When it comes to your body image, you are often your own worst critic. You are constantly inundated with images of “perfect” bodies in the media, and this can lead to feelings of insecurity and self-consciousness. But for women who have experienced trauma, these negative feelings can be even more intense. Trauma can cause you to feel like you’re not good enough and that your body is betraying you. This can lead to a lot of negative thoughts and body image issues, which can be very difficult to overcome. If you’re struggling with trauma and body image issues, know that you’re not alone. There is help available, and you can learn to reclaim your body image.

What Is Trauma?

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Trauma is an emotion caused by a dangerous or catastrophic event, like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Shock and denial are typical emotions in the immediate aftermath of the event. However, some people may experience long-term reactions, including unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.

Though it is normal to feel this way after going through a significant traumatic life event(s), some people have difficulty moving on. Psychologists can help them find ways of managing their emotions that are more constructive and allow them to live their lives more fully.

What Are The Main Sources Of Trauma?

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There are many different sources of trauma, but some of the most common include the following:

Violent crimes: Violent crimes are often unexpected and can leave victims feeling scared, helpless, and alone.

Natural disasters: Natural disasters can be hugely destructive and often lead to loss of life or property. They can be especially traumatizing if you’re injured or witness someone being killed.

Sexual assault: Sexual assault is a devastating experience that can leave victims feeling violated, ashamed, and alone.

War: War can be incredibly traumatizing, especially if you’ve witnessed or been a victim of violence.

The death of a loved one: The death of a loved one can be an incredibly painful experience. Grief is a natural response to loss, but for some people, it can be overwhelming and debilitating.

Trauma And Body Image Issues

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Trauma can have a number of negative effects on body image. For many people, the physical changes that occur after a traumatic event can be difficult to accept. Disfigurement, scars, and weight gain or loss can all lead to feelings of insecurity and negative body image.

In addition, people suffering from trauma may experience negative body image. They may start to see their body as something that has betrayed them or let them down. They may feel like they are not good enough, that they don’t deserve to be loved or accepted. These negative beliefs can be very difficult to change.

In later sections, I will discuss ways to deal with trauma, so it doesn’t have such a negative effect on your body image. But first, let’s talk about the different types of trauma.

What Are The Different Types Of Trauma?

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There are three types of trauma—acute, chronic, or complex.

Acute trauma is a single event that caused distress or put you in danger. Acute trauma can include a car accident, a natural disaster, or any other situation that caused you harm.

Chronic trauma refers to repeated exposure to a dangerous or stressful event, such as bullying or domestic violence.

Many people experience complex trauma, which is repeated exposure to events that cause severe distress or fear. This can include sexual abuse, torture, growing up with an angry parent or substance-abusing caretaker, or chronic abandonment.

What Are the Signs Of A Person Suffering From Trauma?

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Trauma comes in many forms, with various causes and symptoms. However, there are some general signs of trauma you can watch out for. People who have been through a traumatic experience will usually seem shaken and confused. They may not participate in conversation like they normally would, often appearing distant or even vacant when speaking.

Some other signs that a person has experienced trauma are anxiety, body dissatisfaction, low-self esteem, restless nights, easily angered, poor focus, and drastic changes in mood. Though these are popular effects of trauma, this list is not all-inclusive.

Different people have different reactions to trauma. In some cases, the effects of trauma may not be immediately apparent, even to close friends and family members. This highlights the importance of talking to someone after a traumatic event has occurred, even if they don’t seem distressed at first. Trauma can manifest itself days, months, or even years later.

Emotional Symptoms Of Trauma

Trauma often manifests as emotion. Some of the more frequent emotional trauma symptoms are denial, anger, sadness, and fits of crying or rage. The emotions can be so overwhelming that individuals will take it out on those closest to them. If you love someone who is a victim of trauma, it may feel like they’re pushing you away when really they just need help understanding and managing their own intense emotions.

Physical Symptoms Of Trauma

Trauma affects us in more ways than one – not just emotionally but physically, too. If you’re wondering whether you or someone close to you is experiencing trauma, some key physical signs to look out for include looking very pale, being excessively tired or lethargic, having difficulty concentrating, having an eating disorder, and feeling like your heart is racing.

The person may also have panic attacks, lose weight, hyper perform or underperform, or feel anxious in certain situations. It’s important to remember that the physical effects of trauma can be just as real and alarming as those caused by a physical injury or illness. So if you’ve been through a traumatic event, it’s vital that you take steps to manage your stress levels afterward.

Effects Of Trauma On Body Image

Short-Term Effects Of Trauma On Body Image

There are a number of short-term effects trauma can have on body image. After a traumatic event, it’s common for people to have distorted body image or feel disconnected from their bodies. This is the brain’s way of protecting itself from further pain by numbing the emotions.

Some other short-term effects include feeling like your body does not belong to you, feeling detached from your emotions, and negative changes in eating or sleeping patterns. All of these can lead to body image concerns.

Long-Term Effects Of Trauma On Body Image

If trauma is not dealt with, the effects can be long-lasting. Some of the more common long-term effects of trauma on body image include feeling ashamed of your body, feeling like your body shape is damaged, and avoiding physical contact.

These effects can be very damaging to a person’s self-esteem and sense of worth. They may also lead to eating disorders, substance abuse, and self-harm. If you’re struggling to cope with the effects of trauma on your body image, it’s important to seek help from a professional.

Ways To Deal With Trauma

A woman smiling at her reflection  in the mirror

Below, I discuss ways you can begin to deal with trauma and develop a positive body image:

1. Accept Support

The initial step to begin recovering from trauma is the want and desire to get better, as well as being willing to ask for help when needed. Your healing process might involve workshopping things alone, or it could be done with the support of others in a group setting or through one-on-one therapy sessions.

You are more likely to recover if you accept help from others. This might come in the form of support from family and friends, a therapist, or a support group. It is important to be open to receiving help from others and understand that they may be able to assist you through this difficult time.

2. Love Yourself For Who You Are

One of the most important steps in healing trauma is to love and accept yourself for who you are. This means being gentle with yourself, forgiving yourself, and having compassion for yourself.

It is so important to remember that you are not your trauma—it does not define you as a person. Your worthiness and value come from within, not from what has happened to you in the past.

3. Give Yourself Time To Heal

The process of healing from trauma can be a long and difficult one, but it is so important to be patient with yourself. Allow yourself the time and space to grieve, heal, and grow. There is no timeline for recovery, so go at your own pace.

4. Practice Self-Care

Self-care can help improve body image. But that’s not all–it feels good, too! To support your healing process, set aside time regularly to do things that feel enjoyable and loving for yourself.

Self-care activities can be straightforward and cost nothing; something as easy as taking a bath or sitting under a weighted blanket could work. It doesn’t matter what you do specifically, so long as you make an effort to care for your own body in ways that make you feel appreciated.

5. Practice Mindfulness Or Meditation

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and accepting things as they are, without judgment.

It can be helpful in managing stress and anxiety by teaching you how to focus on the present moment and reconnecting to your body rather than dwelling on past traumas or worrying about future events.

Meditation is another mindfulness technique that can be used to help calm the mind and ease stress and anxiety. There are many different ways to meditate, so it is important to find a method that works for you.

6. Connect With Others

Isolation and loneliness can make symptoms of trauma worse, so it is important to connect with others who understand what you are going through. Joining a support group or therapy group can be beneficial, as you will be able to share your experiences with others who are going through similar things.

7. Find The Right Help

If you feel like you need additional help to deal with your trauma, there are many different types of therapy and counselors available to assist you. It is important to find a therapist or counselor who you feel comfortable with and who has experience working with clients who have experienced trauma.

Conclusion

If you have experienced trauma, it is so important to be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to heal. Remember that you are not alone in this—there is help available if you need it. Be patient with the process and take care of yourself along the way.

Want to learn more about dealing with trauma in order to develop a positive body image? Sign up for Lesley’s Masterclass here.

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