Though traditional Western medicine has typically downplayed the mind-body connection, there’s a growing movement to understand and appreciate the role mental health plays in chronic illness. Many health providers now recognize the value of trauma-focused care in the pursuit of genuine healing. In observation of Women’s Health Week, what should you understand about trauma’s effects on your health?
How Can Trauma Affect You?
One obstacle to effective trauma treatment is that everyone responds to traumatic experiences differently. There is no set timeline for recovering from trauma, and some people relive it for months or years.
After a traumatic event, it can be challenging to make sense of what happened to you. You may blame yourself or wish you had responded differently at the time, even if you know it wasn’t your fault. The mental and physical effects of trauma can make you ill in more ways than one.
- Flashbacks: Vividly reliving a traumatic event or feeling as if it is happening now
- Panic attacks: An exaggeration of your body’s response to danger, stress or excitement
- Dissociation: Feeling numb, detached from your body or as though the world around you is unreal.
- Hyperarousal: A continual sense of being anxious, on edge and unable to relax, even in comfortable surroundings
- Sleep disruptions: Insomnia, nightmares and night terrors
- Guilt: Mourning the life you had before the traumatic event
- Self-harm: Hurting yourself as a coping mechanism
- Suicidal feelings: Preoccupation with death or planning to end your life
- Substance abuse: Attempting to escape unwelcome memories or numb the pain with drugs and alcohol
Adverse Childhood Experiences: The Origin of Trauma
Adversity – especially when experienced during early development – is the underlying cause of some of the most persistent mental and physical health challenges we face today.
A groundbreaking 1998 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente identified adverse childhood experiences as the root cause of many long-term problems. These can include physical or emotional abuse and neglect, as well as household challenges such as a death in the family or a parent with addiction.
Without early intervention and treatment, ACEs can cause toxic stress, which can lead to long-lasting mental, physical and emotional damage.
Understanding Trauma’s Impact on Health
When confronted by real or perceived threats, your body triggers an instinctive protective response, including a release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Over time, trauma can change the regions of the brain responsible for governing learning, memory, problem-solving and decision-making.
People often turn to risky behaviors to alleviate the pain of trauma, including binge eating, substance abuse, gambling, overspending or having unprotected sex. Untreated trauma can also contribute to anxiety, depression, social isolation and chronic diseases like hypertension.
Women’s-Only Trauma Treatment
Focused on the unique needs of women struggling with mental illnesses and addiction, Canyon Crossing optimizes treatment success with specialized programming and unique therapies. In our single-gender environment, you can feel free to express yourself and build a supportive network of female friends. We understand the unique challenges women face with substance abuse and mental health issues, and we are here when you’re ready to ask for help.