.
Build a Support Network
Surround yourself with empathetic people who understand your experience and are willing to walk with you through the recovery process. They can include family, friends, support groups, or online forums with fellow trauma survivors.
Sharing your experiences and feelings with a supportive network can provide much-needed validation and encouragement.
Seek Professional Help
Consider working with a mental health professional experienced in trauma therapy. Prolonged exposure therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be particularly effective.
If you need help finding a licensed mental health professional in your area, here are some tips you can use to find the right one for you.
Start Your Healing Journey Today
Experiencing traumatic events during your formative years can leave lifelong scars. However, through resilience, you can beat your childhood PTSD and live a happy and healthy life.
If you’re experiencing PTSD symptoms, seek professional help from a licensed therapist and start reclaiming your mental health. You can also call this hotline to learn how to face emotional trauma.