Trauma and Somatization

Trauma can be defined as anything that happens to a human being that is perceived as life threatening.  This can be a single event like a car accident, or it can be a set of enduring conditions that threaten an individual’s sense of safety and well being.   Many people are aware of some of the classic PTSD symptoms, but trauma also can be the source of long standing emotional and behavioral patterns as well as actual biological changes in the body.

The following are some examples:

  • Replaying events over and over in the mind/obsessive thinking

  • Feeling a sense of doom and chronic fear about the future

  • Repeated nightmares and sleep disturbance

  • Trouble concentrating and remembering things

  • Being startled easily by sounds or other stimuli

  • Mistrust of people

  • Feeling: depressed, anxious, emotionally numb, chronic irritability, stuck, guilty, ineffective, and disorientated without warning

  • Difficulty trusting one’s judgment or ability to make a decision

  • Difficulty experiencing pleasure or comfort

  • Feeling perpetually overwhelmed

  • Inability to feel close or connected to others

  • Chronic hyperarousal or hypoarousal of the central nervous system

  • Difficulty managing intensity of emotion

  • Difficulty with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries and limits

  • Substance abuse and other compulsive behaviors

 

Another symptom of unprocessed trauma is somatization.  Somatization is the experience of physical pain or physical symptoms for which there is no medical explanation.  When trauma occurs, the part of the brain that is responsible for recording context and making meaning of a situation shuts down, and our more primitive defenses are employed.  In other words to respond to the threat, our brain turns off the thinking and remembering functions to put all its energy into survival responses– fight, flight, or freeze.  Often, the context and specific story that goes along with the trauma is lost, and what is left is some configuration of the symptoms named above, as well as medically unexplained physical pain, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, chronic muscle tension, and even cardiovascular problems.  In the case of trauma, cutting edge research is proving that the body keeps a record of sorts, about what happened.  In other words, these physical symptoms and pain are clues about what the body endured.  That same research is influencing new therapeutic techniques that include the body so that people can begin to understand themselves, heal the trauma, feel safer in their own minds and bodies, and to finally have some relief from the physical pain that has persisted for so long despite everything medicine has prescribed.

 

For more information and resources please visit:  https://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org

www.lisarudduck.com

 

 

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