Bessel van der Kolk, MD

Blog Postpost

Posted Saturday July, 3rd 2021

How trauma affects the body and brain

Trauma is a word we use casually—whether it's feeling “traumatised” at a particularly awkward party or having to put in some extra hours at work. While there might be situations at work or play that could become traumatic, however, what we usually refer to is stress. “This interview right now could be stressful but I know in a few minutes this would be over and I can go get some coffee,” says psychiatrist Dr Bessel van der Kolk, who has written number one bestseller, The Body Keeps The Score, and has worked with trauma survivors for over three decades. “Life is full of stress, wherein your body can go back to feeling safe and calm, but trauma refers to stress so extreme that you can’t return to baseline.” He gives the example of sexual assault. “When it is over you continue to feel that is happening right now and the body continues to carry the event with you.”

To what intensity we carry these traumatic events differs from person to person. “If you have people who care for you, understand you, or protect you, it generally becomes less traumatic, as compared to if you’re not believed or it’s kept a secret, which is much worse,” says Dr van der Kolk. However, it would be unfair to assume that one trauma greater or worse than another. “I treat a lot of traumatised people and I never get...


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