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How To Tell If You're Suffering from Underlying Trauma

Trauma can manifest in many forms, and it can stem from many types of experiences. Because people often have a limited perception of what trauma is, many people suffering from underlying trauma are unaware that what happened to them was traumatic. Trauma can impact your health, your behavior, and even your personal relationships, which is why it’s so important to identify and treat trauma. 

If you’re able to recognize how trauma from the past influences your behavior in the present, you’ll be able to keep your trauma from controlling your life. Below, you’ll find more information on what trauma is and how you can identify symptoms of trauma.

What Causes Trauma?

Trauma is a response to extremely distressing events or experiences. Trauma may occur because of a single traumatic event or because of repeated exposure to disturbing events. Some of the most common causes of trauma include:

Trauma is a response to extremely distressing events or experiences. Trauma may occur because of a single traumatic event or because of repeated exposure to disturbing events. Some of the most common causes of trauma include:

  • Car accidents
  • The death of a loved one
  • Bullying
  • Community violence
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Exposure to substance abuse
  • Sexual assault or rape
  • Serious illness or injury
  • Natural disasters

In most cases, a person will develop trauma after being at the site of a traumatic event. However, a person may also experience trauma because of something they witnessed from a distance. While children are more vulnerable to trauma than adults, it’s possible to experience trauma at any age.

What Are the Types of Trauma?

There are three main types of trauma: acute, chronic, and complex trauma. Acute trauma results from a single traumatic event. Chronic trauma develops when a person is exposed to traumatic events after an extended period. Complex trauma occurs when a person has varied traumatic experiences.

In some cases, trauma can lead to a condition known as a post-traumatic stress disorder. However, trauma can have a lasting impact even for those that don’t develop PTSD. Some experience trauma symptoms for a short period of time, while others feel its effects for years. 

Who Is Most At Risk for Underlying Trauma?

Not everyone will experience lasting trauma symptoms after a distressing event. Traumatic experiences can impact people in different ways. Groups that are more at-risk include:

  • Children
  • People with a family history of trauma
  • Victims of childhood abuse
  • People with a history of substance abuse
  • People with existing mental health issues

With that said, it’s important to remember that trauma is something that can happen to anyone. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of trauma can make it easier to identify trauma when it occurs.

What Are Symptoms of Underlying Trauma?

The symptoms of underlying trauma are varied and can be difficult to recognize. When someone experiences acute trauma, their friends and family may notice a change in their usual behavior. However, when a person has chronic or complex trauma, they may become accustomed to their symptoms or even see them as normal. Common indicators of trauma include:


Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms linked to trauma. In some cases, trauma sufferers may experience a condition called hyperarousal, a heightened state of anxiety that persists even when there’s no threat present. It’s also common for people to experience panic attacks, especially when exposed to something that reminds them of a traumatic event.


Not only can trauma make people anxious, but it can cause them to be hypervigilant. People with trauma may find it difficult to relax, making it hard for them to fall asleep at night. Many people with trauma also experience chronic nightmares, which can lead to sleep issues.

Self-Destructive Behavior

Trauma can cause intense negative emotions. When trauma is untreated, people may use unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage those feelings. This could include drug or alcohol abuse or other types of risky behavior, such as shoplifting or reckless driving.

Dissociation and Depersonalization

Our brains want to protect us from feelings of trauma, which is why some people with trauma may experience dissociation. This causes you to feel disconnected from feelings, thoughts, or even memories. It’s also common for people to feel detached from what’s happening to them,  known as depersonalization.

Emotional Outbursts

It’s not unusual for people with trauma to have extreme emotional outbursts in response to something that may seem benign. Someone suffering from trauma could lash out at their partner after an innocuous comment or burst into tears without understanding why. Trauma can cause people to feel disconnected from their own emotions, leading to emotional responses that are difficult to explain.

Treating Trauma

With the proper treatment, people suffering from underlying trauma can manage their symptoms and keep trauma from controlling their lives. Therapy can help people recognize how they’ve been impacted by trauma, and it can also provide people with coping skills. Talking about trauma can set people on the path toward recovery.

How To Tell If You’re Suffering from Underlying Trauma