People who have unprocessed trauma often report having commonly known symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts of the event(s), mood swings, loss of memory and more.
However, some people may be struggling with unresolved trauma without even realizing it. In fact, 70 percent of adults in the United States have experienced trauma at least once in their lives — that’s more than 220 million people.
Because of this, many may be experiencing symptoms of trauma that they may be disregarding or labeling as another condition. Here are five signs of trauma you may not know about.
1. Chronic Sense of Fight of Flight
Do certain places, times of the year or types of people cause you to feel anxious or easily agitated? If so, there’s a chance you might be dealing with trauma.
Oftentimes, people who have unprocessed trauma report feeling like they’re in a constant state of fight or flight, especially around specific triggers or reminders of past traumatic events. That’s because they’re living with unprocessed traumatic memories that are causing their bodies to react as if they were reliving the trauma again.
Subsequently, their body reacts to the false-fire alarm of the trauma reminder, and they prepare for fighting or fleeing — their heart rates quickens, their breath becomes fast to fuel their muscles, they sweat more than usual and they may visibly tremble.
When you notice yourself entering a fight-or-flight response, try to practice grounding exercises. This will help bring calm to your body, so you can gain a sense of control within your body and in your environment.
If you constantly feel tired, regardless of how much sleep you get, then this may be a sign that you have undigested trauma.
Normally, your body goes through brief periods of fight-or-flight. Whether it’s triggered by walking through a dark forest or seeing an ex in the grocery store, it’s natural for you to experience a rapid burst of hormones. Soon after, your body levels its hormones back to normal.
However, when you live every day with unprocessed traumatic memories you are very likely living with highly elevated and fairly constant emotional (fear, sadness, anger, guilt) and physical (heart racing, shaky, stomach aches) distress.
This requires your body to use more adrenaline and stress hormones than usual, which can cause you to feel chronically fatigued. Even when you sleep for 10 hours straight, you feel tired because your mind and body are almost always being actively engaged.
3. Chronic Pain
Another sign of trauma that can be easily overlooked is chronic pain. When you have unresolved trauma, you may hold it in specific areas of your body, such as your back or shoulders. As a result, those areas may flare up with aches or even severe pain that may cause you to go to the hospital. That’s because the body and mind are connected, which means mental distress can lead to physical distress and vice versa.
4. Gut Problems
When you were a kid, did you get so anxious before presenting in front of your class, you had to take frequent trips to the bathroom beforehand? Maybe you still react that way before nerve-wracking events!
Just like getting nervous about public speaking, unresolved trauma can fester in your stomach and lead to gut-related problems, such as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, nearly 40 to 60 percent of people who have IBS also have a mental disorder. That’s why traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one, can worsen IBS symptoms.
5. Persistent Headaches
Nobody likes feeling stressed. But when you start to experience headaches on top of your overwhelming stress, it can make you feel even worse!
People who have unresolved trauma may suffer with ongoing headaches that never seem to go away. Tension headaches, which are often triggered by stress, can occur when you feel overworked at your job, constantly bicker with your partner or even have unprocessed trauma. Because your mind is thinking about your trauma, your brain may feel burnt out and strained, giving you a headache that’s tough to ignore.