The Mighty Logo

14 Unexpected Ways Repressed Trauma Can Affect Your Life

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Trauma can affect our lives in ways we don’t always realize or understand, whether it’s avoiding a certain food or getting nervous in the presence of a certain person.

• What is PTSD?

Sometimes, it’s to be expected: we take the time to assess our triggers and actively try to avoid them. Other times, though, it’s harder to pin down what exactly will spur your trauma to resurface. It could be anything in the world, and you may not see it coming.

So, we decided to ask our Mighty community about the ways that trauma can unexpectedly reappear, and how it affects their lives today.

Does repressed trauma still affect you? Click on the photo to answer the question and join the conversation!

What's an unexpected way repressed trauma can resurface and affect your life now? Your answer might be used in a post for The Mighty. #TraumaSurvivors

Join the Conversation

Here are some unexpected ways repressed trauma can affect your life:

1. Feeling Afraid When You Start to Trust Someone

“Every time I become aware that I’m starting to trust/feel close to someone, I start feeling weird and fearful that they’ll turn out to be dangerous/deceptive/abusive whatever, and really question my judgment.” — Harriet L.

2. Experiencing Intrusive Thoughts

“Intrusive thoughts of said trauma. I can be having a great day and something small and insignificant can trigger an intrusive thought of the trauma and throw off my entire day/mood.” — Braelyn S.

3. Parenting Can Feel Triggering

“Being a parent now made me realize how bad my childhood trauma truly was. It’s hard for me to raise my voice at them or discipline them. And as my older son goes through his childhood, triggers come up very randomly that make me realize I suppressed these and locked the doors and buried them in cement so long ago that it’s hard to take them as they come. When it comes to my parenting, lately it’s been very hard to snap myself out of the triggers. And has been throwing me into depression because I do not want my children to suffer the way I was forced too.” — Janell R.

“I was systematically abused for 18 years until I escaped. When I gave birth, everything I experienced came crashing back as though I were living it for the first time. Everything about my little boy and caring for him triggered me, especially his crying. I am in no way out of the woods. The smell of his baby wipes, the sound of his cry, and many more everyday sights, smells and sounds still trigger me to this day. Strange memories or fragments of memories rise up to settle on top of the murky water and threaten to consume me. I am waiting for psychological therapy and just taking it day by day. Being the best mother I can be.” — Jen L.

4. Struggling With Physical Pain

“Physical therapy — body stored memories came out like a vengeance causing for a revisit to the trauma specialist.” — Michelle N.

5. Sounds and Smells Bringing Back Unwanted Memories

“A voice or smell or sound can unknowingly trigger the memory and send you into a full blown panic attack and you don’t even know why….. This has happened a few times to me it took me years to figure our why I was panicking.” — Stephanie R.

“Certain small phrases, one particular way of someone sitting behind me trying to hold me, dreams, and Whoppers candy is probably my worst trigger I don’t stop thinking about it for days afterwards.” — Heather M.G.

6. Unwanted Physical Contact Causing Panic

“Being touched without permission, even by close friends or my partner, is the worst for me — especially when I’ve told them to stop. Sometimes they laugh at me, because they think I’m joking and continue to touch or even tickle me, which makes the feeling of panic/fear even worse. I usually try to escape the situation, but most of them still believe I’m joking and that still touching me, watching me go crazy, get angry and loud, would be fun. It’s horrible and always leaves me feeling anxious and depressed for the rest of the day.” — Sam C.

7. Impacting Your Favorite Things

“Strangely it has impacted my choice of a favorite color, comfort food, my self-confidence… at least it caused me to question my view of reality of these things.” — Nonda N.

8. Having Difficulty Around Couples

“If I see a couple argue even just a tiny bit I immediately assume that their relationship will end. I also panic at any wedding because I think that it won’t last. It’s from both my parents divorcing and being in a relationship that ended horribly.” — Katherine I.K.

9. Engaging in Avoidant Behavior

“Avoidance. After a cancer diagnosis, I went into an extreme panic that lasted for hours, having cancer you’d think I’d go to a doctor for peace of mind that I’m healthy but instead I avoid the doctor because getting that diagnosis was so traumatic.” — Christena A.

10. Experiencing Psychosis

“When my life finally caught up with me truly, I went into a very vivid, very believable [series of] psychotic episodes. Took months for anyone to figure out what was actually going on. My mind created horrific things out of combing things from my past into a very real seeming false reality. Medication has fixed that particular problem, but the trauma of that period so severely destabilized my mind not even my psychiatrist it counselor thinks I will see a huge amount of improvement.” — Si N.

11. Living in a State of Hypervigilance

“Hypervigilance and dissociation/derealization. The hypervigilance takes up so much of your energy, and the dissociation can make you ‘spaced-out’ and lethargic. The hypervigilance tends to lead to sensory overload too which can make being in public pretty much unbearable.” — Lucy E.

12. Struggling in Forming New Relationships

“When someone behaves similarly. Especially with childhood trauma. Sometimes if I meet someone who exhibits similar personality traits, says similar phrases, or even smells the same, it can bring up PTSD symptoms out of nowhere. Even if the new person hasn’t done anything harmful. It can be a challenge in forming new relationships, not to let old trauma influence my opinion of people unjustly.” — Clara S.

13. Having Nightmares

“Little things coming up in my nightmares. Like, it’s not the entire traumatic event, but it’s just a part of it, and it involves a totally different person this time. So, I wake up, having flashbacks, and now scared of the person from my nightmares. This happened recently, and I had the nightmare about my doctor. Now I’m too scared to go to the doctor’s office, and his wife is my professor, so class is super hard.” — Kaitlyn R.

14. Isolating from Others

“I get distant from everyone, even my kids. I love them and am there for them 100 percent, but I tend to get a little standoffish. I’m trying to work on it but sometimes I just really need to be alone.” — Shayla F.

Everyone heals from trauma at their own rate, and it’s a difficult thing to do. If any of these resonate with you, know that you’re not alone. Whether you have nightmares, or you cringe when you’re touched without your consent, everything you feel is OK and valid, and you will heal at your own rate.

Can you relate?

Originally published: February 15, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home