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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Barsky

How are Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Pain Related to Trauma?

Perhaps you’ve been living with chronic fatigue for years. You’re not sure what could have caused it. It didn’t start with an illness or injury. Maybe you’ve even asked several doctors for their opinion, but they can’t seem to give you any good answers.

Alternatively, you might struggle with chronic pain. Your joints and muscles ache day in and day out, or you might suffer from headaches and stomachaches. Despite these rough symptoms, you can’t seem to pinpoint the root cause of your pain.

Chronic fatigue and chronic pain can both be linked to unhealed trauma. Here’s why trauma can cause fatigue and long-lasting physical pain.

Reliving the Event

After going through trauma, you might be prone to reliving the event over and over again in your head. Your brain and body continue to re-experience the trauma. When you’re envisioning a particular event in your mind, your body can react as though it’s actually happening. This can easily lead to exhaustion and even physical pain.

Long-Term Response to Stress

When your body and brain constantly feel you’re under threat, it can actually weaken your response to stress in the long-term. It’s true that overcoming challenges can strengthen your resilience. But healing from trauma can be a different story.

If you’ve lived through trauma, it can be harder for you to respond to stress healthily. Instead, dealing with even minor stresses can become overwhelming. Therefore, tackling the challenges that can crop up in daily life feels much more difficult. This leaves you feeling exhausted and uncomfortable.

It “Rewires” the Brain

In a sense, trauma can rewire your brain. Your body and brain are intrinsically connected—this is often referred to as the “mind-body connection.” And if trauma can affect your brain, it can affect your body in turn.

Trauma can change the way you process events in your daily life. You might feel trapped by what happened, and the way you react to different events is colored by your experience of trauma. It can be easy to assume that people have bad intentions, or that trying to move forward will only result in getting hurt again.

When potential threats feel relentless, it’s no wonder you feel fatigued and struggle with pain.

Reactive Nervous System

You may have heard that trauma is stored in the body. This is because trauma can affect the way your nervous system functions. Suddenly, your nervous system can feel hyper-reactive. You might feel you need to be extremely vigilant to stay aware of potential threats.

You always have your guard up, and you never really have a chance to relax. Because of this, it can feel like all of your systems are in overdrive. By the end of the day, you’re basically running on empty. Even attempting small tasks feels like too much, and every ache and pain can be magnified.

Physical Inflammation

Living through trauma can lead to chronic stress. And chronic stress can result in low-level inflammation all over your body. Mild inflammation is a protective mechanism against injuries and illnesses.

But chronic inflammation raises your risk of lots of health conditions, and it can also cause you to feel sluggish, achey, or even anxious and depressed. Inflammation can influence both your physical and mental health. This condition can easily play a role in both chronic fatigue and chronic pain, and it can definitely be linked to trauma.

Do you suspect you are struggling with chronic fatigue or pain because of unhealed trauma? Therapy can help. Reach out to me today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.

For more information on trauma treatment, click the link!


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