15 Common Signs of Unresolved Trauma
Recognizing the signs of unresolved trauma can be tricky. Sometimes people who are having difficulties enter therapy without even knowing that they have suffered the trauma that is causing disruptions in their daily lives. The very nature of trauma lends itself to that. Often, when a person goes through a traumatic event, there is some degree of dissociation that happens and the person essentially "blocks out" all, or part, of the event, so his or her awareness of the trauma isn't accurate, making diagnosis difficult. However, there are some common signs of unresolved trauma that you can look for.
The Effects of Unresolved Trauma
Just because someone who suffered trauma blocks out (consciously or unconsciously) what has happened, it doesn't mean that he or she won't feel the effects from it.
Peter A. Levine, Ph.D., who has treated and researched trauma for over 45 years, says,
The effects of unresolved trauma can be devastating. It can affect our habits and outlook on life, leading to addictions and poor decision-making. It can take a toll on our family life and interpersonal relationships. It can trigger real physical pain, symptoms, and disease. And it can lead to a range of self destructive behaviors.
Signs and Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma
Even when memories of the trauma are hidden from a person's awareness, there are signs that will become noticeable in his or her daily life. Below are some of the most common signs that someone is suffering from unresolved trauma:
- Anxiety or panic attacks that occur in what would be considered normal situations
- A feeling of shame; an innate feeling that they are bad, worthless, or without importance
- Suffering from chronic or ongoing depression
- Practicing avoidance of people, places, or things that may be related to the traumatic event; this also can include an avoidance of unpleasant emotions
- Flashbacks, nightmares, and body memories regarding the traumatic event
- Addiction and eating disorders in an attempt to escape or numb negative emotions
- Sleeping issues including trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
- Suffering from feelings of detachment, or feeling "dead inside" (This is perhaps the most devastating of the signs, because it creates a feeling of loneliness and isolation.)
- Dissociation as a real disconnect in situations and conversations
- Hypervigilance (a constant feeling of being on guard)
- Suicidal thought or actions
- Uncontrollable anger; acting on it
- Self-harm, cutting, and mutilation
- Not being able to tolerate conflicts as they once would have
- Unexplained or irrational fears of people, places, or things
If you identify with any, or all, of the signs above, then you may want to ask yourself if it's time to talk with a therapist about your trauma. Is it easier to function as you are, or to work through the pain you have suffered? It's a question that only you can answer, but rest assured, you are not alone.
There are many people who have been traumatized, may even have developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who have worked through the events of their past, and recovered. There is help and support out there.
DeLoe, J. (2016, June 10). 15 Common Signs of Unresolved Trauma, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2016/06/15-common-signs-of-unresolved-trauma
Author: Jami DeLoe
It is absolutely never too late to open up about what you've gone through. With complex ptsd that may seem overwhelming but anywhere is a good place to start. There are many extremely valuable methods and tools to equip yourself with in order to cope with symptoms and help yourself get to a place where you feel safe and at ease.
I had many adverse childhood experiences.My father was a WW2 veteran who had experienced several near death times (bombed and torpedoed whilst serving on warships).I am sure he had PTSD.My mother neglected and abandoned me.I was assaulted by an adult neighbour.My parents had an acrimonious divorce and we had to live with my grandmother who developed dementia.Father died of Pancreatic cancer when I was just 18.
As an adult I have been divorced,cannot hold down a job and have difficulty making and keeping relationships.I have no family and no close friends.I have been the subject of 2 "road rage" attacks,one where I thought I was going to be murdered.Several road crashes,only one faintly my fault.A horse riding accident where I thought I was going to be killed.Now 73 and wanting to end it all
Thank you for reaching out. I am so sorry to hear of your pain and struggles in life. Please consider seeking out help. We have several resources on our website that can point you in the direction of support and interventions. Please see our list of hotline numbers and referral sources here: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer…. In addition, our Trauma and PTSD online communities can help you find more information that could be useful: https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/traumatic-events/traumatic-events-and-how-to-cope and https://www.healthyplace.com/ptsd-and-stress-disorders. I know it can be difficult, but please reach out for help.
HealthyPlace Comment Moderator
I’m just wondering how you are, Peter?
Still alive,although very unhappy.I feel that no one cares about me.I have self harmed,taken non fatal overdoses,been on food refusal.No one believes that I am suffering from PTSD,they say I have a narcissistic personality disorder.I told one of my few friends this,and after looking it up she said that was rubbish !
I'm so sorry for you peter, stay strong. I experienced a lot of the signs followed and I think you should get professional help or join an in-person or online group to find that there are people like you and that you're not alone. it's amazing that you've held on for so long, you're inspirational and you should be able to be at peace at this age surrounded by those you love. good luck and lots of love.
My husband has ptsd but is in denial covid lockdown the trauma of losing his dad, several health issues now he had a heart attack, he has gone worse, I suggested some therapy but he refuses to get help, always says, "I'll figure it out "and never does,
This behavior all the points above are his symptoms.
How do you help someone in denial?
Hey Vicki!! I’m no therapist or anything.. but I do have a male perspective and have found a bit of light in my trauma.. what helped me was EMDR, it really changed my life.. while I was in the early stages of my trauma I worked with a guy who has a lot of hatred inside of him.. he’s shown unbelievable signs of humanity alongside his hateful views.. he helped me while I was in my early stages of trauma.. I sent him this message.. I hope it helps your situation, all the best!
“ Hey ***, I spent a good couple hours typing this all out, I did it because I know you are a good dude, I’ve known you for a year now, we have a lot of differences in our outlooks on life .. I can see the good in you, I believe you to be a giver, even if others don’t see you that way.. you said to me before ‘At least some good has come out of my knowledge from my experience’ now I want to share some good that has come out of my knowledge from my experience with it all..
I know you have a lot of pride in ‘I’ll figure it out’ .. I’m coming to you in a vulnerable position, because I wonder if you will just look at this message and laugh and think ‘what a pussy’.. I’d say that takes a lot of pride and courage to come to you with this, and not care if you think that, you are my boss at work after all.. did you know there isn’t many countries in the world where male suicides are lower than females..?? In Canada and most other countries the number is 4 times higher.. Society talks of how hard it is for females to grow up in a mans world.. I do believe it is ‘a mans world’.. but what kind of a world is it for a man if they are dropping themselves 4 times over than females are? I believe men are wired to think showing no emotion makes them valued, makes them above others, as if they are ‘strong’ but I really don’t believe that is the case.. I think it takes strength to look at it from a different point of view.. where you don’t care about what society thinks, whatever anyone else thinks of me doesn’t matter.. fitting in is easy, standing out is hard.. it is ‘strong’ (in my opinion)..
I believe this conversation could change your life for the better in a massive way..
It sounds like what you and I experienced was similar in a lot of ways.. comparing my experience to yours.. I was going to therapy while I was going through it all.. while I was also much older and more experienced in life, compared to when you went through it.. even though I went weekly to therapy to help with the situation my therapist still diagnosed me with ‘unresolved trauma’.. I believe what you and I went through was truly awful. You’ve said it yourself ‘going through that was by far the worse thing I’ve gone through, it even surpassed my grandparents passing.. I carry baggage from that experience.. I think ‘where did I go wrong?’.. you know I’m a sucker for a good time, and I chase big highs in unnatural ways.. What if I told you that facing these demons inside of you could be one of the best things to ever happen to you? You talk a lot about money and think that it would bring you ‘happiness’.. but what if taking this hard leap brought you something money never could buy? This process with therapy has brought back a sense of ‘life’ to me.. the way I would describe it is ‘I can feel things again’.. I went 4 months without feeling things.. after resolving this trauma, those old natural feelings somewhat returned.. it was the biggest high I’ve ever experienced.. what if there is a chance that you haven’t fully moved on from your experience.. maybe you don’t think about it as much anymore, but maybe you still feel it in your core and it takes a toll on you in an invisible way that no physical/self therapy could ever solve? What if this process made you feel emotions in a way you’ve completely forgotten, what if this is your black mirror year where you almost think you’re living in a simulation because of how drastic your perspective changes? What if the word ‘happiness’ has a complete different definition to you?
Is that not a risk worth taking?
I’ve been reading a lot into trauma and everything else that is similar to my experience. I thought I’d share a few links and quotes with you.. try and compare it to your own life, and see if they have any relation with each other..
Quote - “Recently, a friend of mine who suffers from chronic lower back pain came back from yet another visit to the doctor with a bit of unexpected advice.
Instead of the usual discussion of shots, medications, physical therapy, or even surgery, his doctor recommended a book, Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection. The book, by John E. Sarno, M.D., sets out to explain “how stress and other psychological factors can cause back pain—and how you can be pain-free without drugs, exercise, or surgery.”
In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey on 60 Minutes, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Bruce Perry talked about the effect adverse younger events have on us as adults. “If you have developmental trauma, the truth is you're going to be at risk for almost any kind of physical health, mental health, social health problem that you can think of,” said Perry.
Unresolved trauma can haunt us throughout our lives in ways that often don’t seem direct. As adults, we may attempt to forget or gloss over the past. We may think, “it wasn’t that bad” or “Many people had it worse than I did.” We don’t realize that these old wounds can have all kinds of physical and psychological effects. Certain events may involuntarily trigger reactions in us that we haven’t thought about in years: guilt, shame, fear, or anger sourcing from earlier in our lives.
Attachment research suggests that it isn’t just what happens to us that affects us and our relationships. We’re also affected by the extent to which we haven’t been able to feel the full pain and make sense of our experiences. When we don’t deal with our trauma, we carry it with us. We haven’t made sense of our story, and therefore, our past is still impacting our present in countless invisible ways. It influences how we parent, how we relate to our partner, how we feel, think, and operate in the world.”
I’ve talked to my therapist about finding someone that could be a good fit for you, here is his name and number.. think about it my friend, there is no rush.. I believe this could be a good opportunity for your quality of life as a whole.. all the best
I was diagnosed with PTSD many years ago, have been taking medication, now I'm diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer,,I find that I am daily blocking out simple things, even when shopping, have no memory chosing certain grocery items. I block those simple things out! Why?
I’m so sorry I willl pray for you
God bless all of you wonderful strong souls from the time i was 9 till i turned 12 my stepdad, 6’4” 250 something, would close fisted punch me and kick i was a scrawny kid so it wasn’t difficult for him to knock me sensless but i never showed him i was afraid and it made him furious often times as soon as i got home from school i would get a beating for one bs reason or another My mom had no family nearby and 4 kids so my guess is she was scared to do anything which boggles my mind as a father or parent our lives are forfeit when our childrens are at risk My 12th bday, round there, i went into his room with a butcher knife an woke him up with it pressed into his neck, i told him i was big enough now to kill him and he would not be hurting any of us again, ever He left less than a month later and was quickly arrested My sisters never truly dealt with tht trauma and my personal way of dealing was to sleep with random women, drink and beat up assholes i used fighting as therapy until i went too far one night I use to enjoy it but something changed in me and I remember instantly feeling guilt, remorse and sadness for the dmg i had caused to this guy I did alot of bad stuff and led a self destructive life UNTIL my beautiful wife was placed in my path of life I never cared to change for someone and i did it without question when she requested it It was a demand more so, and it was simple and to the point “if you keep you keep your current lifestyle you will not be a part of mine” i didnt even blink right there i made a promise to myself tht i would never treat her or the kids we would have in an abusive manner ever If i cant get my point across without hitting someone its probly not worth having to begin with We all need at least one good honest reliable person when it comes to dealing with old wounds and past trauma even going outside alone and speaking to no one is a vital emotional release If the person we choose to bring into our darkest parts of the mind can know all the things weve done to try an cope and still be loyal, supportive and understanding then we have successfully started the coping/healing process I hid my past for a loooong time to avoid pity and extra attention, which i dont like to begin with, to myself Plz plz keep in mind we will never be burdened with more than we handle Whether its a kind gesture decades down the road tht led us to tht exact moment we have been through it and survived when most others would not It is a true testament to the fortitude of the human spirit and wht it can recover from Do everything in your power to look at the pain and daily struggles as another chance to help someone or yourself I have been happily married 12 yrs with a beautiful daughter and everything i went through led me here Had even one small detail turned out different my path would not have set me in front of my wife Remember how strong you all are for carrying on even when the daily torment tempts us to kill the pain with counterproductive measures We broken and strong spirited are all worthy of being loved we just need to choose to let it happen i battle severe ptsd flashbacks from my early adulthood and childhood Nightmares, anxiety and always on edge ive also had a fractured skull and two concussions before the age of 18 which has caused many problems in my general day to day life and activities but looking at my wife and child always reignites the strength i thought i used up. wanting companionship or friendship even is wht drives us humans to rise above trying times with an inner resolve tht is impervious to outside influences tht cause erosion of the wonderful gift we have been blessed with We may not always see why right off but if u live right and help others you are slowly and steadily reclaiming any part of yourself tht u felt has been taken away To help others selflessly is direct healing for the soul which in turn radiates through our mind and body We are not promised tomorrow or even the rest of today so make every moment count tht you may be free of regrets Personal regrets do not matter in the end only how we treated those in need, pain, suffering The character of a person is easily determined by their actions when no one is watching A good person does good regardless of an audience or not, keep ur heart and mind open my friends and be grateful for every blessing we get and dont deserve God bless all of you i wish you the best of this new year Love and respect
Thank you for sharing your experiences and your motivations with all of us. I found your story very inspiring. Thank you also for your wish that all of us find wellness.
Overcoming unresolved trauma is difficult work and often requires very uncomfortable realizations. You've come to the oath of wellness with the right mindset and now you're teaching out to others who've suffered in like ways.
I reach out to you today to show appreciation for all of that and for your person and family.
16 days before my 8th Birthday I was waken up in the middle of the night by my father's screams for me. it was only him and I who lived in the house. I ran into his room to find him on his knees hunched over the bed vomiting massive amounts of blood.. I could barely understand him telling me to call for help. I froze. I was shocked. I finally came to and called 911. I don't remember much after that but I do remember my mom coming to pick me up. a women I didn't know that well. that was the last time I saw my dad alive. I didn't get to say goodbye. I'm now 40 years old and this has effected my life greatly. I have suffered addiction amd homelessness off and on when the pain is to much. if I think about that night for to long memories start to surface that I dont want to remember. it's to much pain. I need help. I know I do. sometimes I just cry for hours without warning. if I get help all those memories that bring me so much pain will come back. they hurt me to much and I dont want them surface. I just need help but I can't deal with the pain.
Ugh, sniff, I feel like I am crying WITH you right now. I've had a lot of trauma, and one MAJOR loss. I was orphaned in a phone call. I'm 39, addiction ruled my life a lot longer than I thought, sober almost 6 years now, I'm still the same person, same wounds, I just operate a little better today lol. I cry uncontrollably, pretty regularly. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually a pretty positive person, fun loving, helpful, kind, love making someones day or making them laugh, love letting people know they're special to me, because who knows if anyone else is, and as humans we all deserve so much more than we get. People's egos today are just too much, mine prob was too a bit, my ego was def what kept me from owning my PTSD. I've learned a great deal of self love today. There's this wounded 5 year old little girl who resides me, and today I tend to her. When she cries I tell her I'm sorry, I'm sorry that hurt you so bad, and I like mourn with myself, 39 year old me sits and feels that with 5 year old me, or 14 year old me. I joke and say I was just scooping up traumas my whole life. This one goes in the bag and this one and this one. Different ages have different traumas and memories for me, and subconscious me loves to throw those into my head whenever it pleases. I can own that today and sit with myself. No one took care of her, not at that age, or that one, or that one. So today I DO! I deserve it!!! YOU DESERVE IT!!!!! What you went through was painful, it changed everything you knew at a very young age. That 7 almost 8 year old needs to be hugged!!!! I needed to be hugged, to feel safe, to KNOW I was safe, loved cared for, I'd a settled for just feeling safe. But today that's my job, and I still cry, I still have depression, anxiety, PTSD, but getting sober and deciding I couldn't live that way anymore, and not just the addiction, the darkness and sadness, I couldn't live stuck in that anymore either. I decided one day I was worth it! I was worth love, so I'm just gonna love myself. It's life changing! It's healing! I still cry over my mother, I lost in a phone call, my brother who's still living, but I lost that relationship, large extended family, but I experience that loss too, they provided a lot of trauma, just hidden, I chose to lose them for my own sanity and well-being, but it still feels like loss. So I show up for myself today, in all the areas I feel that kind of loss in. Reading your words I was going through that with you, feeling it, so I probably would've responded anyway, wanting you to know you're not alone. What I found more moving or motivating to point out...I believe in signs and the "universe" or "man in the moon" being out there. I actually just cried over that not that long ago. I've been asked where I get my spirituality from, my beliefs and what not, and they're strong beliefs for me, because they've been proven. I have too much evidence showing me something has loved and cared for me out there...my answer was that no one was there, no one had me, not in those dark times, I suffered alone in silence, baaaaawling, from a young age to just the other day, but in those times, no one was there....but someone was always there, "the man in the moon", who Id talk to in those times, and still do. The man in the moon was the only one ever there, and consistent, never failed. So when I thought I was all alone...I remember how much I never was, since I was young. Anyhow, signs n what not, numbers are a big thing for me, they started repeating a lot and I started looking into signs and synchronicities and who the universe or "man in the moon" or angels, whatever ya like, how they speak to us...444 is a big deal, I see a lot of different synchronicities at different times and I don't always remember them, but seeing your post was at 4:44 PM....to rejog my memory, I did a quick little search....
[*] 444 is a number of protection and encouragement. It is a sign that you are currently following the right path. [*] If you see the number 444 repeatedly, it is often your angel giving you a sign that they are with you
Energy sticks around. I don't believe they ever fully leave us. My Mom shows up in her own way, her birthday in time on a clock, a song a the right moment. It's always in a specific way for me where it wasn't just coincidence. The above makes me smile for you and with you! You're not alone!!!!! Someone is definitely with you!!!! : )
Thank you everyone for letting us resd your thoughts and life experiences. We are all survivors, all of you human souls. Please reach out and try to find someone who will at least listen to you.
Im glad I read your stories, Im in same black hole too but Im going to try to climb out :)
I fell back in black hole as well but I’m 14 days out of it... #another24 #recoveroutLoud
You need to get a real clue about PTSD and the true diagnosis of those who have it and their coping with the fact that the medical field is book trained we are experienced trained. You miss the core and re-victimize those diagnosed by the genius cronies.
I have all but 2 of the signs and symptoms. I'm a47 year old female. NEVER been to any kind of therapy. I thought my "unhappiness" my whole life was me being selfish and ungrateful. I never realized that that there might be a problem...….. im so tired of feeling this way....waiting for "the other shoe to drop" that's what it has always felt like to me that constant gut feeling that something is wrong or going to go wrong or your husband is cheating, or doesn't love you because how could he or anybody possibly love you? always needing to be in control to try to prevent that bad thing from happening. not taking a single day off in two years because you know if you do you'll get replaced. and you work your ass off there everyday knowing you do your job well but still always worried because your positive they want to fire you. or your 16 year old son doesn't call you right back that very second so your calling his dad his stepmom his friends because you just know the worst of the worst has happened! of course 3 min later he calls you and he is fine. thank god. but you just had a nervous break down and was trying to get the president of the u.s. and the national guard to help you find him. ( the last 2 I'm joking about) and hardly anyone knows any of this. my husband knows a little. my mom a little. but I guess even I don't know all of it.....sorry for such a long novel.
Really grabbed by your titles but was disappointed that you simply listed DSM criteria.
I sent my son for counseling and his insurance paid for the first 10 sessions.
The problem was the Counselors were not
Ready to take on clients. They thought they were. He saw thee different ones. The plan was set up this way. One girl taiko notes asked twenty questions and the
Next visit forgot notes and wanted to do it all again. There was an obvious view point problem. One
Girl was so liberal she needed to be out picketing and not judo g each client according to their political belief. Worked out best for my son to figure it out himself.
And he actually did with change of diet and and finally removing himself from toxic relationship. We need experienced Counselors. There are way too many graduates with a degree and squat for experience. .
I had a horrible memory come to surface just out of the blue. It’s so weird because I even remember when I had to block it out and how I did it! The horrible event happened when I was 16 and To think Iv gone around all these years with something like that blocked out! I even have four years of high school blocked out! I’m so angry about the things I went through and what cruel evil people did to me. I live in isolation and it’s awful but I don’t trust anyone and I get very depressed! I can’t handle another hurt! Tired of being in pain! Therapy has never helped me and it’s so expensive. And reliving everything serves no purpose. Just keep you awake a night! I just try and find some beauty in the World even if it’s looking at nature or cooking or buying something pretty.. reading a good book. I try and find things to lift me up. That’s all you can do is survive. Sometimes I can’t do anything at all but I get through those days too! The ones that just about kill me the ones where you don’t know how many more tears you can cry. Can’t give up and I won’t!
I needed this post. Thank you so much.
I was forced to give up my child for adoption at birth when I was 16. I have alot of guilt and shame. She was born on my 16th birthday. I have talked Therapists about this and I have never resolved this. They always dig into my childhood and the abusive relationship my parents had. What should I do? My daughter recently turned 42 and I recently turned 58. Im so lost.
I'm so sorry you're struggling with this. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to have to give up your child, especially when it wasn't your choice. Have you seen a trauma-informed therapist specifically? They can help you work through the trauma of what happened and how it is still affecting you today.
It feels very bleak for the person who tries to change what happened to them as a child. I’ve been scapegoated by my parents and family since I was a young child. I’m in my early 40’s and cannot have meaningful relationships with friends or a significant other because I feel like I’m always being attacked. My reality doesn’t make sense ever. I make irrational decisions based on fear and to everyone else they don’t understand. Its a vicious cycle, where there is no escape.
From the time you posted this to now, how has your life changed? Have you spoken to anyone about this? Have you seen positive or negative changes in your life since then? I relate a lot to how you and would like to chat if possible
I have 12 out of the 15 symptoms listed I have gone to therapy many times only to be judged and placed on medication that would not work or make me worse I also have PTSD now everything I a mess and I have nowhere to turn for help...
Thank you for sharing this as it helps me to know I am not the only one that went through such traumatic moments in my childhood. My older brother was my abuser. I’ve had it blocked from my mind for over 40 years! Three things popped up in separate conversations with different people that brought back all the horrible memories! All these side effects you explained are a part of who I became as an adult! My depression, anxiety, self worthlessness, constant nightmares and restless sleep are all stemmed from what he did to me for at least 2 years of my life! I have no idea how to get over the horrible memories!
My situation mirrors yours. I started talking to a therapist and we started EDM therapy which helps me to deal with it.
I found my girlfriend dead of an accidental overdose and 1 week later I had someone over because I was afraid to sleep alone he died as well of an overdose that he snuck into my house I went to hospital and was kicked out after 3 days because I wasnt suicidal but nothing got corrected I still suffer all sorts of anxiety hearing voices afraid to sleep etc
I was physically abused by my cousins and mentally abused by my mother and siblings and I sometimes don't know why I feel certain ways now that I am away from it all.
I lost my two children to adoption and have felt all those things still do it's awful I've never been the same since
I suffer from most of these things, such as anxiety, shame, depression, avoidance, eating disorder, hyper vigilance, suicidal ideation, anger, self harm, etc but never looked at it from the POV as stemming from unresolved trauma but now I am beginning to see the connection...
Thank you for pointing this out