Most of us understand the impact physical and psychological trauma has on our emotional well-being, but did you know trauma can leave a lasting imprint on your body?
Our expert team at ReNew Wellness in Gilbert, Arizona, explains what you need to know about how your body stores trauma in your nervous system and offers mental health care for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.
What is trauma?
Trauma is any experience or event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, leading to physical reactions and distressing emotions. Trauma experiences may include difficult events like natural disasters, car accidents, or rape.
People commonly experience the fight-or-flight response, in which the body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, followed by shock or denial immediately after the event. Long-term responses include flashbacks, unpredictable emotions, and physical symptoms like nausea or headache.
Some people struggle to move on with their lives after traumatic events, and when trauma isn’t processed, it lingers. Many believe unprocessed trauma is stored by the nervous system.
The nervous system’s response to trauma
Your nervous system is made up of the central nervous system (CNS), consisting of your brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), consisting of the nerves that transmit signals throughout your body. When trauma disrupts the normal functioning of these systems, your body changes how it processes and responds to stress.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a component of the PNS, responsible for regulating automatic bodily functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion. When trauma disrupts the balance within your ANS, the two branches of your autonomic nervous system (parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems) become dysregulated, causing a variety of symptoms like insomnia, gastrointestinal issues, and chronic pain.
Many believe trauma can leave a lasting imprint on your body at a cellular level, explaining also how trauma can be passed from parents to their offspring (intergenerational trauma).
Epigenetics explores how environmental factors, including trauma, can influence gene expression and how traumatic experiences can modify gene expression patterns which lead to physiological and emotional responses long after the event takes place.
This cellular memory is how your body stores trauma, and may help explain why some individuals experiencing trauma continue to exhibit symptoms even in safe environments.
Healing trauma in the nervous system
Holistic healing of trauma requires recognizing and addressing stored trauma in your nervous system. Several therapeutic approaches help in this area, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
- Somatic experiencing
- Mindful practices
These techniques may help rewire your neural pathways, improve self-regulation, and help you process unresolved emotions to release stored trauma in your nervous system.
Seek professional help for trauma
Trauma stored in your nervous system affects your emotional well-being and physical health. If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, seeking professional help from the experienced team at ReNew Wellness can guide you on your path to recovery. Contact us today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.