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  • Writer's pictureGary Katz

Physical Health Implications From Unresolved Trauma

The Body Does Keep the Score!

We’ve been discussing the impact of unhealed trauma. Last week we looked at its impact on relationships. This week we’ll look at its impact on physical health.  

The effects of unresolved trauma are not limited to one's mental and emotional well-being; they can also manifest physically. Research has increasingly shown a strong link between unaddressed trauma and various physical health conditions. Chronic pain, sleep disturbances, migraines, gastrointestinal issues, and compromised immune function are just a few examples of physical ailments that may arise from unresolved trauma. The body and mind are intricately connected, and when one suffers, so does the other.

The impact of unresolved trauma is not limited to the mind and emotions; it can also have a profound effect on the physical body. The mind and body are intricately connected, and when trauma remains unresolved, it can manifest in various physical symptoms and health issues. People often see doctors when experiencing physical symptoms of trauma and begin treatments and medications that bring on another host of problems while the trauma remains unaddressed. Please note that it’s ALWAYS important to see a doctor but many medical professionals are trained to treat the symptoms and are not trauma informed. It’s important to ALSO address the trauma. At the Center for Intimacy Recovery, we partner with Dr. Amanda Lefkowitz who is trained in trauma as well as addiction in addition to her regular medical training. 

Here are some ways in which unresolved trauma can impact the physical body:

1) Chronic Pain

Unresolved trauma can contribute to the development of chronic pain conditions. Trauma-induced stress can lead to increased muscle tension and heightened sensitivity to pain. This can result in conditions such as fibromyalgia, tension headaches, and musculoskeletal pain. The body's physiological response to trauma, such as the release of stress hormones, can also contribute to the experience of chronic pain.

2) Sleep Disturbances

Trauma can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and lead to sleep disturbances. Individuals with unresolved trauma may experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or having restful sleep. Nightmares and flashbacks related to the traumatic event can also interrupt sleep patterns, leading to chronic sleep deprivation and fatigue.

3) Gastrointestinal Issues

Unresolved trauma can have a significant impact on the digestive system. It can cause gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach ulcers, acid reflux, and other digestive disorders. The gut is sensitive to stress, and unresolved trauma can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome, leading to inflammation and digestive disturbances.

4) Compromised Immune Function

Prolonged exposure to stress resulting from unresolved trauma can weaken the immune system. Chronic stress can suppress immune function, making individuals more susceptible to infections, autoimmune disorders, and other immune-related health issues. The body's ability to fight off pathogens and maintain overall health can be compromised.

5) Cardiovascular Problems

Unresolved trauma can contribute to cardiovascular problems and increase the risk of heart disease. Trauma-induced stress can elevate blood pressure, increase heart rate, and contribute to the development of conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The long-term effects of chronic stress on the cardiovascular system can further increase the risk of heart-related issues.

6) Hormonal Imbalances

Trauma can disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system, leading to hormonal imbalances. Unresolved trauma can affect the production and regulation of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These imbalances can result in a range of symptoms, including disrupted menstrual cycles, fertility issues, changes in appetite, and weight fluctuations.

7) Weakened Immune System

Unresolved trauma can weaken the immune system's ability to respond effectively to pathogens, leaving individuals more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Chronic stress and unresolved trauma can suppress immune function and increase inflammation in the body, leading to a higher risk of developing chronic diseases and slower healing processes.

It is important to recognize that the impact of unresolved trauma on the physical body can vary from person to person. However, these physical manifestations serve as a reminder of the deep connection between our mental and physical well-being. In addition to seeing a doctor, seeking additional professional help, such as therapy or trauma-focused interventions, can support individuals in addressing and resolving trauma, leading to improved physical health and overall well-being.


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