Mindful Living

The Effects of Trauma On Your Body

Written By: Kripa Jalan

The Effects of Trauma On Your Body

An individual does not have to go to war, visit a refugee camp, lose a loved one, experience abuse, or witness a near-fatal accident to encounter trauma. 

Trauma is anything that overwhelms our existing resources and ability to cope.

By definition, it’s intolerable. It can happen to us, our friends, our families, and our neighbours.

I can safely tell you that it’s far more prevalent than the data indicates.

At B2B, we work with individuals 1-1 to treat the whole health of the patient (not just body parts, in isolation.) This involves looking at how events in their lives, or even those of their ancestors, might affect their health in the present day. Yes, the mind and body are intricately interlinked.

Somewhere along the way in the history of medicine, we decided to separate the two. But, our physical bodies are managing the trauma, conflict, and shock that we have experienced.

This is why it’s always important to work with a practitioner who takes your real-life experiences into account while prescribing a treatment plan of any sort.

How is trauma different from stress?

Generally, stress is perceived as a dangerous and deadly thing. Yet, it’s simply a normal physiological response to events that upset our equilibrium in some way.

For example, when we sense danger, our “flight or fight” response kicks in. It’s just our bodies' way of protecting us.

Some stress is good. It helps us stay alert in emergencies. It helps us get through challenging situations.

However, beyond a certain point, stress stops helping and starts damaging your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

With stress, while the body enters an alarm phase, it also returns to a baseline.

Trauma, on the other hand, is such an intense experience that despite going through all the steps, one isn’t able to recover. Sometimes, individuals end up worse than where they started.

Notably, while one may want to move beyond the experience, the part of our brain that’s devoted to survival – isn’t great at denial. Even after the experience is over, it may be reactivated by the slightest hint of danger and trigger the release of stress hormones, and create unpleasant emotions, physical sensations, and sometimes, impulsive actions.

Trauma’s effect on physical health:

  • Inflammation 
  • Gut problems
  • Hormonal problems
  • Elevated inflammation
  • Unexplained pain

Trauma’s effect on mental health:

  • Anxiety & depression
  • Memory issues
  • Feeling stuck or paralyzed
  • Deeply negative stories about oneself
  • Struggle with identifying emotions

The more intense the trauma in a person’s life, and/or the more frequent it’s been, the more likely they are to have physical symptoms and/or maladaptive behaviours, thoughts, and beliefs.

It’s also important to note that just because you’ve experienced trauma doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop a health condition, but there are things you can do to be proactive about your physical and mental health. 

What you can do:

First, know what trauma feels like when it’s showing up in the body. 

Next, seek support – whether it’s through trauma therapy or working with a licensed therapist. Simultaneously, develop a grounding/breathing practice that helps you spend a bit more time in the parasympathetic, calm-down state. Journaling works as a great practice too!

We’d say nutrition can also help! Especially if chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to your symptoms, focus on staying properly hydrated and emphasizing anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, including fish, antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables, and spices, like turmeric. Calming inflammation can be a contributing factor to processing trauma in the body.

This information does not constitute medical advice. This is compiled for educational purposes. Your healthcare practitioner knows you best. Talk to them for specific questions about your treatment.