The Effects of Psychological Trauma on the Body
Psychological trauma can have a wide range of effects on the body. Some common physical symptoms include changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and activity levels, as well as increased rates of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Trauma can also lead to muscle tension and pain, headaches, and digestive problems.
In addition to these physical symptoms, trauma can also affect the nervous system. People who have experienced trauma may have trouble regulating their emotions and may be more prone to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma can also impact a person’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.
Research also shows that trauma can affect the immune system and has been linked to inflammation, which can increase the risk of certain diseases. Additionally, traumatic events can increase the risk for substance abuse and other addictive behaviors.
It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with trauma is different and not everyone who experiences trauma will have the same symptoms or react in the same way. And also Trauma-informed care is important for helping people who have experienced trauma to heal and recover, it usually include therapy and counseling, mindfulness practices, and lifestyle changes that promote physical and emotional well-being.
What is Psychological Trauma?
Psychological Trauma is an emotional response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that exceeds an individual’s ability to cope. Trauma can be caused by a wide range of events, including physical or sexual abuse, military combat, natural disasters, car accidents, and other forms of violence. It can also be caused by seemingly “smaller” events that create a similar effect on a person.
The experience of trauma can have a significant and lasting impact on an individual’s mental and physical well-being. Trauma can affect the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves, and it can also lead to physical symptoms such as changes in appetite, sleep patterns, and activity levels.
Trauma can also affect a person’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships, and it can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a specific condition that can develop following a traumatic event, it causes the individual to re-experience the event through nightmares and flashbacks, and can also cause avoidance behavior and feeling of hyperarousal.
It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with trauma is different, and not everyone who experiences trauma will have the same symptoms or react in the same way. Trauma-informed care is important for helping people who have experienced trauma to heal and recover, it usually includes therapy and counseling, mindfulness practices, and lifestyle changes that promote physical and emotional well-being.
Relational Trauma and Attachment Trauma
Relational trauma refers to traumatic experiences that occur within relationships. This can include physical, emotional, sexual, or psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment, or betrayal. The trauma may be inflicted by a parent, partner, close family member, or other trusted individual. Relational trauma can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to form and maintain healthy relationships in the future, as well as their overall emotional well-being.
Attachment trauma specifically refers to traumatic experiences that occur in the context of attachment relationships. Attachment relationships are the close relationships we have with our primary caregivers, typically our parents or primary caretakers during early childhood. These relationships shape our understanding of ourselves and the world, and disruptions or traumas to these relationships can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s ability to form healthy attachments with others later in life. This can include neglect, abuse, or disruptions in caregiving during childhood.
Attachment trauma can manifest in a number of ways, including difficulties with emotional regulation, difficulties with trust and intimacy in relationships, and difficulty forming attachments. It can also lead to the development of specific disorders such as Reactive Attachment Disorder or Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder.
Like any other type of trauma, it is important for people who have experienced attachment trauma to receive appropriate care and treatment to help them heal and recover. Trauma-informed therapy and counseling, as well as attachment-based therapy, can be particularly helpful for individuals who have experienced attachment trauma.
“Big T” versus “Little T” Trauma
The terms “Big T trauma” and “Little T trauma” are used to distinguish between different types of traumatic events.
Big T trauma refers to events that are considered to be “big” or significant, such as natural disasters, major accidents, acts of terrorism, combat, sexual or physical abuse, and other life-threatening situations. These events are often sudden, intense, and outside of the realm of normal human experience. They are considered to be rare and unusual experiences.
Little T trauma, on the other hand, refers to more common, everyday traumatic experiences that may not seem as severe as Big T traumas, though compounded can have the same effect. These events include but not limited to childhood neglect, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, bullying, and other forms of interpersonal trauma. These events can be ongoing, such as in cases of chronic abuse, or they may be a one-time event. They can also happen to people in any stage of life.
It’s important to note that while Little T traumas may seem “less severe” than Big T traumas, they can still have a significant impact on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being, and they should not be dismissed or minimized.
Both Big T and Little T traumas can lead to the development of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it’s important for people who have experienced trauma to receive appropriate care and treatment to help them heal and recover.
Treatment for Trauma
Treatment for trauma typically includes a combination of therapy and medication. The most effective treatment for trauma is typically considered to be talk therapy, specifically those therapies that were developed specifically to address trauma such as :
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, is a type of therapy that uses bilateral stimulation (such as eye movements) to help the brain process and integrate traumatic memories.
- Brainspotting, another type of trauma therapy using bilateral stimulation.
- Somatic Experiencing (SE), a form of somatic therapy for trauma.
- Prolonged Exposure therapy, it is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that aims to help individuals confront and process traumatic memories, in order to reduce the distress associated with them.
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is a type of therapy specifically designed for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma, it help them process their traumatic experiences, cope with symptoms and improve their functioning.
While sometimes weekly individual therapy can be sufficient for treating trauma, those with higher acuity symptoms may require a higher level of care, such as residential, day treatment, or intensive outpatient care.
In addition to talk therapy, other body-based interventions, such as acupuncture, cranes-sacral, and herbalism can be helpful in managing symptoms of trauma. Medication can also be used to treat symptoms of trauma such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Medications that are commonly used include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and sleep aids.
The treatment of trauma is a process and it can take time. Finding the right therapist and treatment approach can be a process of trial and error, and some individuals may need to try different types of therapy or medication before finding the one that works best for them. And it’s also important to be patient with yourself as healing from trauma takes time and effort, it’s not a quick or easy process.
Holistic Trauma Treatment
Holistic trauma treatment refers to an approach to treating trauma that addresses the whole person, including their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. This type of treatment can include a variety of different therapies, techniques, and modalities that are designed to work together to help individuals heal from trauma.
Some examples of holistic trauma treatment include:
- Mind-body therapies such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices, which can help individuals to regulate their emotions, reduce stress, and improve their overall well-being.
- Body-oriented therapies such as massage, acupuncture, and somatic experiencing, which can help individuals to release physical tension and trauma that is stored in the body.
- Art therapy, which uses creative expression as a way to help individuals process and integrate traumatic memories.
Nature-based therapies such as equine therapy, and adventure therapy, which can be helpful in providing a different perspective and new experiences to heal from trauma.
- Nutritional therapy that addresses the diet and supplements that can help with trauma symptoms.
- Traditional Healing practices such as indigenous healing, which can offer spiritual and cultural contexts for healing.
Holistic trauma treatment is often complemented by the traditional talk therapy and medication. The holistic approach can help individuals to address the physical and emotional symptoms of trauma, while traditional therapies can help them to process and integrate traumatic memories.
It’s essential to consult with a qualified practitioner for holistic trauma treatment, who can recommend the most appropriate therapies for you, create an individualized plan, and monitor progress over time.
To learn about our integrative, holistic approach to treating trauma, contact us for a free consultation.