How the body carries emotional trauma

Bachir Miloudi / Sputnik Photography

How often do people think that emotional trauma is connected to physical health? I’ve thought about this question a lot in my daily life, especially when seeing trends or memes talking about emotional trauma turning physical. However, people still don’t prioritize their emotional health as much as their physical health, even though there are common examples of this “phenomenon.” 

Some research from health and wellness websites like Psych Central and Psycom discuss the possibilities of genetics holding trauma that may pass down to other generations. Psych Central had commented on a 2018 study about depression being passed down epigenetically. The study of epigenetics means how your genes fluctuate and are reflective of changes in your environment.  

When reading these articles, it made me think about the common ways people undergo emotional pain that ends up translating physically. A frequent experience that’s talked about is the morning after a break-up. Many people express a similarity waking up with their chest feeling tight and choked up throat, maybe even a heaviness in their stomach. Whatever the symptom may be, it makes me question if the body can communicate your emotional needs. Can the body respond to emotional neglect and trauma? When waking up, it seems like the body knows an event has changed to turn it frail and weak.  

There are even cases of irritable bowel syndrome being linked to chronic anxiety. Individuals who were raised in unstable environments may grow up to have questionable stomach issues that cannot be properly diagnosed, yet they see improvement in their gut health when they leave a toxic environment.  

Another example could be how anxiety can turn into shakes, shortness of breath, passing out or even throwing up. Is the body intuitive? Does it respond to a trigger physically to say a person or event is not healthy or isn’t serving us in a positive way? I believe this question can be reflective of common advice given by therapists, like the importance of breathing techniques, meditation and journaling. These mechanisms are used to channel emotion towards something productive, calming or in the goal of releasing tension.  

I want to draw the point that the mind and body are in conjunction with emotional health. That it is essential to prioritize self-care for your mental health just as much as your physical. This can only be done by spending time with yourself to get to know what’s important to you and what needs are often disregarded. This can be doing daily walks, journaling, going to therapy, tracking psychological triggers, doing a creative task, making sure you eat and drink water and so on. Taking care of yourself emotionally is a type of self-care that should be done regularly. In a world where peace is hard to find, we must find ways to create it and bring love into the journey of self. 

This article was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 4 on Thursday, Dec. 7.

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