5 ways trauma can impact your health

Are you aware of the impact trauma can have on your health?

When we think of trauma we typically go to the mental, emotional, and physical abuse that can impact us through experience. However, are you aware of the impact trauma can have on your health?

After decades of emotional, mental, and physical abuse, I sought out therapy to help me come to a place of understanding and release, to be able to move forward and improve my own inner peace and relationships.  The one thing I never considered until I began working with my MD and healing practitioner was the toll the abuse had put on my health. Now I’ll remind you when I left my ex-husband seven to eight years ago, I was pretty overweight and ignored my underlying health concerns. I was repeatedly in the ER and chronically exhausted. What my body was doing was the response to decades of crap. When I finally addressed my health concerns, this is what I discovered: Trauma can impact our health in the following ways.

1) Migraines/headaches/strokes

Stress comes with the territory. I suffered for years with chronic “stinger-like” migraines that would wake me up in the middle of the night. A CT or two has ruled out stroke, by the grace of God. Needless to say, holding onto the emotions was causing a kaleidoscope of issues.

This is definitely not unique to my own situation or makeup. The American Migraine Association notes: “Stress is the most widely recognized trigger for migraine attacks. … The worse the abuse is, the higher the likelihood of developing headache, as well as other pain conditions.” [i]

2) Obesity

When I met my ex, I weighed maybe 130 pounds. I lost 77 after I had my son; however, the pounds packed on fast after that time, and I was literally unable to lose the unwelcome weight no matter what I tried. Now medically, I have a very good reason — I am insulin resistant, but the why is the important part. I dealt with my ex’s substance abuse issues through emotional eating, and I am a carb girl! I gravitate towards carbs when I am stressed — bags of chips, pizza, major comfort food. I discovered the emotional aspect through therapy; it wasn’t until most recently when the medical component came into the picture.

3) Endocrine system/hormones

The stress of living in an abusive relationship jacks with our hormones and causes imbalances in our bodies.

“If trauma occurs repeatedly or over a prolonged period, cortisol (a hormone released during times of stress) is released too much, subsequently activating the amygdala and causing even more cortisol to be released.  It is a self-perpetuating cycle that leaves the individual with heightened sympathetic arousal (“fight” or “flight” response),” explains psychologist Kimberley Shilson.[ii]  

And if ongoing stress is causing your cortisol needs to increase, your insulin needs will increase, as well.[iii]

So the trauma causes us to stay in near constant fight or flight mode, with our cortisol and insulin levels skyrocketing to keep us “safe.” My own body’s response to years and years of feeling unsafe and victimized led to metabolic disease and premature ovarian failure. Our bodies can pay a very real hormonal price for the traumas inflicted on them.

4) Autoimmune diseases

An autoimmune response is when your body attacks its own healthy cells. Dr. Ana-Maria Orbai of Johns Hopkins notes some common autoimmune symptoms are fatigue, joint pain and swelling, skin problems, abdominal pain or digestive issues, recurring fever and swollen glands.[iv] However, she says there are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases; some of the most common in women are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and thyroid diseases.

Obviously, autoimmune diseases can occur outside of ongoing trauma. However, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) does seem to provide a strong link to autoimmune diseases, basically connecting all these dots. One study found that “people affected by stress-related problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress reaction, and adjustment disorder, may be at higher risk of developing 41 different kinds of autoimmune diseases.”[v]

5) Leaky gut, IBS, diverticulitis

Our intestines hold all the emotional baggage that we have experienced. This is our energy center of self-worth, control,  and lack of power. So it’s not surprising that our gut can be impacted. A lot of these gut issues can be related to the autoimmune disease potential mentioned above.

The bright side is we have the capability to heal our bodies. Seeking treatment from a good doctor and healing practitioner can definitely help you focus on all aspects of healing. Remember, our journey doesn’t dictate our future if we use the lessons to grow.


Felicity Nicole

[i] “Abuse, Maltreatment, and PTSD and Their Relationship to Migraine,” American Migraine Foundation, July 15, 2016, https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/abuse-maltreatment-and-ptsd-and-their-relationship-to-migraine/.

[ii] Saqina Abedi, “Psychological Trauma and the Brain: Interview with Kim Shilson,” The Trauma and Mental Health Report,  September 28, 2012, https://trauma.blog.yorku.ca/2012/09/psychological-trauma-and-the-brain-interview-with-kim-shilson/.

[iii] Ginger Vieira, “Diabetes & Stress: How Stress Affects Your Blood Sugar,” July 28, 2021, Diabetes Strong, https://diabetesstrong.com/diabetes-stress/.

[iv] Ana-Maria Orbai, “What Are Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease?,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, accessed August 18, 2021, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/what-are-common-symptoms-of-autoimmune-disease.

[v] Beth Levine, “Stress-Related Disorders Linked to Autoimmune Diseases, Study Finds,” Everyday Health, June 19, 2018, https://www.everydayhealth.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/stress-related-ders-linked-autoimmune-diseases-study-finds/.

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Felicity Nicole
Felicity Nicole
Owner , She Is You
I’m Felicity Nicole, and I was born and raised in the Chicagoland area. A tomboy at heart, I can be found hair up, favorite sweatshirt on, cooking up something yummy for my family. I am remarried to a wonderful man who totally gets me (woohoo!)., It turns out God does give us second chances! I am now a stepmom to two adult children who are super beautiful and a nonstop blessing in my life. Watching my son play baseball is by far my greatest joy. I am a transformational coach and Reiki Practitioner on a mission to help women redesign their lives. This mission comes directly from my own personal experience with self-discovery. From an abusive marriage to a healthy, fulfilling relationship, through multiple careers and a lifetime of coaching the women in my own life, what I realized is that I have always had power and tenacity deep within me…I just needed to let it thrive again. My courage and determination to walk away into the unknown and redesign my own story is a shining example that where there’s a will there’s a way. On the lighter side, I like my pizza thick and layered in meat and cheese (remember, I’m from Chicago). I spent 22 years in the veterinary field, where I brought home WAY too many fur babies. And if I had one thing to bring with me to a desert island, it would be coffee.
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