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Recognizing the Behavioral, Emotional, and Physical Signs of Stored Trauma

Posted by Kelsey Juntwait on

Everyone experiences trauma. From illnesses to divorces to injuries to bullies, one could say that trauma is just another part of the human existence.

But what's difficult to understand is that trauma isn't just a one-and-done sorta thing. Every trauma that we go through will physiologically and emotionally get stored somewhere within our body.

So what do we do about it!?

The key to unlocking physiological and emotional trauma starts with being able to recognize the physical signs that that trauma is giving us.

Here's a list of some of the signs and symptoms that there's stored trauma in your body:

Behavioral Signs of Stored Trauma

Brain Fog

Brain fog is a common behavioral sign of stored trauma — manifesting in ways that include difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering things, and a general feeling of confusion or disorientation. This specific sign of stored trauma can significantly impair someone's ability to think clearly and make decisions, making it something that can leave long-lasting impact.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Self-destructive behavior is often a response to underlying emotional pain that has been neglected or ignored. It can take many forms, including substance abuse, self harm, and even attempts of taking one's life. No matter how severe the destructive behavior are, they're a clear sign that someone is struggling with unresolved emotional issues that need to be addressed.

Avoidance Of Daily Tasks

Another behavioral sign of stored trauma is the avoidance of regular tasks that are typically easy to do and take no added stress pressure. This avoidance can further lead to excessive procrastination and other negative consequences that can affect someone's life long-term. 

Withdrawal From Things That Bring You Joy

Withdrawing from the typical things that usually bring you joy is absolutely a sign of stored trauma in the body. If you find yourself not wanting to do the things that previously put a smile in your house, it's time to evaluate why. We do this because the trauma being stored in our body is starting to overwhelm us so much that our nervous system goes into a shutdown mode. And that shutdown mode leads us to avoid activities that would normally bring us joy.

Emotional Signs of Stored Trauma

Being Easily Frightened

When we store the experience of a traumatic event, our body and brain is wired to remember it, which can cause that memory to be triggered in times of overwhelm, stress, fear, or anxiety. So when you're faced with another feeling that slightly reminds your body and brain of that feeling, then it'll essentially go into overdrive with that emotion.

Mood Swings

Experiencing mood swings isn't inherently always a physical sign of stored trauma in the body, However, when these mood swings are disrupting normal life and your relationships, then the mood swings are probably due to an external cause (such as stored trauma). It's important to look out for signs of more mood swings than normal so you can heal the cause of them rather than just the mood swings themselves.

Always On Guard For Danger

If you find yourself always being "alert" — especially in times of fear, anger, confusion, or in unfamiliar situations — then this sign of stored trauma is ue to your nervous system not knowing how to handle these feelings.

Can’t Rest

If you:

  • Feel so overwhelmed with things that you just can’t seem to sit still.
  • Can't turn off your brain.
  • Struggle to take a break from the pressures of everyday life.

You may fall under this "can't rest" category when it comes to stored trauma.

The reasoning behind this is when you're so overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, it's hard for your nervous system to quickly switch out of that hyper-alert state — making it super hard to actually relax.

Physical Signs of Stored Trauma

Sleep Issues

Similar to not being able to rest, the inability to sleep is partly due to that emotional response to all the stress and anxiety in your life, as well as the physical affects of full-body pain and not being able to to let your body get tired enough to drift off to sleep.

Long-Term Hip, Back, & Neck Pain

As mentioned above, full-body pain is a direct affect of having stored trauma in your physical body. If you find that you're experiencing more pain than usual — or that no amount of stretching, ibuprofen, acupuncture, or massages are helping — then it's time to think about stored trauma being the cause (as well as finding a way to heal it).

Frequent Headaches

Headaches can be triggered by a variety of things, such as stress, anxiety, or even a traumatic memory. The intensity of the headache can vary from mild to severe, and can last for a few minutes or several hours. It's super important to recognize the connection between stored trauma and headaches, as it can be a sign that the body is trying to alert you to something that needs to be addressed.  

Gut Issues

Gut issues due to stored trauma can range from irritable bowel syndrome to chronic constipation or diarrhea. When these issues are interfering with normal life, it's time to ask yourself if they're specifically from storing too much trauma.

If you experience at least two of these signs and symptoms from each category, you might want to start a program that releases stored trauma.

Somatic exercises are a powerful way to release stored trauma from the body. They work by focusing on the connection between our somatic memory (the way our nervous systems deals with traumatic events) and our physical body and mental well-being. 

The practice of somatic exercise helps you to recognize patterns of tension and to release them from the body for good. Through this process, you can start to finally heal from your stored trauma and move forward with your life.

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