Ways the Body & Mind React to Trauma

Like it is the case for most situations in life, when it comes to traumatic events, each person will react differently to the trauma caused by such events. If you have experienced one or more traumatic events in your life, then you know that both the body and the mind are affected one way or another in varying degrees. The same holds true for your young person. They will likely react in a way that is unique to them and it is important to validate their reactions and support them in whatever way their needs may manifest. Let’s go over some of those reactions experienced by the body and the mind when confronted with a traumatic event so you can be aware of them and recognize whether your young person is experiencing anything similar.

It is well documented that the body may react by developing the following problems:

  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation and edginess
  • Headaches
  • Nausea/GI discomfort
  • Being startled easily
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Lethargy
  • Sleep disturbances (e.g., insomnia and nightmares)
  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
  • Unexplained physical symptoms and increased medical problems such as allergies, skin problems, and auto-immune disorders

As for the mind, it can also be deeply affected by traumatic events in many ways, such as:

  • Shock, denial, and disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating and/or learning new information
  • Difficulty in regulating emotions and in knowing and describing feelings and internal states
  • Social isolation and difficulty relating to others (e.g., mistrust)
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, and self-blame
  • Feeling sad and hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected and numb
  • Low self-esteem and sense of self-worth
  • Intense fear that the traumatic event will recur (especially around the date of the anniversary when the event occurred)
  • Repeated memories of the event or flashbacks
  • Sustained avoidance of reminders of the events
  • Substance abuse to numb negative emotions