Sometimes the terrible things we go through are too much for us to bear. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, the end of a meaningful relationship, or the rejection of a loved one, there are some experiences so heartbreaking that we wish we could erase them from our minds. When we don’t have a positive and healthy way of dealing with our trauma, we end up repressing our negative emotions and just pretending that everything is good when it really isn’t.
It can be hard to recognize unresolved trauma on the surface, especially within ourselves. But no matter how hard we try to block it from our awareness, the damage still stays with us in our subconscious and often comes out in uglier, much more harmful ways.
With that said, here are 9 signs you are still suffering from unhealed trauma and what you can do about it:
1. You resist positive change
When something good comes into your life, your first instinct is to be suspicious of it. You have an innate feeling of shame or guilt whenever you allow yourself to grow attached to someone or celebrate your own success. You’re more comfortable being hurt, rejected, or abandoned, and might even come to expect it most of the time. You have a hard time accepting positive change and may even try to resist it at first, because deep down inside, you feel like you don’t deserve to be happy.
2. You need to plan for everything
You have a strong need to stay completely in control, to the point where it starts to become unhealthy. You micromanage everything and plan for things even if they’re still years away. You budget every little expense, plan what to wear and what to eat every day of the week, and you feel frustrated and lost whenever things don’t go the way you expect. This shows that you have a deep-seated distrust in both yourself and the world in general. Your need for control is most likely rooted in a traumatic experience that left you feeling helpless and vulnerable (Herman, 1998).
3. You have a strong fear of failure
Being afraid to fail is something we all experience from time to time, and it’s a normal part of human nature. However, a strong fear of failure can be unhealthy if it starts to outweigh a person’s motivation to succeed. Not only do we miss out on a lot of opportunities and stifle our own creativity and ambition because of it, but it can also lead to perfectionism and insecurity. It’s often instilled in us by an unresolved trauma that causes us to have a negative belief in ourselves and internalize our shortcomings.
4. You have a strong fear of success
Another way that repressed trauma tends to manifest is through a strong fear of success. Did you ever hold yourself back from getting something you wanted, not because you feared you might not get it, but because you feared what would happen when you did? The tendency to unconsciously sabotage your own chances of success is often associated with a traumatic childhood and it’s common in those who were abandoned or lost a loved one at a young age (Stanculescu, 2013).
5. You have difficulty concentrating
Trauma has a lot of damaging psychological effects and it’s not uncommon for victims to suddenly have difficulty concentrating sometimes (Bower & Civers, 1998). If you have been having gaps in your memory, blacking out often, and finding it hard to keep your train of thought nowadays, it might be your mind crying out to you for help, asking you to work through your trauma.
6. You have trouble asking for help
People who have experienced some form of abuse or mistreatment usually struggle with asking for help. They’d rather suffer in silence because they’re too afraid to reach out to someone else. They don’t want to be rejected, denied, or seen as weak by those around them, while some feel too uncomfortable talking about the struggles they’ve been through. So if you tell people you’re fine but still have trouble opening up to them about what happened to you, then there are still some things you need to work through.
7. You often hurt yourself/others
Do you sometimes lash out at other people when you’re experiencing intense emotions? Do you push your loved ones away and isolate yourself whenever you have to deal with a problem? When we are still hurting from unhealed trauma, there are times when we don’t know what to do and end up taking it out on ourselves or those we care about. We become emotionally volatile, out of control, and overly sensitive. We lose our temper, break things, and may even resort to self-harm (Low, Jones, MacLeod, Power, & Duggan, 2000).
8. You struggle with low self-esteem
There are a lot of ways trauma can skew our self-image for the worse, especially if it’s rooted in our early childhood experiences. Abuse, abandonment, and neglect can all lead us to question our own self-worth and struggle to feel good about ourselves, and more so if it was inflicted upon us by someone we loved. Studies have shown that patients with PTSD often suffer from low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness (David, Ceschi, Billieux, & Van der Linden, 2008).
9. You have unexplained symptoms
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, if you have been suffering from unexplained psychological symptoms lately, it might be the result of lingering psychological trauma. Do you feel more anxious and panicky than before? Do you find it hard to feel happy or find pleasure from the things you used to enjoy? Have you lost your appetite or have trouble sleeping well at night? Anxiety, depression, dissociation/depersonalization, panic attacks, frequent flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional distress are all common in patients with PTSD (American Psychological Association, 2013).
Have you ever experienced a traumatic situation? Do you feel you like you’ve already overcome it? If you are still suffering from any lingering psychological trauma, it’s important that you reach out to a mental healthcare professional today and get the help you need to get better. After all, just because you try to erase the experience from your mind doesn’t mean you stop being affected by it. You need to heal in a positive and healthy way before you can ever truly move forward in life and find some peace of mind.
- Herman, J. L. (1998). Recovery from psychological trauma. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 52(S1), S98-S103.
- Stanculescu, E. (2013). University students’ fear of success from the perspective of positive psychology. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 78, 728-732.
- Bower, G. H., & Sivers, H. (1998). Cognitive impact of traumatic events. Development and psychopathology, 10(4), 625-653.
- Low, G., Jones, D., MacLeod, A., Power, M., & Duggan, C. (2000). Childhood trauma, dissociation and self‐harming behaviour: A pilot study. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 73(2), 269-278.
- David, M., Ceschi, G., Billieux, J., & Van der Linden, M. (2008). Depressive symptoms after trauma: is self-esteem a mediating factor?. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 196(10), 735-742.
- American Psychological Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition. Washington, DC; APA Publishing.