Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma

Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma

We hear a lot about PTSD, C-PTSD, triggers, flashbacks, treatments, etc. PTSD is the most common mental health disorder, impacting 25% of the world’s population. (1)


POST traumatic, stress disorder

After the traumatic thing is over; how you experience stress & your attempts to regulate it are not “functional”. 



I have my own experiences with C-PTSD, but I’m also a mental health nurse. So, here are the things I think you should know about your amygdala and childhood trauma.  


1 |

The association between what happens around you, and how you physiologically respond has been impacted.

not ruined, not faulty, not broken; but impacted, for your safety, based on your unique experiences (some you may not even remember)

You have two amygdalae in your temporal lobe. They are part of your limbic system. Your amygdala’s job is to sense danger and tell your body to begin the flight or fight response. 

A lot of us do exactly what our body tells us to do, without considering that our body is talking our mind into being afraid.

Your amygdala reacts, without you telling it to. Your amygdala doesn’t have a discussion with you before it gives the go ahead to flood adrenaline into your body. 

Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma

People with PTSD often have an amygdala with the philosophy of better safe than sorry.

So, when you abruptly realize you’re not good & make an exit, without the ability to have an explanation; that’s exactly how the amygdala works, and how it should work.

These things will happen to someone with PTSD. It’s one of the effects of childhood trauma on the brain.

We would be at a bigger disadvantage if our aymgdala didn’t learn from horrific things.

We don’t get to tell the amygdala what it needs to be looking for. 

For instance, Let’s say you witnessed a robbery at a gas station that ended in a gun fight.

You might guess that guns make you a little uneasy, or maybe you’re not into ski masks; those are pretty straight forward.

But your amygdala picked up on the sound of the gas station door bell that you didn’t even realize you heard 3 minutes before the robbery began.

That’s when it gets confusing for us.

We can’t stand the Wal-Mart greeter around christmas time; the one that rings the bell relentlessly and wishes you a Merry Christmas; but we but can’t make the connection why. 

Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma

Try not to think about it as your enemy, challenge yourself to be thankful for it instead. 

Thank you amygdala, but I’ll take it from here.

What YOU are left with, is a cognitive interpretation; heavily influenced by your body’s state of fear.

With that being said, here is the second thing you should know about your amygdala and childhood trauma



2 |

View situations, “triggers“, and reactions objectively

Because, people with PTSD have a bias to negative stimuli; this means how you are seeing it, might not be realistic.

You will likely exagerate the level of threat and the possibility of catastrophy. 

Here are some examples of replacing your subjective interpretation with objective information

Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma

Below is printable you can use to track how you react to certain things.

I’ve used the PDF a few times to help me sort out what’s happening & why.

Free Printable PTSD Trigger Tracker

We’ve had different experiences, which brings me to the third thing you should know about your amygdala and childhood trauma.



3 |

We have all had unique experiences & they’re all valid.

I listen to a lot of people talk about PTSD & they often downplay what happened & try to stuff the feelings that came with it.

Sometimes growing up we had to, because we truly couldn’t handle what was happening around us.

A lot of us were helpless children, having very little, or no control of our surroundings. The only thing you have left is to distort the way you see it, so you can handle it.

It doesn’t help that a lot of parents

  • Shame kids for having feelings
  • Refuse to admit their wrong doings
  • Are enablers & downplay other adult’s wrongdoings
  • Are uncomfortable with emotions
  • Do not express emotions
  • Do not express emotions appropriately
  • Discourage kids from having feelings
  • Take advantage of a child’s vulnerability
  • Equate vulnerability to weakness

These are all ridiculous unhealthy ways to approach emotions. They were then & they still are now.

There are a lot of people who do this until they die. It doesn’t matter if they’re 67 years old; they still may be unhealthy when it comes to emotional wellbeing.

Another thing; you may have went through something with someone, but stilll had two completely different experiences.

When I was a kid, me and my brother were the only ones at the house one night when my mom did some… traumatizing things.

I had always viewed it as “We went through it together. We both experienced the same thing.”

But, this incident left me in a state that I couldn’t escape until 15 laters, & with a lot of help from a therapist.

It changed my trajectory and was something I thought about everyday. I lived in the nightmare of the theme of the events that happened.

Each time I tried to talk to my brother about it, I felt worse. 

I felt like he should understand, I mean he was there… but he didn’t. He invalidated my account of what happened and was even upset with me for years about it.

I felt like he needed to understand what happened, what really happened, you know? 

I, after 15 years & with help from someone with a degree in emotions (a therapist), realized and accepted; I am the only one who experienced it. 

It doesn’t have to be validated by him, or anyone, for me to have experienced what I experienced.

So, just because someone claims to “know what happened” or “how it happened” or want to frame it as if you’re being dramatic, etc… no.

Your experience is yours and more importantly don’t allow that invalidation to stop you from healing.

If it’s still something you think about on the drive home from work everyday, when you lay down at night, and when you drive back into work…

There is a way to escape that, but stuffing your feelings down about it is not the way.

So here’s a little bit about how to heal the brain after trauma.



4 |

It’s important to integrate what happened into who you are now.

Instead of being haunted by the experience, you will begin to feel empowered by it.

Each time you tell a trauma story the right way, it has a little less of a grip on you.

Be vulnerable, persistent, and attentive when it comes to your PTSD.

Understanding how to rewire your brain after trauma requires each of them

What I mean by be vulnerable

  • Tell the story from a first person point of view
  • Journal about what is on your mind
  • Write letters to people that you feel unsettled with (you don’t need to send them)
  • Tell the story without making it into a comedy movie
  • Challenge your rigid thinking/all or nothing/black and white thinking
    • receiving criticism does not mean you’re a failure
    • a disgruntled patient doesn’t make you a bad nurse
  • Be willing to take direction (from the RIGHT people/places)
  • Try free groups for dysfunctional families: ACOA, Hope Recovery
  • Challenge your codependent traits
  • Challenge your controlling behaviors
  • Challenge your perfectionsist tendencies
  • Challenge your people pleasing habits
  • It will take courage & will get easier; give yourself grace

What I mean by be persistent

  • If you’re trying and something isn’t working, address it
  • You might be talking to the wrong person
  • Taking the wrong medication
  • Trying the wrong therapy approach
  • You might have the wrong therapist
  • Maybe you need more time/going too fast
  • Perhaps a different setting/environment
  • Consider distancing yourself/removing things that are harming you
    • friends
    • habits
    • family members
    • jobs
    • marriage
    • etc.

What I mean by be attentive

  • Pay attention to yourself
  • Try tracking things and pay attention to patterns
  • Practice being calm/calming down
  • Sometimes the most “important” people, are the worst for us
  • Are you okay with how you treat people/how you allow others to treat you?
  • You can still love someone but not share certain things with them
  • You get to choose who you tell and what you tell
  • Recognize your own shortcomings or unhealthy habits
  • Take the time to reflect and take care of yourself

Hopefully some of this helps. I put a lot of links below for other PTSD stuff; posts, journaling, and a book about PTSD.

Your Amygdala and Childhood Trauma




Posts related to your amygdala and childhood trauma:

All Posts Related to PTSD

What is CBT

Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

17 Brutal Truths About Losing a Parent As a Child

10 Signs of Emotional Neglect In Adults

Dealing With Triggers In Recovery: 10 Proven Methods That Work

14 Exercises to Stop Negative Thinking

Here Is What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed and Stressed: 9 Effective Strategies

Medication for Anxiety and Panic Attacks



How to heal the brain after trauma

Free Printable PTSD Trigger Tracker

23 Pages of PTSD Journaling Prompts



If you want to know the details about how trauma changes the brain:

You can learn a lot about how trauma changes the brain from the book below.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

This book explains effects of childhood trauma on the brain

It’s kind of a dry book in my opinion, but worth the read. It definitely explains PTSD, which is really insightful and helpful if it applies to you.


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1 Jorge RE. Posttraumatic stress disorder. Continuum. 2015;21:789-805.