15 Common Signs of Unresolved Trauma
Friday, June 10 2016 Jami DeLoe
Recognizing the signs of unresolved trauma can be tricky. Sometimes people who are having difficulties enter therapy without even knowing that they have suffered the trauma that is causing disruptions in their daily lives. The very nature of trauma lends itself to that. Often, when a person goes through a traumatic event, there is some degree of dissociation that happens and the person essentially "blocks out" all, or part, of the event, so his or her awareness of the trauma isn't accurate, making diagnosis difficult. However, there are some common signs of unresolved trauma that you can look for.
The Effects of Unresolved Trauma
Just because someone who suffered trauma blocks out (consciously or unconsciously) what has happened, it doesn't mean that he or she won't feel the effects from it.
Peter A. Levine, Ph.D., who has treated and researched trauma for over 45 years, says,
The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. And it can lead to a range of self destructive behaviors.
Signs and Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma
Even when memories of the trauma are hidden from a person's awareness, there are signs that will become noticeable in his or her daily life. Below are some of the most common signs that someone is suffering from unresolved trauma:
- Anxiety or panic attacks that occur in what would be considered normal situations
- A feeling of shame; an innate feeling that they are bad, worthless, or without importance
- Suffering from chronic or ongoing depression
- Practicing avoidance of people, places, or things that may be related to the traumatic event; this also can include an avoidance of unpleasant emotions
- Flashbacks, nightmares, and body memories regarding the traumatic event
- Addiction and eating disorders in an attempt to escape or numb negative emotions
- Sleeping issues including trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
- Suffering from feelings of detachment, or feeling "dead inside" (This is perhaps the most devastating of the signs, because it creates a feeling of loneliness and isolation.)
- Dissociation as a real disconnect in situations and conversations
- Hypervigilance (a constant feeling of being on guard)
- Suicidal thought or actions
- Uncontrollable anger; acting on it
- Self-harm, cutting, and mutilation
- Not being able to tolerate conflicts as they once would have
- Unexplained or irrational fears of people, places, or things
If you identify with any, or all, of the signs above, then you may want to ask yourself if it's time to talk with a therapist about your trauma. Is it easier to function as you are, or to work through the pain you have suffered? It's a question that only you can answer, but rest assured, you are not alone.
There are many people who have been traumatized, may even have developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who have worked through the events of their past, and recovered. There is help and support out there.