How your body responds to Trauma

How your body responds to Trauma


Persistence of traumatic events may remain imprinted in the minds of victims even after they are over, irrespective of the fact that these are potential physical or psychological traumas. While society now realizes that traumatic events have a very crucial contribution to the mind’s ability to process that trauma, the body’s competence to store traumatic memories is a complicated and intriguing issue. We shall take this tour of the depths of the person undergoing psychological trauma and the neurological processes of the brain involving memory and psychology.

Understanding Trauma:

One step begins with knowing what defines trauma as the foundation of understanding the body’s mechanisms of remembering trauma can only be established through grasping the concept of trauma. Trauma is the overwhelming response to certain distressing physical and mental events that include for instance, accidents, injuries; emotional or psychological shocks as a result of abuse, violence, or the death of a family member. These memories are stored in the mind, and they usually overload a person’s struggling capacity that most of the time end up with a sad cascade of physical and mental reactions.

Read More: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Women’s Mental Health

The Body’s Immediate Response:

In the face of a traumatizing event, the body initiates a handling mechanism which, more often than not, entails the fight-or-flight reaction. It is one of the survival mechanisms, which is an evolution process that can either lead the body to face or run away from the threat. The adrenaline hormone and cortisol are in the bloodstream following the exposure to the stressors and the result is arousal, sharpening of focus and energy enhancement that allows survival.

How trauma is put away within the body?

Trauma isn’t physically held within the muscles or bones — instead, they ought to protect oneself from seen dangers stored within the memory and emotional centres of the brain, such as the hippocampus and amygdala. This enacts the body at whatever point a situation reminds the individual of the traumatic event(s). Numerous individuals proceed to feel the effects of trauma — known as post-traumatic stress — for a long time after the traumatic occasion. Trauma may appear within the body as:

Read More: Harmful Behaviours that are actually Trauma Response

  • feeling effectively overwhelming
  • feeling “on edge”
  • muscle pressure
  • chest tightness
  • inconvenience in resting
  • nightmares
  • memory issues
  • brain mist or inconvenience in concentrating
  • anxiety and evasion
  • depression
  • dissociation

Trauma can moreover worsen medical conditions like constant pain and migraines. 

Encoding Trauma in the Brain:

The time of memory of a traumatic event generally involves different parts of the brain, especially the amygdala and the hippocampus. Those regions are critical to processing the memory and retaining it later. The amygdala, which is the emotional core of the brain, on the other hand, assigns emotional significance to the experience and makes our memories so powerful that they can last for our whole life together with the details of the context. Nonetheless, in the course of the introductory level the brain’s capability to have a coherent recollection may be affected, making the memory to be fragmented or disassociated.

The Role of Neurobiology:

Traumatic events can lead to brain structure and function changes, specifically within the limbic system that typically governs emotions and memory. Exposure to stress hormones for a long time can cause the formation of neural pathways that maintain an individual’s heightened response to future threats while amplifying their emotional reactions. Furthermore, trauma can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA), the biological stress response system, which often causes prolonged states of hyper-arousal or numbing.

Read More: Understanding Stress: Types, Causes, and Coping Strategies

Somatic Experiencing:

The somatic experiencing method, developed by Dr. Peter Levine, sheds light on how the body plays a role in the trauma retention phenomenon. As per Levine, unprocessed/unresolved traumatic experiences get caged in the body, imprisoning there as somatic sensations, feelings or behaviors. Somatic Experiencing techniques play a pivotal role in teaching individuals how to revisit these bodily sensations as well as giving them the ability and capacity to gradually relinquish and assimilate the stored traumas.

Read more: A Guide to Trauma Response

The Autonomic Nervous System:

The autonomic nervous system (ANS), consisting of sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, is the main regulator of physiological functions and the reaction to stressful situations. Trauma affects ANS and causes dysregulation with persistent cycles of hyper-arousal (fight-or-flight) and hypo-arousal (freeze) which are characterized by symptoms of hyper-vigilance, flashbacks, or dissociation. This implies that these bodily responses are adaptive responses to impactful and disturbing stimuli.

Epigenetic Inheritance:

New data has demonstrated that the effects of trauma can be transferred through generations in epigenetic ways. Consequently, the trauma-related alterations in gene expression are passed on from the parent generation to the subsequent generation, making them more susceptible to enhanced stress reactivity or psychiatric disorders. Thus, this inter-generational transmission highlights that trauma not only affects an individual level but also a collective level, becoming a part of a personal narrative of an individual as well as shaping familial and societal dynamics.

The Role of Sensory Triggers:

Sensory triggers associated with the specific traumatic event are potently compelling making them evoke visceral responses which carry out the old dormant body memories that are stored in the bodies. These can be procedural memory failures like the recurrent sounds and smells, or even physical reactions that occur at the subconscious level and consequently bypass the human’s awareness. Despite that, with time, individuals can deal with those triggers by applying, for example, grounding techniques, or bullets of exposure.

Trauma and Chronic Health Conditions:

The detrimental effects of trauma have lasting effects not just in psychological consequences but various chronic health diseases as well may be established. The link between unresolved trauma and the enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain syndromes, has been indicated through intense research. Prolonged physiological responses that trauma always comes with are a source of inflammation, and immune regulation and are further responsible for disruptions in sleep habits. The consequences are the aggravation of all kinds of health issues.

Healing Trauma:

Despite the notion that the legacy of traumatic bygone is eternal, healing is possible due to multidimensional ways such as therapy, somatic practices and social support. Trauma-sensitive therapies like cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are effective methods for reconstructing traumatic memories and developing skills that help traumatized people cope with the experiences. Somatic techniques, such as yoga, mindfulness and body-centred therapies, are aimed at physically releasing the persistent tension and prove to be valuable in this respect.

Reestablishing the Body to Heal

  • Why Our Bodies Matter in Mending Trauma: Healing from trauma isn’t only about talking around our encounters; it’s too about reconnecting with our bodies. Therapies like sensorimotor psychotherapy and somatic experiencing focus on the physical sensations within the body to handle trauma. These treatments empower us to tune into our body’s reactions to trauma, making a difference for us to reveal and address the physical perspectives of our traumatic experiences.
  • Distinctive Ways to Heal: There are several ways to heal from trauma. Talking and interfacing with others can offer assistance us to handle our encounters. Medications and other treatments can offer assistance to our brains to bargain with traumatic memories more viably. Making a difference with our bodies feel secure and calm that can be a capable of healing strategy. Exercises that make our bodies feel secure, like specific exercises and mindful movements, can offer assistance us overcome the emotions of fear and outrage that come with trauma.
  • Seeing Trauma in Our Bodies: Our bodies can tell stories of trauma that words can’t continuously express. The physical signs of trauma, like a tense pose or a far-off look, can be clear pointers of internal turmoil. Become a close acquaintance with the Body for Recovery
  • Learning to Listen to Our Bodies: Individuals who have been harmed, particularly children, frequently live in bodies that are continuously tense and cautious. By getting to be mindful of these sensations, we can begin to understand and recuperate from our past traumas.

Bottom-Up Treatment in Practice

Changing How We Feel Through Our Bodies: Bottom-up therapy focuses on changing our body’s reaction to trauma. At the Trauma Center, therapists offer assistance to patients to become mindful of their physical responses, like their pulse and breathing. Basic strategies like tapping certain points on the body, engaging in musical exercises, or mindful development can make an enormous difference. These exercises offer assistance to patients to feel more associated with the present moment and less overpowered by their traumatic encounters.

Any individuals who have experienced trauma go through a stage of feeling numb and disengaged from life. This is often particularly true for children who have been through traumatic occasions. Helping them to feel present and locked in once more is pivotal for their life.

Take Away

The mind-body connection is beautifully exhibited through the sides of trauma in that it elicits a providential cohesion between the mind and the environment. Neurobiological aspects (brain) are right among these, as well as the somatic (body) outcomes one would have; to say trauma is powerful in influencing human beings would be an understatement. Trauma’s legacy of being embodied can perhaps be the foundation for developing compassion, resilience, and healing options for those individuals suffering from the sometimes long and hard process of overcoming the effects of the traumatic experience.

References +
  1. Khoddam, R., PhD. (2021, March 5). Learn how trauma affects the body and treatments to help you recover. Psychology Today.
  2. Bremner, J. D. (2006). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(4), 445–461.
  3. Lebow, H. I. (2023, January 21). How does your body remember trauma? Psych Central.

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