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  • Writer's pictureJessica Trainor

Do I just have anxiety or is my past trauma catching up to me?

In the realm of trauma therapy, understanding the complex connection between past traumatic experiences and present-day manifestations, like anxiety, is so important. Trauma doesn't simply vanish with time; instead, it lingers, often manifesting in unexpected ways. Among these manifestations, anxiety stands out as one of the most common. In this post, we get into the profound interplay between past trauma and present anxiety, shedding light on how unresolved past experiences continue to echo in the present.

Traumatic experiences have a profound impact on our psyche, leaving imprints. Whether it's childhood abuse, neglect, or any other form of trauma, the emotional wounds they have caused, can persist long after the event itself has passed. These experiences shape our beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors, often laying the groundwork for future struggles. And even when we might be thinking, “Oh - I’m so over that!”, this can still happen. 

Anxiety is something that frequently emerges as a consequence of unresolved trauma. Those who have experienced traumatic events can find themselves grappling with a constant sense of unease, hypervigilance, and overwhelm. These symptoms, though rooted in the past, manifest in the present, hijacking your sense of security and well-being.

For many trauma survivors, certain triggers act as reminders of past trauma, throwing them into a state of heightened anxiety. These triggers can vary widely, from specific sights, sounds, or smells to more abstract cues such as certain emotions or situations. When triggered, you may experience flashbacks, vivid memories of the traumatic event that evoke intense emotional and physiological responses, further growing the anxiety. 

Understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of trauma and anxiety is important in explaining their connection. Trauma activates the body's stress response system, including the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Over time, these physiological changes can dysregulate the nervous system, perpetuating a state of chronic arousal and anxiety.

In an attempt to cope with overwhelming feelings of anxiety, many trauma survivors resort to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as avoidance, substance abuse, or self-harm. While these strategies do often provide temporary relief, they ultimately perpetuate the cycle of anxiety and intensify the impact of past trauma. Addressing these coping mechanisms is essential in trauma therapy, as it enables you to develop healthier ways of managing their anxiety.

Healing from past trauma and alleviating anxiety involves a multifaceted approach that integrates evidence-based therapeutic modalities such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and mindfulness-based techniques. Through therapy, you can process and make meaning of traumatic experiences, develop coping skills to manage anxiety, and cultivate resilience in your present day life.

The connection between past trauma and present anxiety is profound and far-reaching. By recognizing how past trauma continues to shape our experiences and influence our emotional landscape, we can begin to unravel the web of anxiety and embark on a journey of healing and restoration. Through compassion, understanding, and evidence-based interventions, we can empower trauma survivors to reclaim their lives and transcend the legacy of their past traumas.



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