10 Signs You’re Holding Onto Past Trauma

More than half the population will experience trauma in their lifetime, and nearly 1 in 10 will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

The term “trauma” is generally used to mean a distressing incident or series of incidents that damage the psyche and diminish an individual’s ability to cope or function normally.

PTSD is a mental health condition caused by trauma that may appear months or years after the traumatic event. But even those not diagnosed with PTSD may experience lingering effects of trauma that occurred as far back as childhood. Our physical bodies tend to hold onto stress and tension caused by traumatic incidents. Here are 10 signs that you might be holding onto past trauma—physically or psychologically—without realizing it. 

  • Jaw or tooth pain. Stress and tension can cause us to unconsciously clench our jaws or grind our teeth. 
  • Irregular menstruation. The menstrual cycle can respond to changes in stress hormones, causing a period to arrive early or late. 
  • Headaches. Tension headaches are often caused by physical stress or by stress-induced symptoms such as poor posture and poor sleep. 
  • Digestive issues. Stress and trauma can lead to an excess of stomach acid, causing heartburn, and may also lead to other symptoms like IBS, bloating and diarrhea. 
  • Muscle soreness. When your body is holding onto the stress of past trauma, it may involuntarily tense up, leading to muscle soreness and tightness. 
  • Weird or vivid dreams. If you experience nightmares or simply strange dreams regularly, it could be a sign your mind is trying to work through unresolved issues while you sleep. 
  • Appetite changes. The stress hormone glucocorticoid stimulates appetite, which can lead to emotional eating if the body is holding onto past trauma. 
  • Excessive sweating. Sweating is tied to the fight-or-flight response, so if your nervous system is in a regular state of activation because of past trauma, your sweat glands may be overactive. 
  • Hair loss. Chronic tension and stress can lead to premature hair loss or to individuals picking or pulling out their hair. 
  •  Stress Rash. Stored trauma and stress may take the form of a stress rash, which generally looks like raised, red and swollen patches of skin.