top of page

Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived or real life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict. SE teaches that trauma is not caused by the event itself, but rather develops through the failure of the body, psyche, and nervous system to process adverse events.

Many have noted that prey animals in the wild are rarely traumatized despite routine threats to their lives. Yet human beings are readily traumatized. Since humans and other animals possess nearly identical brain- and body-based survival mechanisms, Dr. Levine worked to identify what was interfering with the human threat-recovery process,and to develop tools for restoring people’s innate capacity to rebound following overwhelming experiences.

All mammals automatically regulate survival responses from the primitive, non-verbal brain, mediated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Under threat, massive amounts of energy are mobilized in readiness for self-defense via the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Once safe, animals spontaneously “discharge” this excess energy through involuntary movements including shaking, trembling, and deep spontaneous breaths. This discharge process resets the ANS, restoring equilibrium.

Although humans are similarly designed to rebound from high-intensity survival states, we also have the problematic ability to neo-cortically override the natural discharge of excess survival energy. Through rationalizations, judgments, shame, enculturation, and fear of our bodily sensations, we may disrupt our innate capacity to self-regulate, functionally “recycling” disabling terror and helplessness. When the nervous system does not reset after an overwhelming experience, sleep, cardiac, digestion, respiration, and immune system function can be seriously disturbed. Unresolved physiological distress can also lead to an array of other physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms

Trauma Symptoms And Causes


When our nervous systems prepare us to meet danger, they shift us into highly energized states. If we can discharge this energy while actively and effectively defending against threat (via fight/flight) the nervous system will move back toward a normal level of functioning. If not, the nervous system compensates for being in a state of self-perpetuating arousal by setting off a chain of adaptations that eventually bind and organize the energy. This energy must go somewhere and that place is called “symptoms”.

The symptoms of trauma usually appear shortly after the event that engendered them. Other symptoms will develop over time, sometimes months or years later.

Types of Symptoms:

• PTSD or PTS (Post traumatic stress)
• Anxiety
• Panic Attacks
• Hyperarousal
• Constriction
• Phantom pain
• Dissociation (including denial)
• Feelings of helplessness
• Easily and Frequently Stressed Out
• Difficulty Sleeping
• Phobias
• Dizziness/Vertigo
• Troubled Breathing
• Headaches
• Unresolved Pain
• Intrusive thoughts
• Hypervigilance
• Fatigued
• Abrupt Mood Swings: (rage reactions, tantrums, shame)
• Extreme Sensitivity to Light / Sound
• Intrusive Imagery
• Nightmares or Night Terrors
• Chronic Fatigue
• Fibromyalgia
• Emotional Flooding
• Hyperactivity
• Gastrointestinal Problems
• Bladder Interstitial Cystitis
• Pelvic Pain
• Self Regulation Problems
• Feeling Disconnected to Life

Types of Causes:

• Concussions
• Motor vehicle accidents
• Falls
• Personal accidents and injuries
• Physical or Emotional abuse
• Invasive medical or surgical procedures
• Illness
• Military trauma
• Near drowning
• War 
• Natural disasters 
• Violent acts/attacks
• Overwhelming life experiences
• Dental Stress/procedures
• Amputations (lose of limbs)
• Experiencing or witnessing violence or horror
• Ritual abuse
• Generational and Social trauma
• Infants after suffering traumatic birth or womb experience

Symptoms of Un-Discharged Traumatic Stress
A healthy nervous system
Sunset over mountains and water
bottom of page