Everyone has traumatic experiences during their lives. The effects can be physical, psychological or a mixture of the two. Most recover quickly, some do not. Sometimes the effect of a trauma can stay with us and affect our lives long after the event. Specialist help may be needed to aid recovery.
When memories are formed normally they usually have a story-like quality, and contain impressions and interpretations as well as facts about what happened. When something dangerous happens, our body and brain respond in a different way. Our body recognises the emergency and takes protective action; the messages to the brain seem to be put into an emergency store often without going through the normal memory processing.
These experiences – with the original sound thoughts and feelings – are recorded in the brain in the raw unprocessed form. Sometimes the brain does not process them in the normal way to form ordinary memories. They are even stored in a different part of the brain. When these memories are recalled they can be very upsetting. Sometimes they can be recalled out of the blue causing flashbacks, nightmares and outbursts. They can make it very difficult to deal with ordinary stressful situations in a calm and reasonable way.