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How Trauma Affects the Body

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Unprocessed trauma is stored in the body. When all is well, your brain processes and organizes information pretty fast. However, trauma disrupts this system completely, leaving your brain stuck in a state of panic.

Trauma isn't just in your head. Traumatic experiences leave a very real, lasting imprint on your body, disrupting your processing and changing the makeup of the brain. Untreated trauma can also impact your future health and lead to stroke, diabetes, heart attacks, cancer, and more.

The more traumatic experiences you experience, the higher the risk of developing mental and physical health issues.

Trauma survivors look perfectly healthy and fine but in reality, the unresolved trauma keeps festering like a wound, weakening a body until an illness is formed.

The Initial Reactions to Trauma

When you experience a traumatic event, you experience sadness, exhaustion, confusion, agitation, anxiety, dissociation, and numbness.

The Physiological Effects

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the body’s stress response system. Trauma sensitizes HPA and ends up impacting our hormones, including the levels of oxytocin, cortisol, and adrenaline. We become more reactive to stressors and have an increased level of cortisol.


Cortisol is an important hormone in certain situations where you’re actively in danger. However, trauma impacts cortisol levels even after the event has passed leading to a body that’s always waiting for something dangerous to happen. Long-term, this can lead to negative effects on the body, including a higher risk of heart disease, anxiety, depression, memory issues, weight gain, and sleep problems.


Oxytocin is the love hormone and is responsible for uplifted moods. It works against stressors and promotes relationships between romantic partners. However, the trauma reduces the levels of oxytocin, especially if we get traumatized earlier in life. Low levels of oxytocin result in less adaptability and increased stress.

Unhealthy Coping Tendencies

To feel better or to relax, often trauma survivors resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking, or overeating. According to the ACE study, the more traumatic experiences, the higher the chance of engaging in unhealthy behaviors.

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The Psychological Effects

Trauma impacts the brain and makes it stuck at the moment where the traumatic event occurred.

Before physiological effects, the psychological impact of trauma is noticed. These include depression, anger, anxiety, intense fear, paranoia, nightmares, and flashbacks. For some, dissociation and numbness become the new normal.

Trauma also alters perceptions and leads to the belief that the world is unsafe and dangerous, leading toward PTSD.

Some indicators of trauma are:

  • Reliving the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, and distressing memories

  • Emotional numbness and detachment

  • Avoiding places, people, and activities that remind one of the trauma

  • Difficulty sleeping, concentrating, irritation, anger, mood swings, sadness

  • Changes in thinking

Heal Your Trauma with Counseling

Trauma is stored in your body and impacts your physical and mental wellness. Start your healing journey today by getting trauma counseling in WI. At KB Psychotherapy LLC we offer a range of mental health services including individual counseling, family counseling, couples therapy, depression therapy, and more.

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