Seven Signs of Unhealed Relationship Trauma
by Rebecca Hieronymi
Throughout our lives we all experience a loss of a relationship, whether it be a job, romantic partnership, or friendship. Sometimes the ending can feel like a blessing because that relationship wasn’t right for us. But what if you find that you can’t move on or get over it? Why does it sometimes feel like you are just not able to get it together? Unhealed relationship trauma goes much deeper than just being stressed or relationship challenged. It can feel like being unable to move on. The goal of this article is to help you understand relationship trauma and how it may be affecting you. Here are seven signs you may have unhealed relationship trauma.
1. Annoying physical symptoms: A study shows unresolved trauma can make normal aches and pains worse and make you feel completely drained. Trauma puts your body on high alert due to the activation of your fight, flight, or freeze response. Your body’s stress response is only meant to last for a short time but when you are in a toxic relationship your body is under stress constantly. This can lead to inflammation, arthritis, heart attack, a weakened immune system, and chronic pain.
2. Your body and mind are disconnected: Do you “zone out” or have people comment that you have your head in the clouds? Do you ever feel like your life is a movie you are watching from the outside? These are symptoms of disassociation or feeling detached from reality. A study noted people who experience trauma often report feelings of disassociation.
3. Your brain works differently: After the end of a toxic relationship, did you feel like you were in a brain fog? Were you forgetful or have racing thoughts? This happens because the stress from a toxic relationship and your body’s stress response is ongoing. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol were not meant to be in your system longer than a few minutes at a time so having them constantly flood your system changes the way your brain functions. This can make you feel like you can’t concentrate, have memory problems, or feel out of control and can lead to frustration and anger.
4. Major trust issues even with people you know and love: Trauma brought on by a toxic relationship can mess with your ability to feel safe with another person. You may start putting up walls or have a hard time believing others. You may even doubt those who only want your highest good and have done you no wrong.
5. You might pick fights or engage in risky business: Unresolved trauma sufferers sometimes behave in risky ways to get a rush. This risk-taking behavior is a way to feel like they have control over their lives or get a break from other trauma symptoms such as depression and shame. People who experience disassociation as a result of trauma are more likely to lash out aggressively than those who are not prone to disassociation.
6. A constant sense of shame: Many survivors of traumatic relationships often find themselves thinking, “why didn’t I see it before?” or “I’m so stupid for staying” These are the common thought processes for those who have relationship trauma. Many victims blame themselves for things not working out and feel ashamed. Shame means you feel bad about who or what you are. Too much shame can make the mental, emotional, and physical symptoms of trauma much worse.
7. You react physically to emotional triggers: When you have unhealed relationship trauma, triggers become more intense over time as the memories associated with the trauma become more intrusive. A physical reaction to a trauma trigger might look like shortness of breath, sweating, anxiety or feeling sick.
Did you relate to any of these signs? Have you noticed them in someone around you? Trauma is deeper than being stuck in the past. The symptoms of unhealed relationship trauma can hurt you, but by taking the time to learn about what you’ve experienced you can begin healing. Your healing journey may not go in a straight line and it certainly won’t be perfect and that’s fine. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. For an appointment, please call 256.574.5826. We also offer a 24/7 HELPline where you can speak with trained crisis counselors at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.