What Happens When Trauma Is Left Untreated?

Trauma, in its many forms, leaves an indelible mark on individuals, seeping into the very fabric of their being. When left unaddressed, its repercussions extend far beyond the initial event, impacting biological and psychological realms alike. Recent findings suggest processing trauma immediately is not only effective but prevents the symptoms of trauma from becoming unmanageable and intensive. Understanding the intricate interplay between trauma and its aftermath is crucial in unravelling its enduring effects on thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Biological Impact

Biologically, trauma triggers a cascade of physiological responses, initiating the body’s stress response system. The amygdala, the brain’s emotional centre, becomes hyperactive, heightening vigilance and arousal in anticipation of danger. Concurrently, the hypothalamus signals the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, preparing the body for fight, flight, or freeze responses.

Over time, chronic activation of the stress response system takes a toll on the body, leading to dysregulation of various physiological processes. Research indicates that prolonged exposure to stress hormones can disrupt neuroendocrine function, impair immune responses, and contribute to the development of chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and gastrointestinal issues [ref.1]. Furthermore, trauma-induced alterations in brain structure and function, particularly within regions responsible for emotion regulation and executive functioning, may predispose individuals to mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety [ref. 2].

Psychological Impact

Psychologically, untreated trauma permeates every facet of an individual’s inner landscape, shaping their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in profound ways. At the core lies a shattered sense of safety and trust, as the world is perceived as inherently threatening and unpredictable. Intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares serve as relentless reminders of past traumas, perpetuating a cycle of distress and avoidance.

Emotionally, untreated trauma breeds a tangled web of intense and often conflicting feelings. Survivors may oscillate between numbness and hyperarousal, oscillating between emotional numbness and overwhelming waves of emotion. Suppressing or dissociating from painful emotions becomes a coping mechanism, albeit a maladaptive one, as unprocessed trauma festers beneath the surface, exerting its influence over time.

Moreover, untreated trauma can distort your self-perception, fostering feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness. Survivors may internalize blame for the traumatic events, believing themselves to be fundamentally flawed or deserving of their suffering. This toxic self-narrative permeates every aspect of their lives, undermining self-esteem and hindering the pursuit of meaningful goals.

Behavioural Impact

Behaviourally, untreated trauma manifests in a myriad of maladaptive coping strategies aimed at numbing emotional pain and avoiding triggers. Substance abuse, self-harm, and disordered eating patterns may offer temporary respite from overwhelming emotions, yet ultimately exacerbate the cycle of suffering. Similarly, interpersonal relationships often bear the brunt of unresolved trauma, as survivors struggle to trust others and establish healthy boundaries.

Furthermore, untreated trauma can disrupt patterns of sleep and arousal, leading to insomnia, nightmares, and hypervigilance. The body remains in a perpetual state of alertness, unable to find respite even in moments of rest. Consequently, fatigue and exhaustion become constant companions, further undermining one’s ability to cope with daily stressors.

In essence, the consequences of untreated trauma reverberate far beyond the confines of the initial event, permeating every aspect of an individual’s existence. From the biological upheaval wrought upon the body to the intricate tapestry of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours woven within the psyche, trauma leaves an enduring imprint that cannot be ignored.


Addressing untreated trauma requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses both biological and psychological dimensions. Therapeutic interventions such as trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT), eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), and somatic experiencing aim to process traumatic memories, regulate emotional responses, and restore a sense of safety and empowerment [ref.3]. In addiction EFT (emotional freedom technique) and Hypnotherapy may also alleviate the intensity of recurring feelings and thoughts.

Fostering a supportive environment characterised by empathy, validation, and unconditional positive regard is paramount in facilitating healing. Whether through individual therapy, coaching, support groups, or holistic modalities such as mindfulness, yoga, and expressive arts, survivors of trauma can find solace in connection and community.

Ultimately, by shining a light on the unseen impact of untreated trauma, we can cultivate a greater understanding and compassion for those grappling with its enduring effects. Together, we can create a world where survivors feel seen, heard, and empowered to embark on the journey of healing and transformation.

Hi! I’m Roksana. I’m a life coach for women in St Albans, Hertfordshire. I run face to face and online sessions via Zoom. I also specialise in trauma healing. I’m always happy to answer your questions around any of my methods or approaches. Long term changes begin with a guide who has walked a similar path, has a blueprint, will give you support and accountability every step of the way. If you’re interested to know more then please book a FREE call with me.


  1. McEwen, B. S. (2007). Physiology and neurobiology of stress and adaptation: Central role of the brain. Physiological reviews, 87(3), 873-904. [https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00041.2006]
  2. Shin, L. M., & Liberzon, I. (2010). The neurocircuitry of fear, stress, and anxiety disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35(1), 169-191. [https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2009.83]
  3. Bisson, J. I., Ehlers, A., Matthews, R., Pilling, S., Richards, D., & Turner, S. (2007). Psychological treatments for chronic post‐traumatic stress disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 190(2), 97-104. [https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.106.021402]

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