RCASA’s Friday Facts: Physical Signs/Symptoms of Abuse

In Outreach, Sexual Assault Awareness on April 9, 2010 at 9:00 am

Friday Facts – Physical Signs/Symptoms of Abuse

Ever wonder why you have vague, non-specific aches and pains?  Stress is one of those things that is reflected in the body in many different ways.  The body releases a hormone in response to stress called cortisone, which in small amounts provides the body with protective measures.  When this hormone goes into overdrive after repeated or cumulative stressors,  it can cause other issues.  Persons who have experienced a traumatic event will exhibit signs and symptoms that may seem unrelated to the event or mimic other disease processes.  According to Helpguide.org, “any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm”.

If the event was unexpected, left you feeling powerless, was cruel, and happened in childhood, you are more likely to exhibit physical symptoms.  Most common physical symptoms are insomnia or nightmares, fatigue, racing heartbeat, aches and pains, and muscle tension.   These are NORMAL reactions to an ABNORMAL situation.  However, over time,  especially if the event has not been effectively processed, this heightened sense of awareness can have cumulative effects on the body, leading to high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive symptoms, and fibromyalgia, to name a few.

The good news is that just as the body uses its defense mechanisms to protect the mind when exposed to trauma¸ the body also has a unique ability to heal itself.  The important thing to remember is that you can’t put a timeline on this healing process.  The first step is recognizing that your body is responding to what has happened to you.  The  next step is to seek help from a qualified mental health professional.  When you have been traumatized, your nervous system keeps you in a state of heightened arousal, causing imbalance in the body.  Keep in mind, healing is not a time-limited phenomenon, it’s a process that differs for each individual.

Here are some tips to help you on the healing journey:

Resist the urge to isolate:  Maintain relationships that are healthy.

Seek support: connect with others who have experienced traumatic events, find a counselor.

Find structure in your daily life: Having routines that include regular times for meals, sleep, exercise, and recreation help keep you grounded.

Pay attention to your physical health: Get regular check-ups, resist the urge to use alcohol or drugs to numb the nervous system reactions – these tend to increase depression and make the trauma symptoms worse.


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