Dr. Van der Kolk notes that long after a traumatic experience is over, the brain and the body remembers it. The body goes into "fight or flight" mode when encountering situations that might be similar to the trauma or evoke a trigger that brings us back into the past. While our fight or flight response is helpful when faced with truly dangerous situations, it can exhaust our body when the threat is a minor one, causing us expend stress hormones and physiological responses that aren't warranted for the situation. It's almost as if the brain is mistaken into believing that what was happening before is happening all over again, causing a form of hypervigilance that can be troubling.
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