”Question: Does trauma get stored in my body?
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Learn about trauma stored in the body, its impact on mental and physical well-being, and discover trauma-informed practices to ease stress and support recovery.
- The mind-body connection is a real phenomenon, and research in stress psychology supports this.
- Trauma stored in the body can lead to long-term physical and emotional strain.
- Trauma is a result of nervous system dysregulation and can happen after various events, not just accidents.
- Trauma-informed therapies and self-led practices aid in comprehensive trauma recovery, addressing both psychological and physiological aspects.
The mind-body connection is a well-acknowledged phenomenon experienced by most individuals. Thanks to advancements in stress psychology, we now have scientific evidence supporting this connection. Within the realm of trauma research, the intricate interplay between the mind and body becomes particularly evident.
Trauma stored in the body can have long-lasting physical and emotional repercussions. While the term “trauma stored in the body” may be more colloquial than scientific, it highlights the fact that trauma is not solely an emotional experience but also a biological one. Recognizing trauma as both psychological and physiological, practitioners recommend employing practices that integrate the mind and body to support trauma recovery.
This article explores the relationship between stress and health, the impact of trauma on the body, and various trauma-informed mind-body practices that can help alleviate stress and promote mental well-being.
The Subtle yet Pivotal Link between Stress and Health
Stress has significant effects on our overall health, beginning with the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS regulates unconscious processes like heart rate, organ function, and temperature regulation, and it also coordinates our responses to environmental threats.
The ANS consists of two main components: the sympathetic branch (fight-or-flight) and the parasympathetic branch (rest-and-digest). When stress is triggered, a cascade of physiological events occurs, leading to long-term changes in brain function and metabolism. The sympathetic nervous system activates the adrenal system to produce high levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, while the HPA axis releases stress hormones such as cortisol. These responses provide the body with extra energy to confront danger.
However, chronic stress or an inability to recover from stress disrupts the body’s balance, leading to disturbances in essential processes like sleep, digestion, and immune function. Such imbalances can result in physical symptoms and contribute to the development of diseases and mental health issues.
Trauma as a Disrupted Stress Response
The book “Waking the Tiger” draws parallels between trauma and the instinctive responses of wild animals facing threats. Animals discharge excess energy through trembling or running after a danger passes, helping them return to balance.
In contrast, humans often inhibit these instinctive impulses due to their ability to judge and rationalize. When the natural sequence of events meant to restore balance after danger is interrupted, trauma occurs. Notably, trauma can stem from a variety of events, not just dramatic accidents, overwhelming the individual’s ability to regulate their nervous system.
Early life experiences can also contribute to trauma, as infants rely on caregivers to regulate their nervous systems. When caregivers are unable to provide the necessary safety cues, the infant’s nervous system becomes dysregulated, shaping neural development and creating lasting neural pathways. Consequently, trauma can impact nearly everyone to some extent.
Trauma Stored in the Body: Causes and Effects
While measuring trauma stored in the body may be challenging, research demonstrates that traumatic events can have lingering effects on the body. One of the biological effects of trauma is an imbalance in the nervous system, with one branch dominating over the other.
When the sympathetic nervous system dominates, individuals may experience hyper-vigilance, agitation, loss of appetite, teeth grinding, or increased irritability. On the other hand, parasympathetic dominance can lead to numbness, apathy, chronic fatigue, and disconnection. Either dominance disrupts balance and can contribute to the development of diseases.