Trauma is an individual’s emotional and physical reaction after experiencing a significant event that was very overwhelming, such as an accident, serious illness, death of a loved one, or emotional abuse. Unresolved trauma can have a debilitating effect on a person, and a loved one affected by this condition may manifest different signs.
Hypervigilance refers to heightened consciousness and alertness toward potential danger or threat. Constantly feeling on guard, or worried that something bad is about to happen, are common signs that a loved one has unresolved trauma. Hearing a loud noise, experiencing an unexpected touch, or being in a crowded or unfamiliar environment are all potential causes of hypervigilance. This can cause sleeplessness, concentration issues, irritability, and paranoia.
Avoidance might appear either physically or emotionally. The physical manifestations of avoidance include avoiding certain places, activities, or persons that remind the individual of the traumatic incident. Emotional avoidance includes avoiding discussing the traumatic event with anyone, including family and friends. It may also involve avoiding activities that evoke intense emotions, like listening to sad music, viewing sad movies, or engaging in activities that evoke terrible memories.
Depression is a common symptom of unresolved trauma characterized by persistent sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness. Individuals may also experience a loss of interest in activities that used to bring them joy, a loss of energy, a decrease in self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
Physical symptoms of depression include fatigue, headaches, and changes in eating habits. Other symptoms may include sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or difficulty falling asleep, muscle tension, and chronic pain.
4. Substance Abuse
Another indicator that a loved one has unresolved trauma is their use of drugs and alcohol to dull their pain and manage their distress. When traumatized, a person may feel incapable of coping with the anguish and terror associated with the experience. Therefore, individuals may turn to substance abuse to dull these emotions and create a false sense of security. Substance abuse can also serve as an escape from the present, and a means to avoid confronting unresolved trauma.
5. Sleep Disturbances
Sleep disturbances may also indicate that a loved one is struggling with the effects of past trauma, which can include difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up.
Additionally, one may find that they need more sleep than usual or that no matter how much they sleep, they still feel exhausted. An upsurge in stress hormones can cause these shifts, making it hard to go to sleep and stay asleep because the body is constantly on high alert.
6. Emotional Outbursts
People who have experienced trauma may have difficulty regulating their emotions and experience frequent emotional outbursts. Emotional outbursts indicate that the person cannot cope effectively with the trauma they have experienced and often include intense anger, sadness, fear, guilt, and shame. They can also be a sign of avoidance or denial of the trauma.
Dissociation is the deliberate suppression of emotional responses to trauma to protect oneself from aggravation. It’s a defense mechanism that helps someone stay emotionally protected by blocking out the trauma. Individuals in this category may have trouble interacting with others and performing routine tasks. They may also experience mood swings, anxiety, or depression because of their inability to control their emotions.
Nightmares, which include terrifyingly realistic dreams that occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, are another indication of unresolved trauma. The initial symptom is a dreamlike recreation of the traumatic event. Traumatic events often leave people feeling helpless, scared, and overwhelmed, all of which can lead to nightmares. Fear, anxiety, and panic are ways that one may relive this emotional distress in a dream. This can make the dreamer feel threatened even if there is no real danger present.
An individual’s mental, emotional, and physical health can be adversely affected by unresolved trauma. Knowing the warning indications that a loved one is dealing with unresolved trauma might help prevent additional disruptions in their day-to-day lives.