Trauma in the Body

Trauma Recovery Clinic Edinburgh, London

How trauma affects our body:

At the Trauma Recovery clinic we give clear, concise explanations of how our nervous system and physiology respond to our life experiences. These unconscious responses can affect our underlying emotions and physical well-being as well as our nervous system functioning.

Normal, healthy functioning under stress or even trauma:

Under normal circumstances our bodies are well equipped to deal with our everyday life experiences. Our nervous system is used to being activated to deal with what we perceive as a threat, and, in normal circumstances, returns to a healthy ‘relaxed normal’ within a fairly short period of time.

This activation or stress cycle involves unconscious nervous system responses taking us from a state of ‘relaxed awareness’ through the stages of ‘red alert’, ‘fight’, ‘escape’, and eventually, if the experience is overwhelming, ‘freeze’ and ‘shutting off’. With some support from friends or family, and with a reasonably robust nervous system, however, we return to ‘relaxed normal’ within a short period of time.

“Now I’m back on full duty, having recovered 85% of my capability.”

FS, London

What happens when things go wrong?

Overwhelming traumatic life events or experiences of unrelenting stress have lasting psychological and physical effects on the body.

If the threat, traumatic experience, or the duration of the event or circumstances is too great, or we have little or no support, our nervous system becomes overwhelmed and cannot return to its healthy ‘relaxed normal’ setting.

What kind of things can cause traumatic overwhelm?

Events like this include those in which grave physical, mental or emotional harm occurred or was threatened, for instance

• Physical trauma as in car accidents, sporting accidents, surgeries and medical interventions
• Inescapable attack, violence, threat of violence, abuse of any kind, rape, incest, torture, war or conflict
• Natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis
• Unrelenting stress, bereavement, divorce, loss of a loved one
• Childhood neglect or abandonment, betrayal or other trauma
• Birth trauma, severe illnesses, high fever, drowning or choking experiences
• Witnessing any of these events

If our systems have become overwhelmed by the speed, horror or relentlessness of the event or circumstances, we may remain in shock or on ‘red alert’, or always ready to fight or escape, or even frozen or shutting ourselves off from our environment or other people. At the same time our physical body constricts and tenses, causing pain conditions and restricting the healthy functioning of all our systems.

Our body is trying to help us

Our body has not ‘turned against us’ in its attempts to keep us on ‘red alert’ or in ‘escape mode’, rather, it is doing its best to keep us safe in what it sees as dangerous circumstances. It is as if our nervous system hasn’t realized that the danger is over, because it hasn’t been able to return to its ‘relaxed normal’ setting.

This can eventually result in symptoms ranging from anxiety and panic attacks to physical pain conditions such as back pain, migraines and jaw pain, and eventually syndromes such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, skin disorders and ‘psychosomatic’ illnesses.

What we can do about traumatic stress, PTSD and complex PTSD?

At the Trauma Recovery Clinic we use a wide range of gentle, effective techniques to help your nervous system renegotiate its way down to ‘relaxed normal’ and provide specialized bodywork for any accompanying pain conditions.

We also treat pain which has physical causes originating in the musculature, connective tissue and other soft tissue, for instance repetitive strains, non-traumatic accidents, postural difficulties and illnesses, which in themselves give rise to stress and anxiety.