Those who experience traumatic events in their lives can suffer from several lingering effects — increased anxiety, depression, or even the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, beyond the mental and emotional afflictions of trauma, there can be some physical effects of PTSD and physical effects of trauma on one’s body, as well.
PTSD physical symptoms can create any number of additional hurdles in one’s recovery from a traumatic experience, and these physical ailments can continue to affect every other aspect of an individual’s life until addressed.
How Does PTSD Affect the Body?
The physical ailments of trauma can have many different sources, and the PTSD effects on the body can come in different forms. For some, the nature of their trauma may have resulted in physical injury in addition to the psychological damage done. Breaking bones, being in a car accident, having bruises or scars from an abusive relationship or assault, or having burn marks following any number of disastrous events all need to be addressed. Those who have suffered a physical injury from their experience can have their anxieties compounded as they have to work through the mental and emotional damage of the traumatic event while in physical pain that reminds them of their experience.
Others may experience the physical effects of trauma even if they are not immediately physically injured following a traumatic event. One’s emotional state can first affect one’s diet — causing them to either begin eating more than usual or, more commonly, one may cease eating almost entirely. This can have a major physical effect on the body, with it becoming more malnourished as anxieties continue to build. The recovery process takes a lot of energy, both physically and emotionally, and not having the proper nutrients can inhibit a person’s recovery path as well as how they feel on a daily basis.
The body’s physiological response to trauma can also have several adverse effects. During times of duress, the body may begin to focus all of its energy into a complete “survival” state of mind, ensuring that the brain is hydrated and getting the energy it needs to remain vigilant. However, this means that water is being drawn from other places of the body — most notably, one’s skin. Not only can this create dry skin in areas, but it can also make it much easier for the body to scar during this time.
One’s emotional and mental turmoil following trauma can also manifest as aches and pains throughout the body. Anxiety and hypervigilance following a traumatic experience can cause the muscles to tense up tightly, which can lead to these aches throughout one’s body, even if they were not physically injured.
Physical Symptoms of PTSD
Each individual will experience their own mental, emotional, and physical effects of trauma-based on their unique experiences and perceptions of the traumatic event. As a result, not all people will express the same symptoms. However, some of the symptoms that may appear are:
Severe weight loss
Aches and pains
Fatigue / exhaustion
Coupling these with any of the emotional and mental effects of PTSD makes recovery from these traumatic events complicated. However, there is always treatment available, regardless of the way that trauma affects each person. Finding a way to personalize one’s own recovery plan based on their symptoms is paramount throughout each stage of the recovery process.
Treatment Options Available
Coping with trauma and PTSD is difficult, but healing is always possible. Finding a place of safety, both physically and emotionally, is a priority to begin the healing process. For some, this will involve finding dedicated recovery facilities to detach from one’s life and focus on their wellbeing while in a recovery-curated environment. Individual and group psychotherapy and community building can help deconstruct one’s mental and emotional walls that may have been put up as a defense mechanism.
An individual can explore their experiences in a safe space during recovery.
Practicing breathing techniques and mindfulness can also help an individual begin to better understand and alleviate some of their physical responses. By taking time to breathe and question your immediate responses to stimuli, you can better understand the different ways in which the trauma has impacted you on a fundamental level. This can ultimately help you to better grasp the mental and physical effects of PTSD.
Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is also essential to provide the body with the necessary nutrients it needs to continue trying to repair itself. This can help the skin become rehydrated and provide the brain with the energy it needs to work through other therapies and internalize coping mechanisms more effectively.
Experiential therapies and physically active recovery routes can also help an individual better identify and address the physical effects of their trauma. By getting the body moving and being introspective about one’s own body, these therapies can bring to light any number of effects that may have first seemed latent. Identifying the physical effects of trauma is the first step towards creating a plan that can address each individual’s unique needs, and doing so in a safe and supported way is needed to address these physical effects.