Post-Traumatic Growth

Lesson objective:

We are still on the topic of neural tissue proliferation (growth and survival),we learn about how this growth can occur after trauma and stress.

While we’ve talked extensively about the negative effects of chronic stress and trauma, there are also some positive changes that can occur, even if somewhat by accident. 

This idea of positive developments in the wake of trauma is called post-traumatic growth. 

Post-traumatic growth refers to any perceived positive change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges, often resulting in a higher level of functioning in the brain, body, or behavior. 

Let’s take an example.

Think about someone who plays the piano really well. Due to a tragic injury, this person loses a finger. The loss of the finger results in a complete inability to play the piano. Initially, the loss is tragic. 

It is more than the loss of a finger. It is the loss of a skill, of a hobby, of a source of joy, of perhaps a source of income, and a loss of a part of this person’s identity.   

After a period of tremendous sadness and pain, this person begins to paint and create art—an activity that does not need the same level of finger precision. 

Eventually, this person becomes an excellent artist. They begin to find tremendous pleasure and joy in art, and even sell art on an international level. 

Art becomes a new hobby, lifestyle, and identity for this person.


This example is not to say that trauma is positive or helpful, but rather to suggest that loss and growth can sit alongside each other. Some good can come of tragedy, and that is an important point to remember as we seek to avoid despair and hopelessness. 

Destruction and renewal can exist at the same time.

Traumatic experiences often lead to negative adaptations in the brain, body, and behavior, but they can also result in adaptive benefits. New skills, stronger relationships, new resilience resources can all emerge after traumatic experiences and adversity. 

Post-traumatic growth may sound trite or even offensive to people who suffer post-traumatic stress symptoms, or to those deeply affected by trauma. Stress and trauma can ruin lives. But that is not the end of the story. 

Stressful and traumatic experiences are damaging, but there may be positive changes and personal growth in the aftermath. 


In short, suffering can bring out some positive changes and growth in an individual. Countless stories of heroes and prophets illustrate this point—that adversity can provide a platform for greatness, courage, love, renewed self-esteem, and other potentially beneficial outcomes.