Welcome to the fifth post in an ongoing series about childhood trauma and PTSD. So far, the series has explained why I write about PTSD in children, what words like childhood developmental trauma and PTSD mean, myths about this mental illness, and what causes childhood trauma.
The Instinctual Trauma Response (ITR) Model
Today’s post takes a look at how the brain responds to perceived danger. Many models exist about the brain’s instinctive response to threat. The one that makes the most sense to me–and I hope will make sense to you, too–is called the Instinctual Trauma Response (ITR) model. It was developed by Dr. Louis Tinnin and Linda Gantt, the founders of Intensive Trauma Therapy, Inc. (ITT) in Morgantown, West Virginia.
ITR’s Seven Stages
In the 1990s Tinnin and Gantt identified a consistent pattern of response n to threatening events. The pattern is common in both children and adults and consists of seven stages. Here is a brief look at each stage.
Startle: A quick, intense response which puts the body on high alert.
Thwarted intention: After the initial startle, the body releases a surge of hormones to prepare for fight or flight. When fight or flight aren’t possible, the thwarted intention response kicks in.
Freeze: The body enters a frozen state of numbness and immobility, at least for a moment or two, when intentions are thwarted and there is no hope of escape.
Altered state of consciousness: If the freeze state lasts for more than a few moments, many people enter an altered state of consciousness. Adults often describe this state as watching a movie of themselves or that they feel themselves shrink deep inside their bodies and their bodies seem to become shells.
Body sensations: A variety of sensations, such as pain, can experienced during different stages in the ITR model. All of the sensations are stored as non-verbal memories (in both children and adults) and are stored in the right brain. They remain there as non-verbal memories—bodily sensations that can’t be put it into words.
Automatic obedience: This instinctual response causes a threatened person to automatically obey a perpetrator’s demands in order to survive the immediate threat.
Self-repair: After the threat passes, a person tends to the emotional and physical wounds of trauma. Sleeping, eating, rocking, going to a quiet place, and washing are all forms of self-repair.
To read the rest of this post, please visit Key Ministry’s blog, Church4EveryChild.
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Part 1: Writing About PTSD Was Not on My Bucket List
Part 2: Childhood Trauma by Any Other Name Is Still Traumatic
Part 3: 10 Myths about PTSD in Children
Part 4: What Causes PTSD in Children
Part 5: A Look Inside the Brain’s Response to Childhood Trauma
Part 6: Why the Spotlight Is on PTSD in Children
Part 7: Childhood PTSD Symptoms in Tots, Teens, and In Between
Part 8: Why and How Childhood PTSD Is often Misdiagnosed
Part 9: Effective Treatment of PTSD in Children
Part 10: How to Prevent PTSD in Traumatized Children
Part 11: How Parents Can Advocate Effectively for Traumatized Children
Part 12: 4 Reasons Traumatized Kids Need Mentally Healthy Parents
Part 13: Clinging to Faith While Parenting Children with PTSD