It can be tricky to recognize the signs of unhealed trauma. Most people are not even aware of how their unhealed trauma is causing disruptions in their daily lives. Often, when you go through a traumatic event, there is some degree of dissociation that happens and you may essentially “block out” all, or part, of the event, so your awareness of the trauma isn’t accurate. However, there are 12 common signs of unhealed trauma that you can look for.
12 Signs Of Unhealed Trauma
This is how unhealed trauma can look like:
#1: Low self-esteem
Studies have shown that patients with PTSD can have very low self-esteem and also have feelings of worthlessness. If you’ve experienced neglect and abandonment in the past, if you’ve been hurt by someone you loved, it can lead you down a path of questioning your self-worth and struggling to feel good about yourself.
#2: Codependency in relationships
Any type of trauma can lead to codependent relationships, in which the person who experienced trauma feels completely and destructively dependent on another. Codependency can lead you to question if you are loved and worthy, if others are and can be available and responsive to you, and if the world is safe for you.
#3: Fear of being abandoned
Fear of being abandoned is a constant worry for the active codependent. The fear of abandonment can come from many places, but its origin is usually within early experiences. Abandonment is a fear that children have when their parents are too far away, or there must be a separation such as going to school for the first time. In these circumstances, a child feels afraid to be separated and can feel that the separation is permanent – that the parent will not return.
In adulthood, having a fear of abandonment may lead to many negative circumstances, such as:
- feeling unworthy of love;
- staying in a toxic relationship so you won’t be alone;
- feeling grateful for even unhealthy attention from others;
- feeling insecure and inferior when comparing yourself to others;
- accepting unacceptable behavior;
- using addictive behaviors to feel better about yourself and your life.
#4: Trouble asking for help
Do you struggle to communicate with others and open up to your friends and family about your trauma? If your trauma was caused by mistreatment it can be a real struggle for you to ask for help. You would rather stay silent, oppressing all feelings inside than reach out to others for help or support. You may also have a fear of rejection or judgment from others, or you may be afraid of appearing weak to those around you.
#5: Craving for external validation
How can an unhealthy craving for external validation look like? Not being able to confront people or disagree, changing your thoughts and beliefs because someone else either approves or disapproves and ascribing your self-worth to the approval of others. These are examples of reliance on external validation.
#6: An innate feeling of shame
Shame is a negative self-judgment and viewing yourself as worthless. No one is immune to feeling shame when it comes to experiencing trauma. However, there are certain types of trauma that are responsible for the slow rise of this emotion, such as traumas caused by sexual violence, intimate partner abuse, and childhood abuse. The reason why these traumas are prime is that they are extremely dehumanizing and humiliating by nature, which is the perfect recipe for shame to form. Shame can become a catalyst to partake in self-destructive behaviors, self-blame, self-neglect, perfectionism, and even link to suicidal thoughts or attempts.
#7: Not being able to tolerate conflict
Nobody enjoys conflict. It makes most of us uncomfortable and is often has a negative impact on any relationship. Fortunately, with conscious communication and emotional intelligence, most relationships can survive conflict and thrive through it. However, that’s not always the case. If you are a trauma survivor, conflict can be so deregulating and triggering that you will try to avoid it at all costs. This can not only be detrimental to your mental health but can also cause long-term damage to your relationships.
Does your hypervigilance kick in when you sense someone getting angry or frustrated? Do you immediately freeze when you hear someone’s voice is getting louder? Do you feel panicked and overwhelmed by arising conflict so that you’re willing to do anything to make it stop? If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions chances are you are still suffering from unhealed trauma.
#8: Worrying about the future
Worrying about the future is one of the most common types of overthinking where we imagine possible problems or dangers. “Of course, anticipating problems or threats in the future is often a good thing to do! But helpful planning is different from unhelpful worry in that worry doesn’t actually lead to new information or insights that can be helpful. For example, your spouse is on a plane flight and you start worrying about different ways the plane could crash and kill your spouse. This kind of thinking doesn’t actually keep your spouse safe, plus it adds a lot of stress and anxiety to you.” – Nick Wignall
#9: Resisting positive change
Do you feel suspicious of positive changes? Do you feel guilt or shame whenever something good comes into your life? Do you feel like you don’t deserve happiness? If you feel that you don’t deserve anything good in life, that can be another sign of suffering from unhealed trauma.
#10: Fear of Failure
Many people are afraid of failure and it’s considered to be normal. However, if you develop a strong fear of failure, it can be unhealthy and can start to outweigh your motivation to succeed. You may start missing out on opportunities because of this, and it can also lead to insecurity. Being afraid to not always be the best can be instilled in you caused by unresolved trauma that can make you have negative beliefs in yourself and internalize your shortcoming.
#11: Difficulty standing up for yourself and asserting boundaries
If you have experienced trauma, you may have difficulty actively defending yourself, your desires, and your personal boundaries. Trauma impacts the way you understand and relate to your own boundaries.
Experiences that are very painful, or overwhelming, can flood your awareness and you may forget that you can say “no” to others who ask too much of you, don’t see, or respect your boundaries.
When others are pushing and crossing our boundaries, it can cause deep emotional damage so that you start believing that what you want or need or feel doesn’t really matter. Trauma can cause you to replace a healthy sense of your boundaries with a new belief that others are more important than you are, and that you need to keep other people happy and not make a problem.
#12: Being overtly agreeable
Agreeability seems like the quickest way to win approval. However, if you pretend to agree with someone/something just to keep everyone happy, you’re setting yourself and others up for future frustration.
Trauma Healing: Where To Start?
The first step of your healing journey is actually recognizing that you have trauma.
Here are some steps you can take to start healing:
#1: Seek out a therapist
Intuitive psychotherapy can be a good option to dive deeper into the root cause of your trauma.
#2: Be mindful of your body sensations
Most trauma survivors are disconnected from their bodies. By noticing your body sensations you will reconnect with your body and find out where your trauma is stored.
#3: Practice gentle yoga
Yoga practice will help you to come back into your body and start experiencing it as a safe place.
#4: Practice self-love and self-compassion
Self-love and self-compassion are crucial for healing from trauma. Be patient with your progress and be gentle with yourself.
#5: Build safe relationships
Develop conscious relationships with people who respond to you with love, kindness, and acceptance.
The Bottom Line
Trauma is a disconnective disorder, which means it does not usually get healed in isolation. Therefore, if you really want to heal from your trauma, you need to be connected to others. Then you create a new sense of self and a new future which involves redefining yourself in regards to meaningful relationships. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Give yourself time to fully heal and be happy!