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15 Signs of Unresolved Trauma & How to Heal

Takeaway: Trauma can deeply impact our body, mind, and spirit. Here, I explain the common causes and symptoms of unresolved trauma and offer my guidance on how to start the healing process. 

Experiencing trauma can profoundly affect our lives, leaving deep scars that might feel achy and unhealable. Recognizing the signs of unresolved trauma is a crucial step toward healing, yet it's often unconscious and overshadowed by the complexity of our emotions and experiences. Understanding how trauma experiences underlie patterns of thoughts, behaviors, self-trust, and emotional processing can be tricky to navigate.

In this blog post, we delve into the essence of trauma, explore its many manifestations—mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical—and offer guidance on embarking upon the healing process. Whether it's a traumatic event from childhood or a more recent experience, understanding these signs can illuminate the path to recovery and well-being.

how to deal with unresolved trauma

Understanding unresolved trauma

In the past, the definition of trauma-focused more on the external occurrences that led to it, rather than the individual reactions to these occurrences. Dr. Peter Levine, one of the leaders in trauma research and healing from a somatic perspective believes that psychological trauma can affect anyone who views a situation as threatening and finds themselves incapable of effectively executing a fight, flight, or freeze response.

Moreover, Dr. Levine studied the impact of stress on the nervous system and found that, despite frequent exposure to life-threatening situations due to predators, wild animals seldom exhibit trauma symptoms. He identified the root of profound trauma lies in the third survival mechanism in response to perceived threats to life: the freeze and collapse response. When neither fight nor flight is viable, both wild animals and humans may freeze and immobilize, akin to 'playing dead' to appear less appealing to predators. This response is meant to be temporary, allowing the body to release the pent-up energy intended for fight or flight through natural, gentle shaking and trembling. However, if this immobility state is not resolved, the energy remains trapped within the body, which continues to feel threatened.

In a nutshell, this unresolved state and stuck energy in the body can dramatically alter how a person interacts with the world, and how they view themselves and connect with others.

Here are some common examples of traumatic events:

  • Childhood sexual abuse

  • Experiencing or witnessing violence

  • Severe illness or injury

  • Emotional and physical neglect

  • Natural disasters and accidents

These events can lead to a range of mental health concerns if the trauma stays trapped in the body, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and depression, marking the onset of unresolved trauma.

When we experience childhood trauma and don't have the family, friends, or internal support system to work through the difficult emotions, feelings, and sensations, we can literally "freeze" it into our system, resulting in painful emotional and physical symptoms.

Ultimately, a traumatic event doesn't have to turn into a mental health issue if the person has the skills, support, and resources to process the experience. With the assistance of a therapist, it is possible to liberate this confined energy and shut down the ongoing alert signal in the body that results in dysregulation and dissociation.

unresolved trauma symptoms

15 symptoms of unhealed trauma 

Unresolved trauma manifests through a spectrum of mental, spiritual, and physical symptoms, often intertwined, reflecting the profound impact trauma has on our entire being. Psychological distress is linked to our immune response, therefore, trauma that appears as a mental health issue can also directly impact our physical health.

Just to note, trauma can show up in big ways and small ways, and impact each person differently depending on how they choose to view and integrate the trauma. With the rise of pop-culture psychology, you might see more and more people begin to point out trauma and identify certain behaviors and/or beliefs as being the result of trauma. Although we appreciate the rise in awareness and the desire of the general public to heal core wounds, it's important to be aware that not all of the information offered is true.

For instance, we recently saw an Instagram post that an influencer created asserting that anyone who becomes angry at a spouse or their children and begins to compulsively clean or vacuum is enacting a trauma response. Although this could be a coping mechanism for strong emotions, anxiety, or an unconscious way to try and "clean" or "fix" the argument, to pathologize this behavior as strictly a trauma response is incorrect.

Unhealed trauma symptoms of the emotions and mind

Here is a list of common symptoms and psychological factors that have been associated with trauma that shows up primarily in a mental, emotional, and thought-based form:

  1. Persistent intrusive thoughts and horrible memories of the traumatic incident.

  2. Severe anxiety disorder and panic attacks, sometimes without a clear trigger.

  3. Mood swings, emotional dysregulation, and uncontrollable anger, leading to broken relationships.

  4. Symptoms of acute stress disorder, including difficulty concentrating and trouble sleeping.

  5. Feelings of self-blame and low self-esteem, especially in cases of childhood trauma.

An example of this could be a person who must drive on the same road where they previously experienced a frightening car accident that resulted in injuries to several people. This person might experience flashbacks of the incident, hear negative or self-defeating thoughts, or feel unsafe or panicked while driving.

symptoms of unresolved trauma

Spiritual signs of unresolved trauma

Here is a list of common symptoms and psychological factors that have been associated with trauma that show up primarily as a feeling of soul loss, disconnection from your higher self, or spiritual separation from source:

  1. A profound sense of distance from one's soul essence and the surrounding world.

  2. Loss of meaning or purpose in life, questioning one's place in the universe.

  3. Struggles with faith or spirituality, often stemming from feelings of abandonment.

  4. Difficulty in trusting others and forming healthy relationships.

  5. Unresolved feelings and difficulty embracing love and inner peace.

An example of this might be an adult who experienced abuse and neglect as a child and struggles to trust their connection to their higher self. This might be because their caregivers never modeled or taught them about self-love, deep listening, and trusting their own needs. Hence, knowing what they need, expressing it, and feeling safe and connected to their higher self might feel confusing and overwhelming.

Physical symptoms of unresolved trauma

Here is a list of common symptoms and psychological factors that have been associated with trauma that show up primarily in the body:

  1. Chronic pain without a clear physical cause, often reflecting emotional pain.

  2. High blood pressure and other physical health issues related to chronic stress.

  3. Development of eating disorders or substance use disorders as coping mechanisms.

  4. Somatic symptoms like headaches, nausea, and fatigue, are indicative of the body's stress response.

  5. Exacerbation of pre-existing health conditions due to stress and anxiety.

An example of this might be someone who struggles with pain in the body without a clear medical cause and has been given the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. This person might have noticed that pain began after they survived a severe earthquake where they lost their home and had to rebuild their life.

signs of unresolved trauma

How to deal with unresolved trauma

Healing from trauma is a personal journey, requiring time, patience, and often professional support. Here are steps to begin the healing process:

  • Seek therapy with a trauma-informed therapist who understands the complexities of trauma.

  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as mindfulness or meditation, to manage difficult emotions.

  • Establish a support network of trusted friends or family members.

  • Engage in regular physical activity, which can help reduce physical symptoms of stress.

  • Practice self-compassion, recognizing that healing is a process and setbacks are part of the journey.

  • Embrace somatic shaking and breathing techniques (with the help of a guide), trauma-informed yoga, and other movement practices that help support the release of stored energy.

  • Learn energy healing and energy medicine-based healing work to learn how to circulate and move energy in your body more effectively.

unhealed trauma symptoms

Get in tune with your inner healing abilities.

Navigating the path of unhealed trauma symptoms is challenging but immensely rewarding. Through understanding the signs and seeking appropriate support, it's possible to overcome the impact of traumatic events and move towards a state of well-being.

If you're struggling with unresolved trauma, consider reaching out for professional help. Our services are designed to support you through this journey, offering a compassionate and understanding approach to healing. Book a free consultation here to learn more.

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