“The Effects of Untreated Trauma” Live from a Hospital Bed.

Trauma that goes untreated, festers like an undiagnosed infection.

Trauma goes unseen to the naked eye, unlike the common misconception in which mental illnesses are aligned with a physical disability, trauma can appear deep within the societal presentation of “normal”. The American Psychological Association defines trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event like a car accident, sexual assault, abuse, or victim to a mass occurrence of violence. Immediately following the initial  event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. 

Untreated trauma can serve as the foundation for excessive amounts of stress throughout an individual’s life course. Without proper redirection of how to healthily manage the stress, it effects on the body can result in physical illness. Stress is the automatic response to harmful situations body’s, whether they’re real or perceived. In an attempt to prevent injury, a chemical reaction occurs in the body to prevent injury. This reaction is known as “fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and rise of blood pressure. Despite the body’s stress response, there is no immuno-feedback to prevent the effects over time. Stress can affect an individuals emotional stability, behaviors, process functioning, and physical health.

Emotional symptoms of stress include:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

Behavioral symptoms of stress include:

  • Changes in appetite — either not eating or eating too much
  • Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
  • Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing

Occasional fits of stress are normal for everyone. Working over time, heightened stress due to finals week, or maybe you are giving a public presentation for the first time at your new job. Sweaty palms and a sigh of relief once it’s over is a normal recovery response but chronic stress can exacerbate serious health conditions. The prolonged effects of chronic stress can increase the facilitation of many symptoms including; depression and anxiety, cardiovascular disease; heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythm, skin and hair loss; acne, eczema, gastrointestinal problems; GERD, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon.

Stress is normal, but how you handle it is the tell-tale predictor in ensuring you can effectively reduce or prevent it before the physical repercussions it will enact on your body. Before you are lying in the back of an ambulance, seek professional help if you feel as though your confines of stress have become unmanageable.







Mayo Clinic. (2021) Symptoms of Stress, Mayo Clinic. 

American Psychological Association. (2021)

View all posts


  1. Stress is, indeed, a complex phenomenon that is a consequence of traumatising experience. I believe it still needs more academic and practical exploration since our body reacts on stress from both perspectives: physical and mental. This is why, I absolutely agree with the given classification of symptoms that stress might have. Frankly, behaviour-related symptoms are probably those ones that can become a basis for the development of deviant or criminal behaviour. Thus, it seems to be interesting how trauma-related issues can create a cycle that involves both recovery and further deviance simultaneously.

  2. Reading your post really hammered in the importance of maintaining a strong awareness of one’s mental health. I think stress is often portrayed as one of the lesser dangers in health. We all stress, seemingly all the time. We stress about academic performance, about financial security, about our personal relationships. For the average person, who deals with these kinds of stressors many many times over their lifetime, what would you recommend as a technique to reduce the effects? At what age do you think we should start teaching people to avoid stress? Great blog post!

    – Emiley Garcia-Zych

Comments are closed.