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Trauma and the mind
The Cleveland, Ohio house where three women, who had disappeared ten years ago, were found alive on May 7, 2013.
May 10th, 2013
09:30 AM ET

Trauma and the mind

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @CNNEmma

(CNN) - This week all eyes were on Cleveland, Ohio as three women held captive for ten years emerged.

Amid the considerable joy there were also concerns. These women are physically out of danger but what about their minds? Experts say their experience must  have been quite traumatic.

Stephanie Orlando serves on the National Council for Disability. She says emotional trauma can take many different forms:

[:28] "That can include emotional distress, traumatic events such as  a national disaster, abuse, neglec t."

Trauma actually changes the way the brain functions according to Dr. Grant Brenner.

[1:16]  "The amygdala which is the part of the brain which processes strong emotions notably fear tends to be hyperactive. "

The amygdala works with the hippocampus, they function like the brain's fire alarm.

[1:26] "The hippocampus tells the amigdola when it should and when it shouldn't be sounding the alarm. In post-traumatic states people sound the alarm much much more than they should and somewhat relatively independent of the context."

This means traumatized people have difficulty evaluating threats. For example a solider returning from a battlefield might perceive a car backfire as a threat.

But just because trauma changed the brain, it's not changed forever. Healing is possible, it just takes time and effort. Orlando advises people to be patient and accepting of those in their lives who have gone through a trauma. She experienced her own trauma as a child and now she's happy and healthy.

[3:32 ] "I mean most people have anxiety and nervousness around certain situations. I'm just now more skilled at how to deal with it because I was in therapy for so many years."

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Filed under: Behavior • Health • Soundwaves • Stories
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. terrible

    People who have suffered severe trauma, deserver our caring and protection and patience. However, humans have experienced trauma since the beginning, of time- we all go through it- and we all get through it – and we live our lives and then our lives comes to an end, even if we have no trauma. We should stop sensationalizing it, and convincing people that because they have experience trauma, to world stops turning, and they will never be the same again. Doing that is worse than the trauma itself.

    May 15, 2013 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. David Turkheimer

    Thanks. Very helpful. Also to be noted is that subsequent traumas reinvigorate the damage from former traumas.

    May 12, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lightseeker

    Everyone should be meditating for at least an hour, two times per day. Watch and see how your life changes.

    May 12, 2013 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
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