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Unlocking the Mysteries: Where Trauma Is Stored In The Body [Body Chart + Amelia's Story]

Where Trauma Is In the Body Chart | Los Angeles Therapist Elevate Mental Health in Ventura County California

Amelia's Story*

Amelia had always felt like there was a heavy weight pressing down on her, even when everything seemed fine on the surface. She couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, something deeper than just her anxious thoughts.

One day, while scrolling through social media, she stumbled upon a post discussing where trauma is stored in the body. Intrigued, she began to wonder if her persistent sense of unease could be linked to unresolved trauma, as well as a little creeped out that Instagram knew her better than she knew herself! She silently pursued this research.

With her newfound private and quiet determination, Amelia decided to seek help. She didn't know if it would work but she had tried everything else with no success.

She made an appointment with a therapist, hoping that they could help her unravel the knots of tension she felt within. In their sessions, Amelia bravely opened up about her past experiences and the emotional turmoil she had been carrying for years. She realized she didn't know it wasn't normal to feel this way. It was a silent suffer.

Through guided exploration and targeted evidence based techniques, the therapist helped Amelia connect the dots between her past traumas and her present struggles. They delved into the somatic aspects of trauma, exploring how her body had been holding onto pain and fear long after the events had passed.

As Amelia learned to recognize and address the physical manifestations of her trauma, she began to feel lighter, freer. With each session, she felt the weight lifting from her shoulders, replaced by a newfound sense of peace and empowerment.

With the support of her therapist, Amelia embarked on a journey of healing and self-discovery. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, she found the tools and insights she needed to break free from the grip of trauma and reclaim control over her life. In the end, she emerged stronger, more resilient, and ready to embrace the future with newfound hope and optimism.

Amelia's story is more common than most realize. If you're curious about trauma then continue reading as we discuss the topic. Get a pen and paper out (or pay close attention and you, too, might discover levels of freedom waiting for you!).

Let's dive in!

Where Trauma Is Stored In The Body [Body Chart below]

Trauma is a complex and multifaceted experience that affects individuals in profound ways.

From psychological distress to physical manifestations, the impact of trauma can linger long after the traumatic event has occurred. While traditional approaches to therapy often focus solely on addressing the psychological aspects of trauma, recent research has shed light on the somatic components of trauma - where it is stored in the body. In his groundbreaking book "The Body Keeps the Score," renowned psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk explores how trauma manifests physically and how understanding this can revolutionize trauma therapy.

Let's delve deeper into this topic and explore where trauma truly resides in the body.

1. The Brain: The Seat of Emotional Regulation

At the heart of understanding trauma is recognizing its impact on the brain. When an individual experiences trauma, particularly severe or repeated trauma, it can disrupt the brain's normal functioning. Regions of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, may become dysregulated, leading to symptoms such as heightened anxiety, hypervigilance, and difficulty with emotional processing.

Van der Kolk's research emphasizes the crucial role of the limbic system in storing traumatic memories. The amygdala, in particular, plays a central role in processing emotions and memories, often becoming hyperactive in individuals with a history of trauma. This hyperactivity can contribute to the intense emotional reactions and flashbacks commonly experienced by trauma survivors.

2. The Nervous System: The Body's Alarm System

Another key component of where trauma is stored in the body lies within the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls involuntary bodily functions, including heart rate, breathing, and digestion, and is divided into two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Have you checked out your apple watch Heart Rate Variability yet? That tool is a hidden gem. Contact us if you'd like to know more at and put "HRV" in the title.

Trauma can dysregulate the ANS, leading to a state of chronic hyperarousal or hypoarousal. Individuals may find themselves in a constant state of high alert, characterized by symptoms such as panic attacks, insomnia, and an exaggerated startle response. Conversely, some individuals may experience dissociation and numbness as a means of coping with overwhelming trauma, reflecting a state of hyperarousal.

Van der Kolk's research illustrates how trauma can become embedded in the body's nervous system, perpetuating a cycle of dysregulation and distress. By addressing these somatic manifestations of trauma, therapists can help clients restore balance to their nervous systems and alleviate symptoms of hyperarousal or hypoarousal.

3. The Muscles and Connective Tissues: Holding the Trauma

Beyond the brain and nervous system, trauma can also be stored in the muscles and connective tissues of the body. Chronic stress and tension resulting from trauma can cause muscles to tighten and contract, leading to a range of physical symptoms such as headaches, back pain, and gastrointestinal issues.

Van der Kolk's concept of "body memories" highlights how trauma can be encoded within the muscles and tissues, resulting in somatic symptoms that serve as reminders of past traumatic experiences. These body memories can be triggered by various stimuli, from specific sounds or smells to interpersonal interactions, reigniting feelings of fear and distress.

4. The Visceral Organs: The Silent Sufferers

Trauma can also impact the body's visceral organs, such as the heart, lungs, and digestive system. Research has shown that individuals with a history of trauma are at an increased risk of developing various health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Van der Kolk's work underscores the intricate connection between psychological trauma and physical health, highlighting how unresolved trauma can contribute to the development of chronic illnesses. By addressing the somatic components of trauma, therapists can help clients mitigate the physical toll of their traumatic experiences and promote overall well-being.

5. The Skin: Bearing the Scars of Trauma

Lastly, trauma can leave its mark on the skin, the body's largest organ. Individuals with a history of trauma may experience skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or hives, which can flare up during times of stress or emotional distress.

Van der Kolk's research underscores the intimate link between the mind and body, illustrating how emotional trauma can manifest physically through skin disorders and be stored in the body. By acknowledging and addressing these somatic symptoms, therapists can help clients heal from the inside out, fostering a sense of wholeness and integration.

Take a look at this Body Chart visual to see where trauma is stored in the body.

where trauma is stored in the body chart | Elevate Mental Health | Los Angeles Therapist

We hope this graphic helps. Trauma is not solely confined to the realm of the mind but is deeply rooted in the body as well. Understanding where trauma is stored in the body is essential for providing comprehensive and effective trauma therapy. By addressing the somatic manifestations of trauma, therapists can help clients reclaim their sense of safety, autonomy, and well-being, paving the way for healing and recovery.

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


*Please note that names have been changed to protect the privacy of the person(s) shared.

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