Hidden Struggles: The Physical Effects of PTSD

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly called PTSD, is not just confined to the mind; it can also deeply impact the body. When someone goes through a traumatic experience, like an accident, abuse, or combat, it can trigger a range of physical reactions.

The connection between trauma and addiction further highlights the relationship between mental distress and its impact on physical well-being. These effects are not always apparent, but they have a critical role in the overall well-being of an individual.

In this article, we’ll delve into the physical effects of PTSD – how it affects the body, from sleep disturbances to changes in metabolism. So, let’s uncover the hidden struggles that those with PTSD face beyond what meets the eye.

Key Takeaways

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects the mind and body, leading to various physical symptoms and reactions. This article will tell you:

  • PTSD can cause sleep disturbances, including nightmares and insomnia, worsening mental and physical health.
  • PTSD can lead to gastrointestinal problems like stomach aches and impact cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of heart-related issues.
  • PTSD’s effects can extend beyond the immediate aftermath, affecting the immune system, contributing to obesity, and potentially leading to substance abuse.
  • Effective treatment for PTSD involves Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

The Recovery Team uses trauma-informed addiction care to help you meet your sobriety goals. Reach out today at (800) 817-1247 and start your journey toward healing.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Defined

Post-traumatic stress disorder, often called PTSD, is a disorder triggered by a shocking, scary, traumatic event. Their mind and body remember the event too strongly, making them feel upset and stressed, even when it is over. It’s not just feeling worried – it’s bigger than that.

People with PTSD might have trouble sleeping, get scared easily, and often feel nervous. This happens because their mind and body are trying to cope with what happened. Understanding PTSD is vital to help those who have it.

Echoes of Trauma: Unveiling the Causes of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder happens when someone goes through something very scary or dangerous. This can be different for each person, but some common causes are:

  • Bad Accidents: Like car crashes or big falls that hurt them badly.
  • Fights and Attacks: When someone hurts or threatens them.
  • Natural Disasters: Like earthquakes, floods, or big storms that cause severe damage.
  • War and Combat: Veterans who see or experience scary things in battle.
  • Serious Illness: When someone gets very sick and must stay in the hospital.
  • Abuse: When someone suffered sexual abuse, physical abuse, or hurt by others, like in families or relationships.
  • Terrifying Events: Any event that makes someone feel really scared and unsafe.

When these things happen, the brain and body can’t forget them easily. They keep thinking about the scary event, even when it’s over. This can lead to strong feelings of stress and fear. Their mind tries to protect them from similar situations, but it can be hard for them to feel safe again.

Hidden Wounds: Diagnosing PTSD

To diagnose PTSD, doctors ask questions about the event and how it’s making them feel. Doctors use the diagnostic manual known as DSM-5 to diagnose PTSD. The DSM-5 outlines symptoms such as recurrent flashbacks or nightmares about the traumatic event, intense reactions to situations that trigger memories of the event, and persistent negative beliefs about oneself.

Be honest about your feelings and thoughts. You cannot receive help if you lie about your symptoms. Sometimes, the doctor might talk with others who know the person well, like family or friends, to get a better picture. Diagnosing PTSD is the first step toward getting better and finding ways to feel safe and calm again.

Beyond Psychological: Exploring the Physical Signs of PTSD

When someone goes through post-traumatic stress disorder, it can affect their mental and physical health. Post-traumatic stress disorder brings about a range of physical symptoms that can significantly impact a person’s life. Let’s explore some specific ways traumatic events manifest as physical symptoms.

Sleep Disturbances

One of the effects of PTSD is trouble sleeping. Traumatic events can cause nightmares that replay the terrifying event, making it difficult for individuals to rest peacefully at night. They might experience constant tossing and turning, which leads to a lack of sleep.

This can further worsen their mental and physical health, as sleep is essential for recovery and overall well-being. In addition to nightmares, individuals might also have uncontrollable thoughts, preventing their minds from relaxing.

Gastrointestinal Problems

PTSD symptoms can extend to the body’s digestive system. People with PTSD might experience stomach aches, diarrhea, or nausea. The link between stress and gut health is strong because the stress caused by trauma can disrupt the balance in the gastrointestinal tract. It’s like the body is reacting to the traumatic stress physically.

Cardiovascular Issues

The impact of trauma isn’t limited to mental and emotional distress; it can also affect the heart. The “fight or flight” response triggered by traumatic events can lead to a rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure.

Over time, these cardiovascular changes can put individuals at greater risk for developing cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks or hypertension. This danger to physical health is one of the hidden risks of PTSD that isn’t immediately apparent.

Prolonged Toll of Trauma: Long-Term Effects of PTSD

As we uncover the physical impacts of PTSD, it’s important to recognize that these effects can extend far beyond the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. The lasting consequences of trauma on the body and overall health are essential to understanding the full spectrum of PTSD. Let’s delve into some of the long-term effects that can result from living with this condition.

PTSD and the Immune System

There is a concerning link between PTSD and the immune system. When a person experiences trauma, their body’s natural defense system may be compromised, making them more vulnerable to illnesses.

This weakened immune response can lead to more frequent infections and illnesses, impacting the individual’s physical health. The stress and anxiety caused by the traumatic event can disrupt the immune system’s balance, showing how closely intertwined psychological and physical health is.

PTSD and Obesity

Obesity, which refers to being very overweight, can become a long-term issue for individuals with PTSD. Managing the aftermath of a traumatic event may lead to unhealthy eating habits, causing weight gain.

The body’s stress response can also contribute to weight gain, as it might affect the metabolism and how the body stores fat. This connection between PTSD and obesity emphasizes the complex mental and physical well-being relationship.

PTSD and Substance Abuse

Abusing drugs or alcohol is another potential long-term effect of PTSD. Some individuals might turn to substances like alcohol to cope with the distressing memories and emotions tied to their traumatic experiences. Combat veterans have a high rate of substance abuse and addiction due to the lack of resources.

PTSD and alcohol abuse in veterans can lead to a dangerous cycle where drug use worsens mental and physical health issues. It’s crucial to address this pattern’s psychological and physical aspects in veterans to promote lasting recovery.

Unburdening the Mind: Treatment for PTSD

Finding ways to heal from the physical and mental effects of PTSD is crucial for those who have experienced trauma. Various treatment options are available to help individuals regain their well-being and work towards a healthier life.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, often called CBT, is commonly used to treat PTSD. It helps people change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. They learn new ways to manage stress and fear in therapy sessions. For example, if someone is scared of driving after a car accident, CBT can teach them how to feel more comfortable over time.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a revolutionary trauma treatment. During EMDR, the person talks about their traumatic memories while following a moving object or listening to sounds. This might sound strange, but it can help the brain relax and process memories so they don’t become intrusive in daily life.


Sometimes, doctors might suggest medication to help manage PTSD symptoms. These medications can help with mood swings, anxiety, and sleep problems. Working closely with a doctor is important to find the proper medication and dose for each patient.


Taking care of oneself is a key part of healing. Engaging in self-care activities like exercise, spending time with loved ones, and learning relaxation techniques can greatly improve well-being. Recognizing triggers and avoiding situations that worsen symptoms is also part of self-care.

Treatment for PTSD often involves a holistic approach, considering both the mental and physical aspects of the condition. Individuals need to work with healthcare professionals to find the right combination of treatments that suit their needs. While treatment can take time and effort, it’s a vital step towards healing from the trauma and regaining control over one’s life.

What physical conditions are more common in those living with PTSD?

People with PTSD often experience physical conditions like headaches, stomach problems, and fatigue. These issues occur due to stress. Additionally, sleep troubles are common, leading to more health problems. Thus, PTSD can affect the mind and body, causing various discomforts.

What body systems are affected by PTSD?

PTSD affects several body systems. The nervous system gets disrupted, causing anxiety and jumpiness. Sleep problems affect the rest of the body. Digestive issues, like stomach aches, happen due to stress. Overall, PTSD impacts the body’s balance and well-being, leading to various troubles.

How does PTSD affect the body's normal functioning?

PTSD can make you anxious and jumpy due to the nervous system’s changes. Sleep problems arise, affecting rest. Digestive issues, like stomach aches, are linked to stress. Overall, PTSD disturbs the body’s balance and well-being, leading to various troubles.

Rise Above Trauma: The Recovery Team

If you or someone you know is dealing with the physical and emotional impacts of PTSD, consider reaching out for expert help. The Recovery Team offers a range of services designed to address the unique needs of individuals facing trauma-related challenges.

Our veterans program is tailored to provide specialized support for those who have served in the military. Individual therapy is a cornerstone of our approach, providing personalized sessions that delve into each individual’s specific needs and concerns. Participating in our group therapy sessions can be immensely beneficial, connecting individuals with peers with similar experiences.

Keep in mind seeking help is a sign of strength, and with the help of the trauma program, our team can aid in addressing both mental and physical repercussions effectively. Contact us at (800) 817-1247 today to take the first step towards reclaiming control over your life.