One of the most difficult aspects of trauma is that it does not end when the traumatizing event is over. Even if your mind is fuzzy on the details of a traumatic event, your body does not forget the event as easily. If you have lived through trauma, you may understand what this means. Regardless of whether you have recognized the way trauma has changed your body, I am here to help you to understand it.
What is trauma?
Trauma is the lasting effect on our mind and body after experiencing a traumatic event. A traumatic event can be almost anything: being in a car crash, witnessing a mass act of public violence, being a victim of an assault, or being in a harmful relationship.
In the immediate aftermath of the traumatic event, you may not fully understand the impact trauma put on you. These feelings are completely normal and a natural part of processing the event you experienced. Sometimes, trauma develops into something more severe, which I will discuss below.
Mental effects of trauma
Experiencing one form of trauma can make you more susceptible to developing mental health concerns in the future. This can range from anxiety and depression to substance abuse issues. You may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder. To learn more, continue on.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition in which your trauma progresses beyond what is considered a normal level. Nearly 7% of adults experience some type of PTSD caused by some type of traumatic event.
Although symptoms of PTSD vary on a person-to-person basis, some of the most recognizable traits include:
- Vivid recurring nightmares
- Intense flashbacks to the event
- Increased levels of anxiety and depression
- Avoiding situations that remind you of the event
- Being hypervigilant of surroundings
Physical effects of experiencing trauma
Despite many people associating trauma exclusively with mental health concerns, our physical health is just as affected as our mental health. If you are living with prolonged trauma or simply have unprocessed trauma, then you may notice some of the following in your daily life.
- Storing trauma in the body: Our bodies do not forget things easily. Muscle memory is built up after repetitive motions, and in some ways, you can develop muscle memory for trauma. Once our brain is “at capacity” for trauma, it will flow over into our muscles, causing pain and discomfort.
- Sensory triggers: Imagine you are in a crowded restaurant. You can smell the food, hear the patrons, and see the crowded tables, all without truly being there. In the same way, our body remembers the trauma we experienced. If you were in a car accident, the sound of a horn may trigger a flashback. This is all due to our body’s senses and storing memories.
- Lack of energy: Living with trauma is exhausting. Having to fend off flashbacks or nightmares can cause wear and tear to anyone. Experiencing a lack of energy due to this is normal.
- Recognizing anniversary reactions: An anniversary reaction is a more understated way our body stores trauma. You may find yourself feeling more irritable or anxious around the time of year you experienced a trauma. This is known as an anniversary reaction. Whether you even realize the anniversary of an event is coming up, your body will remember for you.
The good news is that you are able to treat both the mental and physical effects of trauma. Perhaps the most effective way to begin to overcome your trauma is by seeking professional help. If you are searching for a counselor you can trust, then please reach out today. I am happy to help you to navigate toward a more mentally healthy version of yourself.