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Functioning in the Midst of Terror: The Psycho-Biology of Trauma

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Describe the Reptilian, Mammalian and Neo-Cortical Brains of Humans ... Need a basic understanding of the psychobiology of trauma. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Functioning in the Midst of Terror: The Psycho-Biology of Trauma


1
Functioning in the Midst of Terror The
Psycho-Biology of Trauma
  • Lisa R. LaDue, MSW, LISW
  • Director
  • National Mass Fatalities Institute

2
Objectives
  • Define a Traumatic Event
  • Describe the Reptilian, Mammalian and
    Neo-Cortical Brains of Humans
  • List Behavioral Effects of Fear-Activation of the
    Autonomic Nervous System
  • Demonstrate Skills to Deactivate the Alarmed
    Nervous System

3
Traumatic Event
  • An Element of Threat - Actual or threatened death
    or serious injury, or threat to the physical
    integrity of self or others
  • A Typical Response Intense fear, helplessness
    and/or horror

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Some Factors Can Increase Traumatic Effect
  • Disfigurement of Bodies
  • Communication Failures
  • Degradation/Humiliation
  • Proximity
  • Duration
  • Severity

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Most individuals recover from traumatic events
without long-lasting problems.
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Those Most At Risk Include
  • Young People
  • Women
  • Individuals With Histories of Abuse
  • Individuals Without Support Systems
  • Individuals with Histories of Psychiatric
    Disorders

14
The Terrified, Traumatized Human Brain
15
The Three Brains of Humans
  • Higher (Neo-Cortex) Brain
  • Limbic (Mammalian) Brain
  • Lower (Reptilian)
  • Brain

16
Lower Brain
  • Vital Control Centers
  • Breathing
  • Swallowing
  • Heartbeat
  • Blood pressure
  • Visual tracking
  • Startle response

17
Limbic Brain
  • The limbic brain is the seat
  • of dreams and emotions.
  • It is the smoke alarm
  • for mammals.
  • Messages are received from the external and
    internal environments.

18
Internal - Body temperature, blood pressure,
heart rate, digestive processes, etc.
  • External - Sights, sounds, smells and feelings

19
Limbic Brain
  • Messages are received
  • Messages are analyzed
  • Emotional response is determined
  • Signals are sent to the neo-cortical brain for
    analyzing, thinking
  • Signals are sent to the lower brain for physical
    response

20
Neo-Cortical Brain
  • Speech
  • Attention
  • Problem Solving
  • Memory
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Learning

21
Blocking of Neo-Cortical Activity
22
Executive Functions of the Higher Brain
  • Directing and sustaining attention
  •  Planning actions
  •  Anticipating consequences
  •  Inhibiting inappropriate behavior
  • Initiating purposeful sequences of behavior
  •  
  • Monitoring the outcome of behavior
  • Interrupting or modifying unsuccessful behaviors

23
The body responds to threat with autonomic
patterns orienting, aggression and flight.
  • The choices are not thought out they are
    instinctively orchestrated by the lower brain.

24
Fear activates the autonomic nervous system to
respond.
  • High Sympathetic Nervous System Activation
  • Social Engagement - Be-Friending
  • Defensive - Fight or Flight

25
Social Engagement Be-Friending
  • Attempts are made to elicit help
  • Cries, Calls, Reaching Out
  • Calming/Safety obtained from others

26
Fight or Flight Response
  • Hyper-arousal of the central nervous system
  • Hyper-vigilance orienting to danger
  • Alarm Response
  • Bio-chemicals released
  • Muscle readiness
  • Increased Heart Rate/Breathing
  • Decreased Gastro-Intestinal Activity
  • ACTION

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Recognizing Signs of the Fight or Flight Response
  • Anxiety may be extreme, enraged or hysterical
  • Flushed appearance
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Rapid, frenzied behavior
  • May be contagious in groups

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Overwhelming Fear May Cause the Autonomic Nervous
System to Freeze
  • High Parasympathetic Nervous System Response
  • Immobility
  • Potential for Dorsal Vegal Activation
  • Deep Freeze System Collapse

31
Freeze Immobility Response
  • Hypo-arousal of the nervous system
  • Most common response to acute traumatic stress
  • Decreased heart rate/blood pressure
  • Slowed respirations
  • Increased gastro-intestinal flow

32
Recognizing Signs of the Freeze Response
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Inability to feel physical or emotional pain
  • Inability to speak or comprehend speech
  • Disorientation
  • Slowed, paralyzed behavior
  • Can be life-threatening

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The incredible advantages of freezing
  • Possible escape
  • Potential life-saving slowing of bodily functions
  • Release of anesthetizing chemicals
  • Shut down of mental processing

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Considerations for Planning and Interventions
  • Need a basic understanding of the psychobiology
    of trauma.
  • Recognize the lack of conscious control of the
    autonomic nervous system
  • Recognize the importance of establishing a sense
    of SAFETY, SECURITY AND SUPPORT
  • Trust in the innate ability of the organism to
    re-establish equilibrium and begin healing

37
Trauma First Aid
  • The discharge of traumatic energy is necessary
    for the nervous system to regain equilibrium
  • Shaking and trembling are the bodys ways of
    discharging traumatic energy (perhaps completing
    fight or flight responses).

38
Trauma First Aid
  • Establish a sense of safety
  • Remove from site of trauma
  • Provide calm support
  • Provide quiet, calm environment

39
Recognize Physical Symptoms of Trauma
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Racy thoughts or images
  • Muscle tremors or weakness
  • Blood pressure rising or falling
  • Stomach or throat tightening
  • Heart beating faster chest tightness
  • Cold skin
  • Numbness

40
Attend to Physical Symptoms
  • Orient to the environment/surroundings
  • Provide warm blanket
  • Notice sensation of feet on ground or other
    (non-trauma) sensation
  • Allow shaking and trembling with reassurance of
    normal response to trauma
  • Talk about resources look for strength
  • Provide calm presence


41
Resources
  • Resources are all sources of strength, providing
    calming and containment.
  • Internal Resources
  • External Resources

42
Facilitate Connection With Social Support Systems
  • Communication with family/friends
  • Support from neighborhood/community
  • Support from agencies/organizations
  • Recognize the innate ability of the nervous
    system to re-establish equilibrium and heal.

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Physical needs and safety are always addressed
before psychological needs during an incident AND
  • Terror
  • must be addressed in the planning stages,
    recognizing its effects on the abilities to think
    and act.

45
Thank you
  • Lisa
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