5 Signs Your Stress May Indicate Unresolved Trauma

Everyone experiences stress, but chronic stress or stress that persistently feels difficult to overcome may indicate unresolved trauma. It may also speak to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which isn’t always obvious.

Understanding and taking care of stress well is key to managing your mental health. Here are some emotional and physical symptoms that often go under the stress radar.

You Experience a Chronic Hypervigilance

Hypervigilance refers to being constantly on guard and responsive to potential threats. After any traumatic event, it’s normal to experience a sense of hypervigilance for some time. But unresolved traumatic stress can result in ongoing intrusive thoughts, heightened arousal, and emotional dysregulation- all of which can result in you feeling unsafe or tense.

You may be experiencing hypervigilance if you:

  • feel like you’re constantly on edge or unable to relax
  • become easily startled by surprises, or loud noises
  • feel generally suspicious of other people and concerned about their motives
  • avoid certain people or relationships
  • feel like you disproportionally react to certain situations or emotions

You Can’t Shake Intense Anger

Underlying trauma affects emotional regulation, and this is particularly true in cases of childhood trauma. If you weren’t able to process your emotions at the appropriate developmental stage, the charge underneath those traumatic events stays within you.

Of course, anger is a typical emotion that everyone experiences. But intense anger feels like it’s more compulsive and encompassing. It can look like:

  • feeling like you go from 0-100 with anger
  • lashing out at others
  • feeling a low-grade sense of irritability throughout the day with no real explanation
  • feeling like you can’t control your anger

This kind of anger often has less to do with situational stress and more to do with limited distress tolerance, low self-esteem, and negative thought patterns. Feeling like you can’t manage this anger can lead to all kinds of problems, including relationship issues, compulsive behaviors, and difficulties with daily tasks.

You Keep Burning Out

Burnout can certainly result from chronic or acute stress. But it can also speak to how unresolved trauma affects your capacity for coping and managing daily life.

Some people cope with a traumatic experience by automatically suppressing what happened to them. They push through, sometimes at the expense of their own physical or mental health. Others may turn to self-harming behaviors, eating disorders, or substance use to manage distressing emotions.

Furthermore, burnout sometimes also reveals underlying mental health disorders like depression or anxiety. You may simply think you lack willpower, but burnout has nothing to do with willpower. It often has to do with feeling like your needs or voice persistently don’t matter.

You Struggle to Implement Healthy Coping Strategies When Stressed

Some trauma symptoms are apparent, whereas other trauma symptoms can be more insidious. For example, indecisiveness and feeling persistently empty (when dealing with stress) are not often talked about, but they definitely can relate to previous trauma.

How you respond to your emotional pain may speak the story of traumatic memories. Our nervous systems react to threatening situations by activating the fight-or-flight response (also referred to as an acute stress response or the fight-flight-freeze-fawn response system).

These survival mechanisms are rooted in keeping you alive, even if they aren’t the most adaptive for your emotional well-being or relationships. If you’re always in this heightened state, your body may react with chronic fatigue, weakened immune function, exacerbated pain, and gastrointestinal distress.

You Can’t Understand Why You Feel So Stressed

You may be wondering, “What’s wrong with me? I have it pretty good. Why can’t I deal with things well?” 

If this is you, it’s first important to remember that nothing is wrong with you. We all get overwhelmed, and sometimes life really is that difficult to manage.

Trauma denial is one consideration. Some people adamantly believe nothing bad has ever happened to them- even if they experienced some really awful experiences. Others are really hard on themselves. They berate themselves when they experience a negative emotion or act in a way they wish they hadn’t.

Persistent patterns of questioning your stress may also coincide with themes of anxiety, perfectionism, and problems with your self-worth. While these don’t always connect to trauma, they certainly can.

Therapy for Unresolved Trauma and Prolonged Stress in Texas

Trauma-related stress disorders can include PTSD and acute stress disorder. However unresolved childhood trauma isn’t always easy to define or understand, and you may not be aware of how certain trauma symptoms affect your overall well-being.

In my practice, I specialize in trauma, grief, loss, and the feelings of emotional instability and toxic shame that often accompany these experiences. My goal is to provide you with a secure environment where you can process your feelings and learn new ways to take care of yourself.

If you’re struggling with difficult emotions or feeling overwhelmed in daily life, therapy can make such a difference. I welcome you to contact me today to schedule an initial consultation.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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