Most people understand that trauma affects the brain. As a result, you might experience symptoms of trauma for years to come. They can include flashbacks, feelings of anxiety, or even depression.
But trauma can impact more than just your mental state. In many cases, the body stores trauma.
Specifically, it stores unprocessed trauma.
That can get a little confusing for some people to understand, but it’s simpler than you might think. When your body experiences a sudden shock, it can be too much for the brain to handle. So, it goes into “defense mode.”
What does that mean for both your brain and your body? How can your body actually “store” trauma? Let’s dive a little deeper.
Overloading the Nervous System
The shock from trauma causes your nervous system to go haywire. Because the brain can’t always handle that kind of overwhelming shock, the trauma you’re going through can’t be processed.
Think of your brain as a supercomputer. It’s extremely powerful. But when it’s suddenly overloaded with information, it won’t be able to process everything without crashing and becoming overheated.
When your brain isn’t able to process the trauma, it overloads your body. You aren’t able to go into your typical “fight or flight” response. So, that trauma has nowhere to go. As a result, it gets stored in your muscles, organs, and even your connective tissue.
What Happens When Trauma is Stored in the Body?
When trauma is stored in your tissue instead of the brain, that’s a continued defense strategy. Your brain “disconnects” from that area of the body so the trauma isn’t able to get processed.
That might not sound so bad, at first. If trauma is stored in your body and your brain doesn’t recall it, you might not deal with the mental health repercussions, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Trauma stored in your body might keep you from having flashbacks and dealing with mental health issues. But, just because it’s stored elsewhere doesn’t mean it has “disappeared.” Because your brain disconnects from that part of the body, it can quickly become unhealthy. If that’s your tissue or a certain organ, that’s incredibly dangerous. Your body might lose the ability to heal itself, which can lead to an emergency situation.
How Can Your Body Release Stored Trauma?
When your body is storing trauma, the only way for it to be released is for it to have somewhere to go. When you’re constantly full of tension and storing stress, your trauma can be “trapped.” Your goal should be to reconnect your brain with the area of the body where the trauma is stored. Doing so will help you process it.
A body part can’t “process” trauma on its own. If you’re storing it in your tissue, that’s not going to help you work through the events that caused it.
Working with a therapist is the best thing you can do to release stored trauma and reconnect your brain to that area of the body. When you do so, you’ll give your trauma somewhere else to go. As that disconnect gets repaired, you’ll finally be able to process the trauma fully, so you can work through it.
While that might lead to a variety of new symptoms, therapy can help you learn how to manage them and eventually get through the effects of your trauma to take control of your life.
If you’ve been through a traumatic experience and you’re worried it’s impacting your physical health, feel free to contact Integrative Psychotherapy Group. Trauma doesn’t have to take over your mind or your body. Together, we will work on reconnecting and releasing stored trauma so you can feel better physically and mentally.