Trauma and Your Body: How The Body Holds Trauma and What You Can Do About It

Trauma doesn’t always manifest itself in dramatic flashbacks or terrifying nightmares, like in movies and TV shows. However, these symptoms can sometimes be present. What people may not realize is that trauma can also build up in the body.

The concept may sound strange since trauma is directly related to mental health, but it makes sense if you think about it. When triggered, trauma can cause fear, anxiety, and physical reactions like sweating, vomiting, freezing, or fleeing. These reactions can wear you down and negatively affect your life.  The bright side is that there are ways to soothe them.

How Is Trauma Stored In The Body?

man in pain sitting in bed

According to Stephen Porges, PhD, and polyvagal theory, “not only does the body remember a traumatic experience, but it can actually get stuck in the trauma response mode.” (1).

Dr. Porges is saying that even when the ‘trigger’ is gone, the body still thinks there is danger and will react accordingly.

For example, picture a war veteran on the 4th of July. They are aware of the holiday and know that the fireworks will be going off. However, as soon as they hear all the noise, they are transported right back to the battlefield and can’t help but duck and cover. 

Is there something that the veteran can do to ease the trauma stored in their body and lessen occurrences like this? 


What Can We Do About Trauma Stored In the Body?

Trauma is one of the hardest things a person can go through. Therefore, if you are experiencing symptoms of trauma that affect your everyday life, you should consider seeking professional help. A trained trauma specialist can help you better understand your trauma and how it affects you both mentally and physically. 

Additionally, they can also teach methods to soothe the trauma that builds up within you whenever a trigger occurs. Once you understand and get the hang of them, you can begin practicing them outside of therapy.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR for short, is a gentle way to stay present when discussing trauma. This method requires you to move your eyes back and forth to reprocess your feelings about the trauma as you talk about it. Since you are paying extra attention to what your body is doing, you won’t find yourself pulled back into the traumatic event.

Mindfulness Exercises

Mindfulness uses an array of techniques to help you push away negative thoughts or feelings. These methods may include deep breathing exercises, meditation, or emotionally focused tapping (tapping pressure points on the body to soothe physical pain). These methods will also keep you grounded and prevent you from overthinking things.

Write the Story Instead of Telling It

Some people may find it easier to write down the traumatic event instead of talking about it. Therapists call this process a “trauma narrative.” This exercise aims to see the event from a different angle and, therefore, have the means to process it better. This exercise is beneficial to those who have trouble speaking about their trauma and may become overly emotional or “clam up.”

Trauma is complicated to process on your own. That’s why people suffering from trauma often receive referrals to visit a professional, as people who go about healing on their own may often stumble and hit roadblocks or obstacles. Make an appointment with a therapist before trying these practices.

Trauma is not something you should go through alone. If you would like to learn more about trauma and how it affects the body, feel free to contact me

(1.) The Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges, PhD