How Does the Body Store Trauma?

A therapy session is conducted in an office.

How Does the Body Store Trauma?

Trauma comes in many different forms. It also can affect people of any gender, age, or nationality. Unfortunately, suppressing negative thoughts related to trauma can cause many mental and physical side effects. These effects can be especially detrimental when left untreated. The good news is that choosing professional help can help individuals recover from the effects of trauma. By working with trauma-informed professionals, individuals can learn how the body stores trauma, understand the cause of their symptoms, and participate in effective treatments.

It can be difficult for a person to acknowledge that an event has had a detrimental effect on them. Therefore, it is normal for those who undergo trauma to think they’ve moved on and are unaffected. However, people often store the effects of the trauma in their bodies without even realizing it. Unfortunately, this can lead to addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. When the signs of substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health problems arise, seeking professional care may be necessary to heal and achieve a better quality of life.

What Is Trauma?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, a traumatic event or circumstance is perceived as life-threatening or causes emotional or physical harm. Unaddressed trauma can affect an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical health and social and spiritual well-being. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), different types of trauma may consist of:

  • Sexual assault
  • Racial trauma
  • Community violence
  • Intimate partner violence
  • War and combat
  • Natural disasters
  • Medical trauma
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Complex trauma
  • Refugee trauma
  • Traumatic grief
  • Terrorism and violence

Why the Body Stores Trauma

As stated previously, the psychological effects of trauma can sometimes be missed. When a person realizes they may have been affected by a traumatic event, it can still be difficult to broach the subject. Opening up about trauma can sometimes feel too personal, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. Also, children and adolescents may not always understand why certain things happen. Therefore, communicating their thoughts can be very challenging. This can be especially difficult for individuals with special needs, such as those with autism or intellectual disabilities.

According to SAMHSA’s guide, Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Sciences, individuals may share similar reactions to trauma. These reactions may include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Dissociation
  • Blunted affect

Some individuals may have delayed responses to trauma. These delayed effects may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Night terrors
  • Paranoia and fear of recurrence
  • Sleep disorders
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidance of situations

The Negative Impact on Mental Health and Addiction When an Individual Stores Trauma

The effects of trauma can place a heavy burden on families, individuals, and communities. Many individuals bury trauma’s effects, leading to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Everyone responds to the effects of trauma differently. Some people have a better support system or have more internal resilience than others. Therefore, the extent to which people are affected and the likelihood that they can bounce back without treatment will vary.

When an individual has stored trauma in their system, it can lead to many types of problems. These problems can include eating disorders such as anorexia or binge eating. Adults and teens may resort to misusing prescription medications, illegal drugs, harmful substances, or alcohol to suppress their feelings further. Although substance use numbs unwanted thoughts and feelings, it can worsen and exacerbate an individual’s condition. For that reason and others, most mental health specialists strongly discourage using substances as a coping mechanism.

Treatments That Help When a Person Stores Trauma

As stated previously, untreated trauma risks one’s mental and physical health. To minimize or eliminate these risks, the best option is to choose professional treatment. Choosing addiction and mental health treatment can be difficult for many people. However, it’s good to remember that different facilities offer different treatment modalities with various approaches. Specific facilities may work better for certain personalities and conditions, including those dealing with the effects of trauma.

Developing an individualized treatment plan with a mental health professional can ensure that one’s specific health concerns are directly addressed. Trauma-trained specialists can work with individuals and tailor the services to their needs to create a more successful outcome.

Different modalities offered through professional care facilities may be beneficial in treating a dual diagnosis. At Framework Recovery, we offer trauma-informed treatment that provides clients the best chance of healing from trauma. Available treatments that can address trauma successfully include:

  • Trauma-informed care
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Family programs

The Importance of Staying Committed

When moving toward long-term recovery, individuals must stay dedicated to their treatment plan, accept support, and apply the strategies they learn. Sometimes minor setbacks such as relapse, a lack of motivation, and boredom can interfere with one’s treatment plan. Journaling negative or new symptoms, keeping steady progress notes, and communicating current health concerns can help. Staying in close touch with a health professional can help a person stay on track with their journey to a safe and healthy recovery.

Early recovery often requires one to make significant changes in their life. To successfully make these changes, sometimes additional assistance may be needed. Accepting support from friends and family can be comforting. Moreover, finding professional support from a peer recovery coach can provide an individual with the guidance necessary to move forward from trauma successfully.

Everyone deserves to heal. When an individual begins to heal, so do their immediate loved ones. Further, the community may be relieved from emotional and financial burdens. Recovery is possible for those who persist in overcoming the effects of trauma.