To be clear, trauma is defined as everything from an injury or an upsetting event, to a life-threatening moment in time. For purposes of this article, I will be referring to a frightening life event that is remembered because of a trigger in the present moment. This trigger is an echo of the trauma felt before, and the brain has filed it under “life threatening.” The resulting reaction is commonly experienced as worry, dread, alarm, and a wide array of physical anxiety symptoms. Anxiety can affect every body system: cardiac, digestive, respiratory, etc. These bodily reactions can happen with or without a “story” to accompany them, but will be associated with an environmental trigger which the body interprets as threatening.
For example, a young woman is walking down the street when a train whistle sounds in the distance. Before her brain has had a chance to know “why,” she notices her heart racing, sweating, and a feeling of needing to run away. Not long after, she is aware that her mind is reviewing the day that her father died. It was a moment in time where the train near her family home sounded off not five minutes from her father’s last breath. Because of the proximity to a traumatic event, her brain now sends an alarm to the body when an association is made between this life event and the conditions under which it occurred.