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The Body Keeps the Score: Recognizing Trauma's Signatures in Our Physical Being

Couples Therapy | Los Angeles Therapist Elevate Mental Health in Ventura County California

Do you wonder if your body is showing signs of stored trauma?

In "The Body Keeps the Score", renowned psychiatrist and author Bessel van der Kolk asserts our bodies hold onto traumatic experiences and manifest symptoms we often overlook. This vital dialogue between mind and body highlights that our physical being doesn't forget events, especially those marked by trauma. These are a few ways trauma may present itself physically according to van der Kolk.

1. Chronic Pain and Fatigue

Trauma survivors often grapple with unexplained physical pain or chronic fatigue. These hard-to-treat conditions may seem disconnected from their traumatic experience, yet they are the body's cry for help. Pain and fatigue are often body's responses to emotional distress. The pain could be ubiquitous or localized, mimicking conditions like fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue might be mistaken for pathological lethargy or akin to symptoms of depression.

2. Hypervigilance

Traumatized people remain on constant high alert, prepared to meet danger. Even everyday sounds can trigger bursts of adrenaline, creating a perpetual cycle of stress and anxiety. This state of hyperarousal, or hypervigilance, can lead to increased heart rate, sudden sweating, and even panic attacks. Your body isn't "overreacting", it's echoing the vigilance required from a time of trauma. This state is exhaustive and can manifest as restlessness, sleep disorders, and even digestive issues.

3. Disembodiment

Disconnection or dissociation from one's body is another signature of trauma. In "The Body Keeps the Score", van der Kolk talks about patients who couldn't feel certain parts of their bodies. Sometimes trauma survivors might feel as if they're watching things happen to them from an outsider's perspective. This disconnection from the body and emotions is a defense mechanism, a way to avoid pain and distress.


Understanding these signs is the first step towards healing. If any of the symptoms mentioned resonate with you, it's okay to seek help. Trauma therapists can guide you through reconnecting with your body, processing the trauma, and starting to heal. It's important to remember that healing from trauma is a journey and it's okay to go at your own pace.

Trauma can leave indelible impressions on your body, but it doesn't have to define you The body does keep the score, but with support and understanding, it's possible to move towards a new narrative, where you are not a victim of your past, but a survivor, steering towards a more harmonious future.

Remember, you are not alone in your journey towards healing. It's okay to ask for help. In fact, that's why we exist!

If you're in the Los Angeles, Ventura County, Santa Barbara or surrounding areas, we would be happy to get you connected with one of our licensed therapists. If you are outside of California then consider searching "therapist near me" to guide you to an experienced therapist experience in trauma work.

Your Team at Elevate Mental Health


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