How trauma shapes and influences our decision-making abilities | Health - Hindustan Times

How trauma shapes and influences our decision-making abilities

By, Delhi
Jan 06, 2024 01:14 PM IST

From hyperarousal to fear responses, here are a few ways by which trauma can affect our decision-making abilities.

When we are brought up in dysfunctional homes, we internalise childhood trauma. This further has a huge impact on our behaviour patterns and our perspectives on adult relationships. Sometimes, it can take a single traumatic experience to change the way we view things or the decisions we make. "Navigating the aftermath of trauma has a fundamental impact on your brain and nervous system, intricately shaping how you approach decision-making," wrote Psychologist Caroline Middelsdorf. The expert further added how we start to have difficulties in coming to a definite decision or knowing what we truly want – these are impacts of trauma on the brain.

How trauma shapes and influences our decision-making abilities(Unsplash)
How trauma shapes and influences our decision-making abilities(Unsplash)

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Hyperarousal and emotional dysregulation: Trauma can cause spikes in stress and anxiety in the mind, leading to more production of the stress hormone – Cortisol. This further affects our decision-making abilities and makes us question the choices we make.

Prefrontal cortex impairment: Trauma affects the natural balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to high stress hormones in the prefrontal cortex – the decision-making part of the brain.

Hypervigilance and fear responses: When we experience trauma, the mind goes into a state of hypervigilance, constantly trying to detect threats. These fear responses further link danger to decision-making, thereby making it difficult to assess situations properly.

Flashbacks and intrusive memories: Trauma often hits the replay button in the mind, making us go back to the time when the experience actually happened – the entire experience gives us a similar feeling. Thus, the usual functioning is affected.

Difficulty trusting ourselves: Chronic stress from traumatic experiences affects the way we see and perceive ourselves. Hence, self-confidence and self-trust are affected, making us difficult to believe in our own abilities. Feelings of guilt and shame, often intertwined with trauma, make it difficult for us to take decisions that are healthy for ourselves.

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