Common Signs of Psychological Trauma

The brain is one of the most resilient organs in the body. Similar to flesh and wound, the brain has its own “immune system” which processes stressful information on a cognitive, somatic and emotional level.

Under normal conditions, what happens to us in the outside world is stored internally. That is, the body and the mind sort out what is relevant and make meaning of an event with the aim of integrating it into long-term memory. However, encountering a single stressful event OR a series of distressing experiences can overwhelm and disrupt this natural healing capacity. Once the ability to integrate events adaptively is interrupted some of the following difficulties will likely emerge:


Short-Term Effects



·       Intrusive memories, flashbacks, vivid nightmares and night terrors

·       Fear, denial or numbness

·       Feeling on the lookout for danger

·       Hypervigilance or restlessness

·       Problems falling or staying asleep

·       Difficulty focusing and racing thoughts

·       Irritability or angry outbursts

·       Feeling disconnected, apathy or symptoms of dissociation

·       Thoughts of being better off dead


Longer Term Effects



·       Symptoms of depression and anxiety

·       Addiction, self-harm or OCD-like behaviors

·       Chronic shame, self-blame or guilt

·       Feeling like an imposture, worthless or inadequate

·       Breakdown of relationships; pulling away from others

·       Difficulty forming meaningful and satisfying relationships

·       Chronic pain, IBS, and fibromyalgia  

·       Negative body-image, overeating or restricting food intake