unresolved trauma mental health
August 12, 2023 By Leah Malone

Can Unresolved Trauma Trigger Mental Health Disorders?


Unresolved trauma can affect a person’s overall well-being and ability to heal from substance use disorder (SUD) or mental health issues. A trauma-informed approach to recovery provides the best outcomes for individuals with untreated trauma. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Substance use, mental health conditions, and other risky behaviors have been linked with traumatic experiences.” Emerge Recovery TX offers trauma-informed care. Our care team prioritizes trauma care due to the impact of untreated trauma on long-term recovery.

How Does Unresolved Trauma Affect the Mind and Body?

Women with untreated trauma often experience traumatic stress reactions in their everyday lives. In addition, trauma from childhood may cause structural changes in developing brains leading to behavioral changes in adulthood. According to Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, “Brain areas implicated in the stress response include the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Traumatic stress can be associated with lasting changes in these brain areas.” The side effects often impact an individual’s ability to cope with everyday stressors. 

Every person reacts differently to witnessing or experiencing traumatic events. Some common side effects of unaddressed trauma include:

  • Phobias
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia, nightmares, or other sleep disturbances
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Persistent and extreme fatigue
  • Body aches and pains
  • Increased blood pressure

Women with unresolved trauma may experience various psychosomatic symptoms and side effects. Some women may have trouble completing tasks of daily living. Professional mental health treatment programs provide essential services for women struggling to cope with symptoms of untreated trauma. Emerge Recovery TX ensures women have the support and resources to manage symptoms and live a functional life. 

Warning Signs of Unresolved Trauma and Potential Mental Health Disorders

Unresolved trauma affects the brain’s physical structure and significantly increases a person’s risk of developing SUD or mental health disorders. Trauma causes some people to participate in risk-taking behaviors and changes how they perceive stressful situations. 

Recognizing the warning signs of unresolved trauma reduces the risk of developing maladaptive behaviors. According to Psychological Trauma, “Trauma exposure in childhood has been linked to poor health behaviors, such as engaging in alcohol abuse, or disordered eating.” Emerge Recovery TX educates women on the impact trauma may have on their behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.  

Some of the warning signs of unresolved trauma include: 

  • Difficulty trusting others
  • Being constantly on alert
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dissociative events
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Chronic anxiety

The symptoms of mental health disorders are sometimes difficult to identify because no two cases are the same. Symptoms exist along a spectrum from mild to severe. Co-occurring conditions may have overlapping symptoms. Treatment programs use comprehensive assessments and screening tools to accurately diagnose and treat trauma-related disorders.

Some Women Use Drugs and Alcohol to Self-Medicate

Untreated trauma affects how women think about themselves and the people around them. Severe symptoms and side effects of trauma may make it difficult for some women to function. In some cases, women self-medicate to manage their ability to cope with stressors at home or work. However, the effects of substance misuse increase trauma reactions, making it ineffective and dangerous. According to Depression and Anxiety, individuals “who report self?medicating [mood and anxiety disorder] symptoms with alcohol and/or drugs are significantly more likely to develop a comorbid SUD.” Self-medicating is hazardous to a person’s overall health and potentially deadly.

Trauma Is a Risk Factor for Substance Misuse

Some women misuse substances to cope with the effects of untreated trauma. However, in other instances, substance misuse and trauma develop independently. Co-occurring trauma-related mental health disorders and SUD requires more comprehensive treatment. Integrative care and personalized treatment plans provide the support many women need to heal. Emerge Recovery TX offers comprehensive outpatient treatments for women recovering from the effects of trauma and SUD.

Some women rely on substance misuse to help them cope because they have no support system. Individuals who don’t have the resources to manage trauma on their own have an increased risk of the following: 

  • Risk-taking behaviors, including substance misuse 
  • Developing additional mental or physical health issues 
  • Difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and personal responsibilities 

Some women may not immediately connect their trauma responses to the traumatic event. Professional mental health and recovery services may help them identify and manage the underlying cause of their disorder. 

How Does Emerge Recovery TX Address Unresolved Trauma?

The dedicated care team at Emerge Recovery TX uses experiential coaching and other evidence-based methods to help women heal and thrive in recovery. Clinicians guide clients through identifying, analyzing, and processing various maladaptive behaviors or thought patterns related to untreated trauma. 

Women participating in outpatient treatment programs learn new life skills and coping mechanisms to reduce the effects of trauma. Long-term recovery from SUD and co-occurring trauma-related disorders may take longer. The programs offer comprehensive services and referrals for women needing additional support after treatment. 

Unresolved trauma is one of the leading causes of mental health disorders. Women have a higher risk of experiencing trauma and developing related mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The side effects severely impact some women’s ability to cope with stress and function day-to-day. Early intervention and treatment reduce the harmful effects of untreated trauma. Emerge Recovery TX offers evidence-based treatments, including individual psychotherapy, group therapy, and peer support to women recovering from substance misuse or trauma-related mental health disorders. Co-occurring disorders are common among women with SUD and often require personalized trauma-informed care. To learn more about our treatment programs and services, call our office today at (737) 237-9663.

About Author

Leah Malone

Learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings can be painful and disturbing at times. When Leah was able to see her behavior patterns and decided there was enough pain to be disturbed, she became motivated to make changes and accept the work that needed to be done to heal. She needed direction and had no clue how to heal on her own. Through a connection with God, authentic connection with others, honesty, willingness, and humility, Leah is now in recovery from addiction and trauma.

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