Trauma and Stress go Hand-in-Hand

Does This Sound Like You Or Someone You Know?

They/you react and are triggered by small things? Do they/you suddenly lose their/your cool and become extremely easy to anger? Do they/you retreat and hide away from everyday life, including foregoing responsibilities? Are they/you always complaining and seem scared about everything? Are they/you a control freak? Have their/your habits changed drastically, exerting unusual behaviour?

All of these examples could be a result of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). And while people and often ourselves may not notice any changes in how we appear to the outside world, this lack of self-observation can lead to detrimental mental, psychological and health issues if not treated appropriately. In this blog, we will discuss common trauma responses, including emotional, numbing, physical, and somatisation, trauma biology, and the amygdala’s functions. 

So, if you need support and information, be it for yourself or to pass on to another, please read on.

Common Trauma Responses

Whether you or a loved one has been exposed to a one-off traumatic event or one that was ongoing, the lasting effects can vary. As mentioned above, PTSD is serious, with a diverse range of reactions from self-destruction to subtle changes.

Such as –


Depending on one’s emotional history, sociocultural beliefs, and upbringing, recognising a trauma response might make them feel as though they are “losing their mind” or as if they are “going crazy”. This can become overwhelming if they have not been exposed to heightened emotions. As a result, some of the emotions that may occur include shame, fear, anger and sadness, to name a few.

Then emotional dysregulation may transpire, where the person tries to regain their emotional self. This could manifest as self-medicating with prescription drugs, substance abuse, eating disorders, and other compulsive behaviours. Here people are developing new coping methods to desensitise and “soothe” their underlying trauma.


When a person experiencing trauma feels threatened and unsafe after the event, they may undergo a numbing process, which entails a complete shutdown of emotions. Here, numbing is used as a form of response and to protect themselves from what they think may continue to happen in their daily life. If they remain closed off, additional trauma will be kept at bay, or so their thinking process conveys, giving them false hope and temporary bandaid relief.

Numbing presented in a PTSD patients can present as if they are out of their body, looking down at the world. They feel oddly light-headed and foggy, with a lack of concentration. What numbing also does for the PTSD patient is it distracts them from flashbacks, reliving the experience, avoidance of the event, thus taking them out of the present moment and distancing themselves from the trauma, due to the gripping grief, sadness, fear, disappointment, and anxiety.


PTSD affects more than the mind. It affects the body also. Changes in one’s health can be part of PTSD. Here, the body reacts to trauma held in its cells. Often appearing as somatic complaints (more on that below), cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, dermatological, gastrointestinal disorders and many more.

Those suffering physically may also change their appearance suddenly. E.g. a mum who is an office worker and was previously conservative may unexpectedly opt to wear dark clothing, wear dark make-up and intimidating clothes, adding offensive jewellery and uncommon shoes as an unconscious form of protection. In her mind, she believes that if she appears unapproachable and tough, nothing or anyone can harm her. Others may suddenly lose excessive weight or gain weight.


Somatic symptoms appear when a person has significant physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, pain and weakness, sudden and regularly sighing loudly due to their dysfunctional response to safely expressing their emotions. Often patients find it difficult to align physical symptoms with PTSD, thus the fixation and avoidance of their emotional system. Patients may also go on to refuse to link the two as a result of PTSD, where they choose to blanket their trauma with western medication rather than get to the root of the issue that caused the traumatic event.

If somatic trauma symptoms persist, we recommend a follow-up with their Doctor to monitor their health.

Trauma And How It Affects Your Biology

While the biology of trauma is still under constant research and review, what we do know is that trauma leads to stress responses and biological changes. For example, often, the amygdala (the core of the neural system that processes threats or danger), which has three functions, will be triggered. As such, if a brain scan was completed, you would view excessive activity from the amygdala in those with PTSD. This concurs when the patient is sensitive to triggers, and where they stay on high alert for more extended time periods compared to those who do not have PTSD.

What are the three functions of the amygdala?

  1. Emotional regulation
  2. Emotion meaning linked to memories
  3. Decision-making and reward justification

Therefore, the biology of trauma is a multifaceted network of responses that affect more than the mind. Biologically, it can increase the ageing process and cause chronic health problems, including mental and psychological concerns, but this is not limited.

From this blog, you have learnt that stress and trauma go hand-in-hand and that, when left untreated, may lead to many distressing factors across multiple areas of a patient’s life. At Wide Bay Counselling, we will listen with an open heart and use our skilled knowledge and professionalism to support and guide our patients to a place of calm where they can once more gain control over their life.

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about what we can offer and how we can help you. We could be the “medicine” that you are seeking.