Understanding How Trauma Is Stored in the Body

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A strong mind-body connection is necessary for wellness. Unfortunately, trauma can impair this connection, leaving long-lasting impacts on an individual's brain and body. These impacts may manifest as substance use disorder (SUD) and other mental health disorders and as unexplained aches, pains, or other symptoms with no identifiable cause. To re-establish a healthy mind-body connection and navigate challenging symptoms, it can first be helpful to understand how trauma is stored in the body. From there, a person can better understand what steps they need to take to overcome trauma and its effects to achieve lasting healing in recovery.

At Pathways Recovery Center, we are dedicated to helping our clients overcome addictions, mental health disorders, and dual diagnoses. During treatment, we utilize a variety of trauma-informed techniques and approaches to help our clients effectively address and overcome any trauma that is stored in the body. Thus, our client-focused approach to care ensures that our clients have the best chance at sustaining lasting success in recovery. 

What Is the Mind-Body Connection?

Despite what some may believe, the mind and body are undeniably intertwined. A quote from Oakley Ray, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University, explains this best, stating, “[T]here is no real division between mind and body because of networks of communication that exist between the brain and neurological, endocrine and immune systems.” 

Additionally, a publication by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) highlights the influence of emotions on mental health, stating that the body responds to how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Physical signs of stress may indicate an individual's emotional health is out of balance and vice versa. From physical aches like headaches to emotional distress like feelings of hopelessness, the brain and body are constantly sending messages to one another to achieve total wellness. 

Healthy attitudes, emotions, behaviors, and physical wellness characterize a strong mind-body connection. On the other hand, a weak mind-body connection may be characterized by negative or unhealthy thoughts or emotions, self-destructive behaviors, and physical distress. While choosing certain behaviors, such as avoiding a healthy diet or physical exercise, can undoubtedly impair a person's mind-body connection, there are circumstances where this connection can become impaired without choice. One of these circumstances is trauma.

How Trauma Impairs the Mind-Body Connection

To understand how the mind-body connection is impaired by trauma, it is first important to recognize the biological changes that occur as a result of stressful or otherwise traumatic situations. Each of us has an innate, biological stress response that activates when we are in the face of a potentially life-threatening event. Also known as the fight-or-flight response, the activation of our stress response prepares us to “fight” the perceived threat or to “flee” from it. Furthermore, once the perceived threat is gone, our bodies also go through a series of changes as it attempts to return back to baseline. 

Trauma Is Stored in Somatic Memory

When we are faced with a traumatic experience, however, such trauma can become stored in the body, specifically somatic memory, and symptoms may express themselves as changes to our biological stress response. According to an article in Harvard Review of Psychiatry,  “Intense emotions at the time of the trauma initiate the long-term conditional responses to reminders of the event… Continued physiological hyperarousal and altered stress hormone secretion affect the ongoing evaluation of sensory stimuli as well." In other words, the body's stress response becomes overactivated and hyperaroused, inhibiting an individual's ability to return back to baseline following a traumatic event.

Thus, unresolved trauma can impair an individual's mind-body connection by influencing problematic physical and emotional reactions. If this connection is left impaired over time, it can make an individual more vulnerable to developing a wide range of mental, emotional, and physical health concerns. Moreover, the mind-body connection and stored trauma in the body must be addressed in treatment to ensure lasting healing and recovery from any potential health conditions. 

Trauma Is Stored: Treating Trauma at Pathways

At Pathways Recovery Center, we know that unprocessed trauma is stored deeply in the brain and body. Moreover, such trauma will often remain stored until it is effectively addressed and processed in a professional treatment program. Fortunately, at Pathways, we offer a variety of treatment program options and therapeutic approaches to effectively guide and support our clients in achieving lasting healing from the physical and psychological manifestations of unprocessed trauma. From detox to residential treatment to outpatient treatment programs, we offer highly-structured yet flexible programming for all clients seeking care. 

Treating trauma is no simple task. However, at Pathways, we are passionate about providing client-focused, individualized care. This ensures that the unique needs and goals of our clients are accounted for throughout the entire treatment process. We can incorporate both traditional and holistic healing modalities into clients' treatment plans, fostering a long-lasting, strong mind-body connection. 

When we experience trauma, our bodies can adopt habitual patterns of physical and psychological distress that can worsen over time if such trauma is left unprocessed. Trauma is stored in the body, impairing our mind-body connection and informing the development of substance abuse and mental health disorders. If you or a loved one may be struggling with stored trauma in the body, professional treatment can help. At Pathways Recovery Center, we utilize a variety of therapeutic approaches to help our clients safely and effectively process and overcome trauma in treatment. Through the use of both traditional and holistic treatment modalities, we can assist you in establishing lasting healing from stored trauma and its effects. Call (888) 771-0966 to learn more. 

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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