For the mind and body to integrate events, they must translate such events into some type of language, even a subconscious language.
Neural pathways take thoughts that are related to experiences, send them to the language regions of the brain to be processed, and then send them back to other areas of the brain. However, the brain does not process the event that caused PTSD correctly, so the brain sends those thoughts back. The thoughts bounce back and forth since they and become trapped in the automated nervous system. This creates a feedback loop.
When stuck in this feedback loop, the individual can experience a number of side effects, including:
- Taut and tense muscles
- Problems concentrating and reasoning
- Hypervigilant behavior
- Re-experiences of past events.
Individuals caught in this loop can feel physically and mentally frozen, similar to a deer staring into headlights. Much like a landmine waiting for someone to step on it, certain sights, smells, touches, sounds, or other sensations that bring back memories of the traumatic events can trigger PTSD symptoms.