Experiencing traumatic situations leads to feelings of hopelessness and shock. When stressed and anxious, this triggers the fight, flight, or freeze responses. However, those lingering sensations become trapped as trauma sensations when the body cannot complete these responses and the brain maintains its high level of alertness.

Similarly, when one feels incapable of dealing with overwhelming emotions and decides to put them aside, the unprocessed trauma is stored in the nervous system, which can harm a person’s well-being. Through this article, Grey Matters of Carmel explores exactly how trauma lives in the body and how you can heal from it.

Woman sleeping in depression

How Does Trauma Get Trapped in the Body?

The American Psychiatric Association identifies trauma as a psychological reaction to distressing events. These events may include accidents, natural disasters, war, abuse, assault, death of a loved one, and severe illness, which can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Other situations include breakup, divorce, bullying, emotional abuse, and financial problems, leading to other trauma-related disorders like addictions, OCD, anxiety, depression, Dissociative Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder.

While almost everyone experiences trauma, unprocessed trauma becomes very detrimental, and eventually causes unwanted bodily effects.

Trauma and the Brain

Trauma and the brain are two inseparable things. Trauma can affect three parts of the brain. There’s the amygdala, which is in charge of processing emotions and memories; the hippocampus, which regulates the memory; and the prefrontal cortex, which governs our thoughts, actions, and feelings. Moreover, trauma can also affect the brain’s emotional networks causing a person to overreact or underreact when experiencing a stressful situation.

The brain does not store traumatic stress in its entirety. Instead, it records the event through pictures and bodily sensations, causing the brain to split the trauma into different parts and storing it in different areas, hindering the brain’s natural recovery. Through this, symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress arise, causing physical illness.

For instance, a person who suffered from a major life-altering accident may feel physical adverse effects like palm sweating and a sick stomach when riding in a car. Additionally, a child who experiences sexual or physical abuse may grow up to then flinch at the touch of their partner or feel a sense of guilt around intimacy.

How Can the Body React to Trauma?

Stressful situations like financial worries or physical abuse can trigger stress hormones. This leads to physiological responses such as rapid breathing, tensed muscles, faster heart pounding, trembling, and flushed skin. This is known as the fight-or-flight response, an automatic reaction to an event that your brain deems unsafe.

Aside from these physical responses from the fight-or-flight response, some also experience freeze responses. A person suffering from this struggles to move physically and fails to react to danger. These scenarios arise when someone is witness to a horrific crime, accident, or even death of a loved one.

Impact of Trauma on the Body

Everyone experiences some level of trauma throughout their lives. That’s just life, and there’s really no way around it. However, not everyone’s reactions to trauma are the same. Even people who experience the same event at the same time process and deal with the trauma differently. Here are just some of the effects of trauma on the body.

Women Crying


While it is a given that people may suffer from emotional pain that affects mental health, emotional reactions vary depending on the person’s history, support system, and recovery processes. Emotions like fear, anger, sadness, and shame are likely to surface during traumatic events and linger in the days, weeks, or years that follow. Furthermore, people might struggle to identify these emotions, making them feel it is out of control. Traumatic stress can also bring forth two emotional extremes: too much or little emotion, leaving some feeling numb and others feeling ecstatic.


Traumatic situations alter mental cognitions and how the brain functions. As a consequence, trauma survivors often misinterpret certain conditions as dangerous because it reminds them of previous trauma. Others also possess inappropriate guilt and create inaccurate rationalization or justification. Moreover, some people experience trauma-induced hallucinations and intrusive thoughts that trigger strong emotional and behavioral reactions in the time following an event.


Aside from emotional reactions and cognitive effects, trauma-related symptoms also include physical reactions that harm one’s physical health. This involved heart palpitations and shallow and rapid breathing. Due to unresolved trauma, individuals may also suffer from heart disease, sleep disruption, and weight gain. Some people eventually experience chronic illnesses or injuries that can’t be explained otherwise. These physical symptoms are usually caused by the prolonging of hormones in the body, particularly cortisol, oxytocin, and adrenaline. Remember: The Body Keeps Score.


Another consequence of traumatic experiences is the behavioral effects. One is a reenactment, wherein trauma survivors relive and recreate past trauma. This is especially common for children. Aside from this, people tend to have self-destructive behaviors as an attempt to cope with overwhelming, stressful emotions.

Among the self-inflicting harm behaviors are hair pulling, punching hard to cause bruises, bone breaking, excessive nail biting, cutting, self-poisoning, and suicide. Aside from these, individuals also try to avoid people, places, and situations to lessen unwanted emotions and stray away from triggering memories.

Releasing Trauma From the Body

Dealing with traumatic effects can be difficult. Indeed, it can take some time to feel happy and healed again. However, there are many ways to help yourself move forward from these trying times. Here are a few practices you should remember to release trauma from your body.


Feelings of emotional distress may be overwhelming and can cause anxiety. When dealing with unwanted emotions from traumatic experiences, conscious breathing and breathwork can help release these feelings. Proper breathing alleviates anxiety and manages stress.

Physical Movement

One of the best ways to relieve traumatic-induced emotions is physical movement. It has been proven that exercising is an effective solution to improve PTSD symptoms. This includes working out, dancing, and playing sports which releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins. Aside from that, physical movement also helps you maintain your physical fitness.

Practice Self Care

Another way to reduce stress is practicing self-care. Doing things that make you feel good during your healing journey is essential. Whether mundane tasks like watching your favorite show, taking a warm bath, or reading your favorite book, you deserve to feel loved. This improves your mood and positively impacts your emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

Find the Right Help

One of the most important things when trying to heal from trauma is the willingness to accept help and support. Whether individual therapy, community support, or support from your loved ones, getting the right help will give you a better chance of recovery. If your goal is to avoid medications, then neurofeedback training is a great alternative.

Get Through Your Healing Process with Grey Matters

Almost every person has experienced trauma. However, when traumatic events are not fully processed, trauma becomes trapped in the body. Unfortunately, this causes detrimental effects on the emotional, physical, and mental health of every individual.

A way to break free from trauma is by finding the right help and support. While it may sound very daunting, getting the proper guidance is best. We believe that helping you release the trauma trapped in your body is vital to finding the happiness you deserve as our founder, Courtney Boyer, did! Get started with Grey Matters of Carmel’s neurofeedback training. Contact us, and let’s get ahead of your healing journey today!

Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash
Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash