Symptoms of Trauma in Adults

By December 17, 2021May 8th, 2024Trauma
Symptoms of Trauma in Adults

When you’ve been through something (or are going through something), it may be difficult to know if what you’re feeling is related to the trauma you’ve experienced or if it’s just part of the experience of being you. 

Understanding the root of the symptoms you want to change or heal can offer you a lot of leverage in overcoming the ways that trauma impacts you as an adult no matter when it happened. So let’s talk about it. 

What exactly is trauma? 

Though the official definition of trauma implies that it must be something massive and terrible, there are levels of trauma just like anything else we experience in life. Trauma may be a life-defining terrible event you can’t shake like destruction or disaster. Alternatively, trauma may be a series of small things that changed the way you perceive your own safety. 

Holistically, trauma is any event (or series of events) that compromise your ability to differentiate between risk and security. It can occur at any time in your life and persist for any amount of time beyond the event itself. Trauma is an insidious emotional reaction to an experience. 

Trauma is the great pretender 

One of the most difficult things about trauma, and the symptoms of having experienced it, is how variable the way it shows up may be. For some, they may push their trauma so far away that they experience amnesia around the event. They can’t even recall what happened, nor correlate their responses to it. 

Symptoms of trauma in adults span every system of the body as wholly as they stretch across lived experiences. Below, we’ve covered some of the primary symptom groups that adults who have experienced trauma may continue to face. 

Dysregulated moods 

When something has happened to you that makes it difficult to feel safe in your emotions or physical environment, your moods may suffer. From depression to anxiety or even bouts of manic productivity, mood dysregulation is a trauma symptom that can have a major impact on your daily life. 

Substance use disorders 

Drowning reality in drink or drugs may seem like the best or only option when you’ve been through something you can’t confront. Whether the trauma you’ve experienced was ongoing or a one-time thing, and no matter when it occurred, it can be difficult to get through it when you don’t feel you have the tools to get through it. For some, substance use is a way of coping and for others, it simply represents escape. 

trauma symptomsTrouble with sleep 

Insomnia, nightmares, and broken sleep are all common symptoms of trauma in adults after a traumatic experience. If you’re reliving terror and powerlessness every time you close your eyes, falling asleep can feel like walking into battle every night. 

Hypo- or Hyper-arousal

Whether the trauma you’ve experienced makes you feel constantly on edge or frozen in time, trauma may cause trouble regulating your existential equilibrium. You may feel the need to overcompensate, overproduce and over plan in an attempt to control the risk in your life. Alternatively, you may experience no motivation for anything and find the idea of even trying to be utterly overwhelming. 

Relationship complexity 

Having healthy relationships can be especially difficult for those who have been a victim of harm as a part of their trauma. Whether it was childhood trauma, sexual violence or other physical or emotional violations, trauma complicates things. You may struggle to let people in, feeling lonely as a result. In contrast, some people cling to their relationships at the expense of their own security.

Physical illness 

Trauma takes up physical space in the body. The toll of trauma may lower your immune system, cause stagnant pain in joints and body systems or cause chronic pain. Trauma has been linked to GI manifestations of anxiety as well as stress. 


Perhaps the most well-known symptoms of trauma in adults is flashbacks. Revisiting the things that haunt you lead to feelings of helplessness as you relive a waking nightmare with little control over when it comes on or when it will end. Flashbacks are often a cause of retraumatization and occur in many types of trauma. 

How can we help? 

You may not know where to begin in unraveling the tangled mass of shadows trauma casts over the light in your world, especially when it has led you to addiction’s doorstep. But that’s okay, you don’t have to know. At Villa Kali Ma, we have a broad range of therapies and tools we can use to help you create a precision map out of the darkness of trauma and the ways it’s driven you to cope. Together, we’ll navigate your pull towards substances day by day to create a customized recovery plan focused on the holistic experience of being you, through trauma and beyond. Call us today

adult trauma

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