Trauma is the result of major life events that can include, but are not limited to, sexual assault, a natural disaster, a car wreck, experiencing a combat zone, or physical abuse. It can also include emotional damage rendered by others over time. Unfortunately, trauma has lasting effects, not only mentally and emotionally, but also physically. Trauma symptoms can include confusion, disbelief, fear and anxiety, self-blame, guilt, hopelessness, numbness, and more. It can lead to lasting problems that show up, even years later, as negative physical effects.

Heart Disease, Depression

Trauma in the body affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This is the body’s central response system. This, in turn, increases the stress hormone cortisol within the body. Cortisol serves an important role as it increases the sugars in the bloodstream, enhancing the way the brain uses glucose as well as helping repair tissues. However, when cortisol levels remain chronically high in the body, due to trauma or some other trigger, it can quickly become too much of a good thing. Chronically high cortisol levels can negatively impact the body by increasing the risk of heart disease, the risk of heart attack, and the risk of developing depression. When the stressor causing these elevated cortisol levels is removed, ideally the levels would regulate once again and the body would return to its normal state. Unfortunately, when a person has experienced trauma, their body can continue to produce these elevated numbers needlessly, which negatively impacts the body.

Negative Addictive Habits to Cope

One way in which trauma can affect the physical body is less obvious than measuring cortisol levels. It can also have an indirect effect on the body. The emotional pain that comes along with trauma can lead people to try to cope in ways that are immensely unhealthy for the body. For example, habits like drinking and smoking are often short-term strategies sufferers use to cope with what they have been through, to calm their nerves, etc. However, this is not a healthy way to deal with the trauma and can cause its own set of issues and problems. Instead of getting the right kind of help through therapy, sufferers self-medicate and this can numb the emotions and prolong the effect the trauma has on the mind and body.

Psychological Impact, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The body can be negatively impacted by the experience of trauma through the development of anger, anxiety, depression, fear, and more, all of which could alter a sufferer’s perceptions on life and cause the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This can lead the person who has experienced trauma to feel unsafe even when they are perfectly safe in their current environment. PTSD is often the result of witnessing or experiencing a dangerous or terrifying event. It is often associated with soldiers, as it shows up after experiencing the horrors of a combat zone, but it can impact anyone. PTSD can lead to flashbacks and nightmares. It can also cause detachment, which leads sufferers to avoid activities, places, and people that might remind them of their trauma. Additional symptoms include difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, or feeling jumpy, easily angered or irritated.

There is Hope

Thankfully, even though trauma can wreak havoc on a person’s body emotionally and physically, there is hope for a better tomorrow through consistent and intentional therapy. The right kind of therapy can address the underlying cause of the problems—the trauma–and offer ways to cope with the negative symptoms. This can lead to a more healthy and more productive life that is full of hope.