Can Trauma Come Back? – How to Get Over Past Trauma

Dealing with trauma can, for many people, be a lifelong process. Many people do not ever really “get over” trauma. However, with care and support, many patients who have experienced immense trauma can move forward with healing and greater overall health. 

What is Trauma?

Trauma is the emotional reaction and aftermath of a distressing event or events. Trauma can cause people to react in unexpected ways, even to expected or prepared stimuli. Trauma can interfere with a person’s overall sense of security and safety, even among people that the individual considers “safe,” and may lead to more difficulty in relationships or managing emotions. 

Types of Trauma

Typically, trauma gets divided into three key categories. 

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma occurs as a response to a single traumatic event 1 Traumatic events can vary, since one person’s definition of a difficult or traumatic incident may look very different from someone else’s. Acute trauma could involve a car accident, seeing someone harmed in public, or something complex and damaging, like a natural disaster or war crime. Acute trauma can also occur due to individual experiences, including an attack, sexual harm, or losing a loved one suddenly.

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma occurs when the individual suffers from ongoing exposure to potentially traumatizing events. Abuse and domestic violence, for example, may place many people into chronically stressful situations, leading to extreme trauma and stress response. Chronic trauma may also be present in some members of the armed forces, who may face a significant number of ongoing traumatic events throughout their careers.

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma occurs when the trauma results from multiple traumatic events. Sometimes, those events are very personal: for example, a person who has been in multiple car accidents, who has seen numerous battles as a member of the armed forces, or who has worked in a profession that leads to a high degree of trauma.  Complex trauma can also result when a patient faces numerous potentially damaging situations, including losing multiple loved ones in devastating ways or suffering through significant natural disasters.2 Dealing with chronic trauma may involve more significant case management and support, since treatment may need to address all underlying causes of trauma. 

Signs Patients May Need Help with Past Trauma

Often, people do not recognize the full impact of past trauma when it first occurs. Instead, they may notice symptoms that crop up weeks, months, or even years later. In some cases, individuals who suffered significant trauma years ago may find themselves dealing with serious emotional strain. Patients who find themselves dealing with some of these common issues may need to process past trauma.

1. Physical Symptoms

Some patients will suffer from somatic issues related to trauma. For example, they may suffer from more headaches, stomachaches, and other ongoing symptoms. Patients with PTSD have higher rates of cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and neurological symptoms than patients who do not suffer from those trauma-related symptoms.3 While any physical symptoms warrant a check from a doctor, patients may discover that many of those physical symptoms result, not from an underlying health condition, but from past trauma.

2. Minimizing Emotion

Many patients who have experienced significant trauma will choose to minimize their emotions, rather than healthily express them. They may repress emotions, refuse to cry, or refuse to talk about uncomfortable or emotional topics. Many patients dealing with trauma will struggle to deal with any type of emotion and may try to "get rid" of those feelings by pushing them aside or failing to address them.

3. Anger

While some patients will minimize emotion after significant trauma, others may suffer from significant anger. Anger can be triggered by things related to that past trauma or may seem entirely unrelated. In many cases, patients may find themselves raging over seemingly minor stimuli. Anger usually acts to cover up other emotions, which means that patients who have suffered trauma and find themselves dealing with significant anger may need to consult a professional to help them work through that trauma.

4. Irritability

While some patients will express considerable anger related to trauma, others may simply show signs of irritability. Many patients will find it difficult to deal with minor issues or inconveniences. They may snap at friends and loved ones regularly or have a hard time dealing with challenges in everyday life.

5. Anxiety

Often, patients who have suffered significant trauma will show a high level of anxiety.4 Trauma often increases overall anxiety rates, including anxiety about seemingly unrelated things. Anxiety may also go up in response to potential trauma triggers or due to periods of stress, which may take the patient's mind back to the original trauma.

6. Depression

Many patients may struggle with depression related to trauma. Depression may have several common symptoms, including struggling to find enjoyment in tasks that the patient once enjoyed. Depression may cause changes in sleep patterns, including both sleeping excessively and insomnia. Furthermore, patients with depression may suffer from low energy levels.

7. Avoidance

Many patients who have suffered significant trauma will avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Sometimes, this avoidance may seem subtle: for example, the patient may avoid going to the place where a traumatic event occurred. In other cases, avoidance may become much more extreme, as patients avoid activities that have a risk of reminding them of past traumatic events. Avoidance can start to creep into many areas of everyday life.

8. Obsessive Behaviors

Often, patients who have suffered from trauma will engage in obsessive behaviors that make them feel safer or in control. For example, after a car accident, a patient might check their seatbelt multiple times before turning the vehicle on. Obsessive behaviors can quickly detract from everyday enjoyment of life and make it more difficult for many patients to function in a variety of situations.

9. Using Drugs and Alcohol

Many patients who have suffered severe trauma, or who have unresolved past trauma in their lives, will turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with those emotions. Many patients do not realize how far the addiction has gone until they start to think about quitting or begin to recognize signs of addiction. In many cases, patients with a significant trauma history will fall into addiction, which may further complicate the recovery process.

How to Heal Past Trauma

Many strategies can go into healing past trauma. A qualified mental health professional can help many patients learn how to cope with past trauma and move forward to better overall care. Trauma recovery is essential to living a happy and healthy life. People who have experienced trauma should consider working with a mental health provider to determine a course of treatment that is effective and feels safe. 

The healing process looks different for everyone when processing their traumatic experiences. Working with a trauma therapist can help patients reframe their thoughts and feelings around the trauma. Healthy coping skills are an important part of trauma recovery. 

Exercise 5

Exercise can have a substantial impact on the symptoms of PTSD and other trauma-related challenges. Mixed types of exercise, including both resistance training and cardio, seem to have the best overall effect on the trauma response and its associated symptoms. Regular exercise often becomes a critical part of self-care for patients who are dealing with and recovering from that trauma.

Adequate rest

Sleep can be hard to come by for patients suffering from significant trauma. However, getting adequate rest can prove essential to overall health and healing. The mind, like the body, needs rest to recover. Patients struggling to heal from trauma may benefit from making sure that they get adequate sleep at night as well as ensuring that they get plenty of rest during the day, including downtime for the mind to heal.

Hobbies and activities

In many cases, patients with significant trauma-related responses will withdraw from the activities they enjoyed before the traumatic incident. Getting involved in those hobbies again, or finding new ones to take their place in cases where those past activities might prove triggering, can help many patients focus on something outside of the trauma and achieve healing.

Social interaction

Having someone to talk to, including talk therapy, can make a big difference when recovering from trauma. Friends and family members might not know what to say or might not feel comfortable talking about trauma at first. However, as patients work through trauma, they may find it beneficial to spend more time with friends and loved ones.


Keeping a journal can help many patients suffering from significant trauma deal with the issues they may find themselves facing. Journaling can cover a variety of things: evaluating the source of the trauma and the challenges the patient faces on the road to recovery as well as taking a look at good things that have happened or steps toward healing. A journal can also help many patients track symptoms or see signs of recovery.

Healthy boundaries

Many people do not think of boundaries as a form of self-care. However, when recovering from trauma, it can be essential to set clear boundaries that govern what patients will and will not do and even who they may welcome into their lives during the recovery process. Setting boundaries can also help patients think about the challenges they may be facing, which can ease the road to recovery.

Practicing self-compassion

Patients who have suffered severe trauma may suffer from high levels of guilt that can make normal interactions very difficult. They may also struggle to forgive themselves for their actions after a traumatic event or to cut themselves slack when difficult moments do arise. Practicing self-compassion, including the patient giving themselves the same level of compassion and understanding they would give someone else under similar circumstances, can make it easier to cope with many of those issues.

Self-care after trauma can help ease the process of recovery.

EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, therapy can go a long way toward helping many patients cope with significant trauma and its aftermath. EMDR encourages patients to focus on specific objects, sounds, or touches while processing traumatic events and memories. Throughout the therapy process, therapists will encourage patients to focus on positive thoughts and associations, rather than constantly going back to those traumatic memories. Often, through EMDR therapy, patients can see significant improvement in a variety of trauma-related symptoms, including PTSD, anxiety, and more.6 

Mindfulness-Based Therapy

Mindfulness is often critical for patients suffering from a high degree of trauma. Often, patients suffering from trauma-related responses or PTSD try to avoid processing those feelings, memories, and issues for as long as possible. Often, they may note rising symptoms, but end up repressing them or trying to push them down and ignore them. However, mindfulness can prove essential in managing those symptoms and seeking more positive outcomes. 

Mindfulness therapy may involve:

Staying in the moment, even when it can prove difficult. Mindfulness may mean remaining aware of the current moment and current needs, even though it can feel easier to ignore those needs or focus on past or future events. 

Taking time out to pay attention. Patients with trauma may need to listen to their body’s physical and mental cues, note things that have a higher risk of causing a trauma response, and learn how to work through those moments and memories. That may involve, for example, simply taking the time out to question responses and listen to what the body might be saying at that moment. 

Meditating. Meditation offers several strategies that can help calm the mind and provide a greater overall awareness of the individual’s needs, responses, and more.

Accepting things and people for who and what they are. Mindfulness includes accepting one’s self as well as accepting that others are who they are, and are unlikely to change. 

Breathing. Sometimes, mindfulness is as simple as taking a moment to slow down and breathe.

Unplugging. In many cases, people suffering from depression, anxiety, or trauma will stay very “plugged in” to social media, games, and phones. Constant busyness often gets used as a coping mechanism. However, mindfulness means unplugging and taking time to genuinely connect with the world as it is.

Mindfulness can help patients recognize the impact of trauma in their lives, consider their reactions, and process those concerns.

Family Therapy

In many cases, the entire family suffers a significant impact from a trauma-related event. Sometimes, family members will struggle to process those events together. In other cases, when a single family member suffers from trauma, that family member may try to isolate themselves, shutting out members of the family to “protect” or “shield” them from that potentially devastating aftermath. 

In many cases, that can lead to broken relationships and increased struggles. Family therapy can help restore those relationships and give family members the tools and strategies needed to help process many of those struggles.

Holistic Therapy

Holistic therapy takes a mind-and-body approach to heal from trauma, addiction, and more. Yoga therapy, for example, may help a patient focus on their body and its responses. Holistic therapy may also involve taking an approach to healing that incorporates diet, exercise, and other key elements designed to help bolster overall healing, improve trauma responses, and lead to better overall outcomes. 

Trauma-Informed Therapy in Los Angeles

At No Matter What Recovery, patients will find sober living options and support, EMDR therapy options, and more. In many cases, going through recovery and therapy in a healing, supportive environment can make a huge difference for patients suffering from the aftereffects of a traumatic event. 

Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of our services.


  1. Fanai, M., & Khan, M. A. B. (2022). Acute Stress Disorder. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32809650/
  2. Briere, J., & Scott, C. (2015). Complex Trauma in Adolescents and Adults: Effects and Treatment. The Psychiatric clinics of North America, 38(3), 515–527. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2015.05.004
  3. McFarlane, A. C., Atchison, M., Rafalowicz, E., & Papay, P. (1994). Physical symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of psychosomatic research, 38(7), 715–726. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-3999(94)90024-8
  4.  Laugharne, J., Lillee, A., & Janca, A. (2010). Role of psychological trauma in the cause and treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders. Current opinion in psychiatry, 23(1), 25–29. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0b013e3283345dc5
  5. Jadhakhan, F., Lambert, N., Middlebrook, N., Evans, D. W., & Falla, D. (2022). Is exercise/physical activity effective at reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in adults – A systematic review. Frontiers in psychology, 13, 943479. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.943479
  6. Novo Navarro, P., Landin-Romero, R., Guardiola-Wanden-Berghe, R., Moreno-Alcázar, A., Valiente-Gómez, A., Lupo, W., García, F., Fernández, I., Pérez, V., & Amann, B. L. (2018). 25 years of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): The EMDR therapy protocol, hypotheses of its mechanism of action and a systematic review of its efficacy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. 25 años de Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: protocolo de aplicación, hipótesis de funcionamiento y revisión sistemática de su eficacia en el trastorno por estrés postraumático. Revista de psiquiatria y salud mental, 11(2), 101–114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rpsm.2015.12.002