Man standing against a wall

A person dealing with a traumatic event may feel a lot of different emotions. Normally, extreme negative feelings first kick in – anger, fear, sadness, guilt, embarrassment or even denial. On some instances, a person might even experience emotional numbness, which is the inability to feel pleasure or pain. The capacity to cope with the emotional effects of trauma varies from one person to another. Emotional tools like proper support from loved ones and therapeutic counseling from treatment centersare a great combination to get permanent recovery.

Though complete healing from trauma is highly possible, some people experience it worse than others, causing an exhausting ordeal that they have to go through every single day. As a matter of fact, not only can trauma affect a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. It can also take a toll on his physical health.

Understanding the physical manifestations of trauma is not only beneficial to the person involved, but also to healthcare providers that he may encounter along the way. If both are fully aware that trauma is the culprit that is causing the physical symptoms, misdiagnosis can be prevented and the most suitable medical advice would be given for treatment and recovery. This is actually one of the main reasons why trauma-informed care has been devised and is being employed by most healthcare facilities today.

So what are the physical side effects of trauma?


Disrupted Brain function

Multiple neuroscience studies prove that a traumatic event can cause our brain functioning to get impaired. The brain areas affected by traumatic stress are the Amygdala which detects and processes threats or danger in our environment and the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) that regulates our consciousness and controls our initial response to a threat.

Persons with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are seen to have very active Amygdala and signs of medial PFC malfunction. In other words, a person dealing with prolonged traumatic stress is stuck on the ‘danger zone’ while having a hard time knowing exactly how to react. The state of being in constant threat causes a person to be hypervigilant (hyperarousal), always on guard and ready to take action even if real danger is not even present. The increased fear can also cause disruptive sleeping patterns or insomnia.


Panic Attacks

Panic attacks can be caused by a number of things. For victims of traumatic incidents, panic attacks can be the result of intense fear and anxiety, especially when being reminded about what happened in the past. When a person is having a panic attack, uncontrollable physical symptoms occur, such as:

  • excessive sweating and shaking
  • rapid breathing
  • feeling dizzy and/or nauseous
  • chest pain
  • racing heartbeat
  • fainting,
  • feeling of numbness and dissociation

On worse episodes, a person may even experience hyperventilation – a suddenly faster and deeper breathing pattern that may leave you out of breath due to the decrease of carbon dioxide (CO2) in your blood.


Digestive Issues

The digestive system is linked to the brain in so many different ways. That explains why extreme emotions can greatly affect gut function and development. Feeling butterflies in the stomach might not be literally true, but the feeling of gastrointestinal discomfort when a person is dealing with severe stress is physiologically accurate. Feeling strong emotions can mess up the brain-gut connection. This can cause a person to experience different digestive discomforts such as an upset stomach, which may also be accompanied by bloating and nausea. Any abnormality in the way food travels through the body can cause gut problems like diarrhea, constipation, painful muscle spasms, and even chronic bowel issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


Chronic Pain

A person battling the effects of trauma may also experience a continuing pain that is often unexplainable. As most traumatic events can cause physical pain, there are instances that serious injuries acquired from the past do not completely heal, leading to prolonged pain and suffering. However, recent studies suggest that when an extreme physical injury occurs, the nervous system goes through a condition called central sensitization or hypersensitivity to pain. This means that even if the injury has completely healed and pain should no longer be present, the nervous system remains persistently reactive, resulting to decreased tolerance to pain and chronic physical discomfort.


Wrestling with the effects of trauma can be a constant struggle. If you or your loved one is looking for reliable mental health facilities in Utah, contact Next Level Recovery at (888) 759-5846. We are a residential trauma treatment center in Salt Lake City that is fully equipped to diagnose and treat PTSD and other mental conditions associated with trauma.

We are looking forward to helping you achieve lifetime recovery!