Everyone deals with trauma differently. However, most people recognize it as something that can severely impact your mental health and well-being. While that’s true, it’s important to note that your brain isn’t the only thing that holds onto trauma. Your body remembers, too, and can often hold onto the effects of trauma for many years.
It might be strange to think that your body remembers trauma, but it’s more natural than you likely realize. Think about riding a bicycle. You’ve probably done it a thousand times before, and maybe you have even experienced a fall or accident in your life. Every time you get on your bicycle, your body remembers what it’s done before with each motion. It’s working to ensure you’re riding safely and correctly and preparing itself for all possibilities.
The same thing happens when you’ve experienced trauma. Your body remembers and prepares itself—especially in certain situations. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the body remembers trauma and why it matters.
Unprocessed Trauma and the Nervous System
Your body holds on tight to painful experiences in similar ways to the brain. No matter the type of trauma you’ve been through, something that triggers it can cause your body to respond in a way you might not expect. Most of us have heard of “fight or flight” when it comes to dealing with traumatic situations. However, it’s not uncommon to “freeze” when you’re in a situation that reminds you of your trauma. In those cases, the brain’s ability to work through the experience stops. It shuts down. Your nervous system starts to get overwhelmed, and your defenses may not work the way you think they should.
Unprocessed trauma doesn’t just go away; it doesn’t solely live in the confines of your mind. In fact, for many people, the brain does a decent job of blocking out traumatic memories. However, the body always remembers and can cause those distressing memories to manifest in a variety of ways.
The Symptoms of Trauma in the Body
In addition, to fight, flight, or freeze, several common symptoms of trauma are stored in the body. If it isn’t fully processed within the brain, it will find somewhere else to dwell. Some of the most common symptoms of trauma stored within the body include:
- Nausea or digestive issues
- Aching muscles
Combine those symptoms with things like confusion, agitation, sadness, anxiety, and/or numbness, and it can often feel overwhelming to deal with the lingering effects of trauma. You might even wonder if something is physically wrong with you because you’re not processing the negative events you’ve gone through.
What Can You Do?
It’s never too late to address unprocessed trauma. Whether you went through a disturbing event as a child or an adult, recognizing the mental and physical symptoms of trauma is the first step to getting the help you deserve. While it can sometimes be difficult to recognize trauma solely based on physical symptoms, pay attention to how your body naturally responds to triggering events. That can often indicate that you’re dealing with something different than an illness or ailment.
One of the best ways to treat trauma is to seek out professional help. A trauma-informed therapist can help you get to the root cause of your symptoms. While it’s not always easy to go back and open yourself up to what you went through, it’s a necessary first step toward healing.
If you’ve experienced trauma in your life and you’ve noticed it manifesting itself physically or mentally, don’t hesitate to contact me. Your trauma doesn’t have to define your life or who you are.