shadow work

  • 5 Ways Your Past Trauma Can Affect The Present

    woman sitting on bed in room with light from window (abuse concept)

    If you’ve experienced a traumatic event in the past, it can take a heavy toll on your mental, spiritual, physiological, and emotional health. Traumatic events often involve violent or sexual assaults, childhood abuses, accidents, and any situation that leaves you feeling helpless, isolated, and overwhelmed.   

    With the traumatic events mentioned, child abuse has the most significant impact on one’s adult life. It’s because the abuse happened at a young age when the brain is at its most vulnerable. To make things worse, child abuse is often done by people who often appear trustworthy. 

    Experiencing trauma at a very young age can result in long-lasting side effects. If that childhood trauma is left unresolved, the sense of helplessness, vulnerability, and fear will be carried over until adulthood, making room for further trauma.  

    This is why it’s crucial to look out for children who have experienced such traumatic events and help them in healing from childhood trauma. Regardless of age, it’s essential to help them overcome the pain. It can be a challenging feat to gain their trust and help them connect with people again.

    To give you a better understanding of how severe an unresolved trauma can be, here are some ways your past trauma can affect the present.

    1. The Body’s Response To Danger

    A past traumatic event will affect how the body responds to danger. Even when danger is not present—perhaps just by hearing a loud or familiar shouting voice, the body will automatically feel threatened. The body will release adrenaline and cortisol hormones, influencing one’s response to noises or threats. Unfortunately, you will have no control over it. 

    Some may even react through panic attacks, feeling paralyzed or unable to move in place, hiding, or running away. Your body’s stress signals will continue to haunt you even long after the panic attack is over. Hence, it dramatically affects how your body responds, how you react, and how you think. 

    1. Affected Mental Health

    One aspect of your health that is greatly affected by past trauma is your mental health. There are several ways for your mind to be clouded by trauma. 

    Flashbacks: It’s inevitable for people who’ve experienced past trauma to suddenly and involuntarily relive some aspects of the traumatic event. Sometimes, this happens when something triggers your memory, such as a picture, a place, or a reoccurring event. Flashbacks can last for a few seconds or continue for hours and even days. 

    Nightmares: Even long after a past trauma is over, you may still find it hard to sleep at night as you’re afraid of having nightmares. Sometimes, it’s through nightmares that the trauma can get into your mind and replay in your sleep. 

    Hyperarousal: This is otherwise known as anxiety. You tend to feel anxious and on edge all the time. You couldn’t relax as you can’t stop looking for any possible threat or danger in your surroundings.  

    Dissociation: Dissociation can be your mind’s coping mechanism after a traumatic event. When you’re experiencing dissociation, you may feel detached from yourself and all people around you. You may feel like the world you’re standing on is unreal. That’s why others tend to move into a new country to run away from their past trauma.

    Alcohol or Substance Misuse: Some people find it hard to cope with difficult memories or emotions. Hence, they resort to drowning themselves in alcohol or drugs. These will make them high, and their minds would temporarily forget about the traumatic event.  

    Psychologist comforting depressed and worried patient with phobia
    1. Eating Problems

    Past trauma tends to influence your eating habits—it can either be a loss of appetite or overeating.  

    Binge-eating may be a way for some people to distract themselves from disturbing thoughts, emotions, or memories associated with the traumatic event. Logically, overeating is not enough to get rid of unwanted flashbacks and anxiety, but it can be a temporary relief or a coping mechanism to deal with unresolved trauma. 

    On the other hand, the effects of past trauma can also cause loss of appetite. As you always tend to be alert about certain dangers around you, you’ve lost your interest in other things, including eating. This, in turn, will result in anorexia or bulimia.

    1. Physical Health Problems

    While past trauma can impact your mental and emotional health, it can also make you more prone to physical health problems, including long-term or chronic illnesses.  

    Other people find comfort in blaming themselves for the trauma. They feel this intense guilt or shame, even though they’re not the ones who should be blamed. However, blaming themselves is how their minds try to make sense of that past trauma. It’s also the mind’s way of trying to avoid overwhelming feelings. If you constantly feel this way, chances are, you’ll forget to look out for your well-being, causing you to be sickly. 

    You might have been also physically hurt during that experience, especially if it’s related to abuse, violence, or an accident. Living with a physical disability or illness after the traumatic event can make you feel anxious, making it harder to cope with trauma.

    1. Difficulty In Trusting Others

    This may be one of the hardest things to fix for a traumatized person. People who have been victims of abuse or violence will find it hard to trust anyone ever again—most especially if the abuser is their family or loved ones. That’s why some people would resort to isolation and withdraw themselves from the rest of the world. Being alone makes them feel safe from deceitful and vile people. 

    Unfortunately, isolation will only make things worse. The more you separate yourself from the outside, the harder it is to cope with the trauma. Certain practices can heal your inner child and help you move on from the traumatic event as time goes by. If you still find it hard to trust someone, you can talk to a counselor when you’re ready.

    Final Thoughts

    Healing yourself from a past traumatic event is not something that happens overnight. It’s a process that requires a commitment to change and forgive. If you’re still suffering from any adverse effects mentioned above, don’t hesitate to ask for support from your closest person or a trusted counselor. Don’t constantly think that you’re alone in this silent battle, because you are not. Many people are willing to help you throughout the healing process. The best way to deal with your trauma is to communicate your feelings openly—but make sure you’re ready and willing.

    Dawn Sullivan
    As a mother of three beautiful children, Dawn Sullivan understands how challenging parenthood is and is using her experience to create informative pieces on parenthood on her blog. Dawn covers a wide variety of topics useful for parents – from giving out tips to help homes become child-friendly to helping them choose the right physician for their children.