Signs of Unresolved Trauma You Might Not Think Of

Gillian May
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By now, most people know that trauma can cause a lot of disruption in our lives. No matter how old we are, trauma stays lodged in the body and nervous system and creates subtle signs that we may not understand fully. Many people think that unresolved trauma is a brain issue, but that’s not true. Trauma gets lodged in the nervous system, which is found in every corner of the body. As such, there are many body/mind symptoms of trauma.

We commonly refer to PTSD as a set of symptoms that directly originate from trauma. Some of these symptoms include:

Emotional distress
Difficulty in relationships
Sleep and eating difficulties
Self-destructive behavior

We are becoming more aware of PTSD and the fallout that it creates in our lives. But we rarely think of my subtle signs of trauma that may go unnoticed as they originate from deep in the body, and we have little control over them. Knowing these symptoms can have a calming effect as we are able to make more sense of things that happen in our bodies.

Let’s look at 5 signs of unresolved trauma that we rarely mention or think about. Many of these symptoms are embedded in the body and indicate a stressed nervous system. The energy of trauma never leaves our body until we process it. In some ways, these symptoms are the body attempting to process and resolve the excess energy of trauma.

Many trauma therapists know that this can occur, and they often work on these symptoms with their clients to help them integrate and become more aware of what’s behind the symptoms.


As I said above, trauma is lodged in the body as a whole. We usually think about symptoms that originate in the mind and thoughts, but some signs are more embedded in the body. One of them is shaking. This shaking is often felt in the whole body but can be felt in just the hands, stomach, or arms.

Since this symptom could also indicate a health issue, it’s best to get checked by a doctor to rule out health problems if this symptom appears. If there are no health problems detected, then this could be a sign of embedded trauma.

Forgetting simple things

Our minds often make us blank out during a severe trauma, so we are taken out of the situation. One of the PTSD symptoms is amnesia, meaning that we forget the traumatic event altogether. Many of us may not even know we have amnesia. However, one of the signs that trauma may be present is being forgetful. This is a more subtle sign than total amnesia.

Due to trauma, our brain and nervous system may be accustomed to blanking out to protect us. This can lead to being forgetful of many things in our adult years. Again, forgetfulness can also be a sign of a health problem, but if no problems exist, then this symptom may be a sign of unresolved trauma.

Bad with directions

This is similar to forgetfulness, but in this case, it’s more about how we find our way in the world. Some people with a background of trauma may have difficulties with directions. This stems from a similar mechanism as amnesia, where the mind blanks out from events to protect our nervous system from assault.

Our nervous system gets trained to never be “in the moment” because being present was too painful in the past. Therefore our nervous system doesn’t become accustomed to knowing exactly where we are in the world and how to get to the next point.

However, this symptom can be alarming as well. The person experiencing it may always feel a bit lost, and they never know why.
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Crying after laughter

This symptom is not the same as the tears we get when we’re having a huge laugh. Instead, a person begins crying after a lot of laughter. Although this symptom is rare, nonetheless, it’s something to pay attention to.

In some cases, many symptoms discussed in this article could be the body’s way of processing trauma. But it can be disturbing for the person if they’re not aware that the symptom is trauma-related.

Due to abuse, many of us were never able to express things like sadness or tears. This means the sadness and tears stay lodged in the body and never get a chance to express themselves. Also, trauma makes us feel unsafe to cry or be sad. However, because trauma never leaves the body, it may come out in strange moments like crying after laughing.

Experts say that laughing and crying have a similar effect on the nervous system. Therefore, laughter may help dislodge pent-up sadness as well, leading to spontaneous crying after laughter.

Being too messy or too clean

Trauma often makes us feel out of control in our lives. We think that we have no say in how events turn out, so we try to control what little we can. This can often lead to being either too messy or too clean. Of course, people without trauma can also be messy or clean, but in this case, the behaviors are more obsessive and severe than usual.

Being too messy may be a way to express a lack of control. Perhaps we were criticized or put down when we were just learning how to tidy up our environment. Or maybe we unconsciously ask for help by leaving our environments messy. Or perhaps we just want to rebel by not tidying up.

Being too clean may be a way to express control. We may not have had any control over challenging or chaotic moments in our lives. So instead, we control our environments as much as possible to feel that at least something is right or going well.

These are 5 signs of unresolved trauma that we may not think about. There are likely more, and I would love to hear your thoughts or ideas after reading this article.

Trauma is a very body-oriented issue, and as such, it can show up in mysterious ways. But once we know more about our body and actions, the more we can understand ourselves better. This inevitably leads to better integration of trauma within our whole body.

Many therapists work with clients to help unearth these signs, and I highly recommend working with one if you have trauma symptoms that seem confusing.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work - I also have a book on Alcoholic Liver Disease coming out in 2021.


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