Effects of Trauma and Abuse

Unresolved trauma and abuse are some of the most painful things you can live with.  The effects can live in your body in the form of tension, pain, and illness.  They can live in your mind in the form of fear and emotional difficulties.  And they can live in your spirit in the form of loss of the joy of living and not being fully engaged in the moment.  If you have experienced trauma or abuse, you are probably very familiar with the symptoms of these experiences.

Here are just a few of the things you may be experiencing as a result of trauma:

  • Emotional and physical anxiety
  • A racing mind
  • Distractibility and lack of concentration
  • Negative thought patterns and self-image
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Addiction
  • Insomnia
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Lack of trust
  • Relationship fears
  • Anger and hostility
  • Rigidity
  • Lack of self-control
  • Haunting memories
  • Inability to move out of the past and worrying about the future

Physical Symptoms

Trauma and abuse can manifest physically in your body in an infinite number of ways as well. Unresolved emotion can be held in your body and show up as physical symptoms. Much of our organic body language reflects this, such as something “makes me sick to my stomach.” Then one may experience digestive issues. Someone who is “carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders” may have neck, shoulder, and upper back pain.

The standard Western medical model often ignores this aspect of healing and uses medication and surgery to treat symptoms. Often when these modalities don’t work, people start looking deeper within themselves to see how they can engage with the healing process. And they find, when they do emotional healing and trauma release work, that their symptoms abate or the Western modalities become more effective.

Fear and Anxiety

It is clear that unresolved trauma and abuse can deeply affect your life. One of the most obvious ways this presents is the symptom of anxiety. Anxiety is the result of a fearful mind that is in a perpetual state of hyperawareness and hypervigilance, always on alert and ready to defend against the next attack, whether it be physical, verbal, or emotional, even when no danger is readily evident. Your traumatized mind has learned to never relax or let its guard down; so it carries this awareness constantly in order to be prepared for what seems like the next inevitable attack. After a certain period of time, this may become a constant state of being, and your mind doesn’t know how to shut itself off. It becomes a habit of the mind.

Depending on the nature of the traumatic experiences, such as a critical parent or other influential adult, this anxiety can also include negative thinking and self-talk. This state of mind can also look like the inability to focus, constantly racing from one thought to another, and a heightened state of physical tension, never being able to relax, and an inability to sleep.



Without some helpful tools to release these feelings and calm the mind, which most of us are never taught, you may reach for other ways of numbing them. You may look for external ways to relax the body and shut off the thoughts and emotions. This is the set-up for dependency or addiction. Your mind reaches for the path of least resistance, something that will feel better in the immediate moment, often without concern for future consequences. This way of self-soothing may be alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, work, TV, video games, sex, porn, exercise – anything that can change the state of your body and emotions, and do it NOW. But it is a temporary fix. As soon as it wears off or you have to stop, the uncomfortable feelings eventually arise again because the trauma or abuse hasn’t been healed. And so your mind keeps reaching for the thing that works, over and over again. Eventually a habit forms. And depending on the substance and the amount of use, a dependency or addiction can develop.

Often what happens with sobriety or when the numbing substance or activity is taken away without resolution of the traumatic state is the mind then panics. It doesn’t know how to soothe itself or get rid of the feelings. And then the anxiety or discomfort returns. The mind will only endure this discomfort for so long before it reaches for what worked before or something new to replace it. This is often what is referred to as cross-addiction. And the cycle continues to an often tragic conclusion.

Feeling Blocked

Another way trauma can affect you is by blocking your resourceful self. This can present itself as procrastination, lack of motivation or follow-through, self-sabotage, depression, fear of success or failure, and lack of confidence and belief in yourself, among other things. It’s important to know that these traumas may be big, like verbal abuse from a parent, or relatively small, like a mean childhood friend that teased you. It’s not the degree of trauma that matters; it’s the mental state it creates within you that prevents you from doing what you want to do with your life because there are residual hurtful feelings inside. And sometimes you may not even think it’s an issue until the subconscious patterns are explored and brought into awareness. Often one part of your mind has moved on and even forgotten about the event. But another part of you is still holding on to the trauma and can’t move forward until it is released. The effect of this is feeling stuck and repeating limiting patterns over and over throughout your life, often with an accompanying emotional state of despair or hopelessness.


One of the more frustrating effects of unresolved trauma is self-sabotage. This manifests in behavior where you say you are going to do one thing and then turn around and do something completely opposite. And that opposite thing is usually the thing you are trying to change in your life that is causing you unhappiness. On the outside it looks like you can’t follow through on your promises or your intentions. And one of the most destructive outcomes of this is the negative judgment you may level on yourself. This can become a descending spiral of sabotage and judgment, again leading to a state of hopelessness and just giving up.

Whenever self-sabotage is operating, it is an indication that trauma is underlying the behavior and holding the sabotage in place. One part of you wants to change, but another part of you feels more secure or safe with the old behavior. It is that part that keeps the sabotage going. Until the conflict between the two parts is resolved and the underlying trauma is healed, the sabotage continues.