The Hidden Effects of Trauma

hidden effects of trauma

Trauma can be a driving factor for many changes in people’s lives, causing physical, mental, and behavioural effects. While some are more obvious than others, the hidden effects of trauma are no less severe.

Common Symptoms of Trauma

Some symptoms of trauma are easier to recognise than others. Symptoms are sometimes grouped into four types, which include:

  • Intrusive memories – intrusive memories can occur at any time. People may experience flashbacks, dreams, and intrusive thoughts about the trauma they have experienced.
  • Mood changes – trauma can affect people’s moods, emotions, and how they see the world. They may feel hopeless about the future, emotionally detached or numb, and may struggle to show interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
  • Avoidance – people can go out of their way to avoid remembering anything about a traumatic event. This could include avoiding activities and people or forcibly pushing memories of the event out of their minds with unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Physical and emotional reactions – people can struggle with hyperarousal after a traumatic event and always be on the lookout for danger. They may be easily frightened, have trouble concentrating, and feel overwhelming guilt about what happened.

These effects can be intensely distressing, and many can struggle to manage them. However, there can be other symptoms of trauma that people may not even realise are related to a traumatic event.

Hidden Effects of Trauma

Although there are many trauma symptoms, some of the more subtle ones can be hard to manage. Some hidden effects of trauma include:

  • Misophonia – the hatred of specific sounds is known as misophonia. Sounds such as chewing, swallowing, and sniffling can trigger feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and anger in those with misophonia. Research has revealed that those suffering from stress, anxiety, and compulsive tendencies struggle with the condition more than others.[1] Trauma can significantly reduce stress tolerance and dysregulate the nervous system, meaning that those with a traumatic history are more likely to develop this condition.
  • Emotional overwhelm – trauma can have a massive impact on the nervous system, affecting how people manage feelings of overwhelm. In response to stress, the body releases the hormone cortisol, but the nervous systems of those affected by trauma are often on high alert. This can mean they feel incredibly overwhelmed by things others may not consider distressing very easily.
  • Memory loss – during a traumatic event, the body does not process memories as it usually does. The prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that stores memories – is inhibited by the amygdala, as it functions slower. This then inhibits the creation of memories around the event, which can result in people not remembering the event at all, or only remembering fragments. The relationship between trauma and memory loss is complex, and there are several different types, ranging from amnesia to trauma denial.

When experiencing these effects, many people may not immediately link them to trauma. These symptoms may not appear instantly after a traumatic event but can result from trauma nonetheless.

Trauma and the Body

Trauma can also have many effects on people’s relationships with their bodies. One study found that those diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) had experienced childhood trauma.[2]

BDD causes people to have a warped perception of their bodies, often focusing on a specific area. Some professionals theorise that this is a maladaptive coping mechanism for those with a history of trauma, as focusing on their body pulls them out of past trauma memories.

However, trauma can also physically affect the body, causing pain and discomfort. This can range from headaches and fatigue to a lowered immune system.

Trauma is also linked to long-term health conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. A study by Kaiser Permanente in 1998 focused on those who experienced high numbers of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) at a young age, such as being the victim of abuse, neglect, living with someone with a substance use disorder, or witnessing violence against their mother. The results of the study found that those who experienced high numbers of ACEs were at a higher risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.[3]

It is theorised that the extreme emotional stress caused by trauma is the catalyst for physical changes throughout the body, contributing to brain changes in the amygdala and hippocampus. Trauma can also affect how neurotransmitters work in the brain, changing how the stress-regulating epinephrine and norepinephrine function and how people manage their stress.

Managing Trauma

Trauma can be difficult to manage, especially when the symptoms are not obviously linked to a traumatic event. Despite this, there are some ways to help manage both hidden and explicit symptoms, such as:

  • Meditation – mindfulness and meditation help to bring people into the present and help them to reconnect with their bodies by focusing on the breath and other sensations. Meditating or taking a mindful moment when cooking, exercising, or cleaning can pull people out of painful memories.
  • Yoga – yoga connects mindfulness with exercise and can help boost interoception and the mind-body connection of those with a history of trauma, helping foster a greater sense of safety and re-regulate the nervous system.
  • Treatment – trauma can be a challenge to deal with alone. Do not hesitate to seek professional help after a traumatic event if you are struggling.

Trauma does not follow a typical manifestation pattern. While some more apparent symptoms may be instantly recognisable, many symptoms may be hidden. Targeting the root causes of trauma can resolve these symptoms, allowing people to move forward and live full, happy lives.

If you have a client or know of someone struggling with anything you have read in this blog, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).


[1]  “What Is Misophonia? | Definition, Causes & Treatment | Misophonia Institute”. Misophonia Institute, Accessed 19 Aug 2022.

[2] Didie, Elizabeth R et al. “Childhood abuse and neglect in body dysmorphic disorder.” Child abuse & neglect vol. 30,10 (2006): 1105-15. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.03.007

[3] Felitti, Vincent J et al. “Relationship Of Childhood Abuse And Household Dysfunction To Many Of The Leading Causes Of Death In Adults”. American Journal Of Preventive Medicine, vol 14, no. 4, 1998, pp. 245-258. Elsevier BV, Accessed 22 Aug 2022.

A circular logo with a teal background features "Khiron Clinics" in bold, white letters and "GLOBAL TRAUMA RECOVERY" in smaller white text below. Above the text is an abstract, white, spiral design, emphasizing its role as a leading trauma clinic.

Global Trauma Recovery Center

Recommended by the World’s Leading Trauma Experts

We help people find hope again by uncovering and treating the root causes of their mental health issues. Our cutting edge nervous-system based treatments are delivered in both outpatient and residential settings by clinicians who have been trained by the world’s leading trauma experts.

Download the Brochure

Discover Our Innovative Trauma Recovery Pathway

Find out more about how we treat, what we treat, our clinics, pricing and more.

Discover Our Innovative Trauma Recovery Pathway

Find out more about how we treat, what we treat, our clinics, pricing and more.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.