What is Unresolved Trauma

What is Unresolved Trauma?

by Eduardo Reyes
Published: Updated:

How Unaddressed Trauma and PTSD Can Disrupt Daily Life

After resolving trauma, people experience a reduction in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or trauma symptoms, leading to greater ease in day-to-day life. Even if some symptoms or triggers emerge from time to time, they’re more manageable, operate at a lower level than they did before, and no longer severely disrupt your daily life, functioning, or how you feel about yourself, others, and the world.

What about unresolved trauma, though? How do you know if you have unresolved trauma, and what are the ways it can affect your life?

Sometimes, trauma survivors start to see PTSD symptoms as an inescapable part of life. If you’ve been living with unresolved trauma symptoms for a long time, you might not even identify them as a result of trauma or believe that you can get relief from your symptoms.

The reality is that your symptoms are not inescapable. It’s possible to work through unresolved trauma, and treatment can help. Life often feels significantly easier after trauma treatment, and it can give you the tools necessary for challenges that emerge along the way.

So, what should you know? Let’s talk about what unresolved trauma is, how to detect it, and its effects first. Then, we’ll discuss how trauma treatment can help you address unresolved trauma for a better quality of life.

Confidential Trauma and PTSD Assessment

What is Unresolved Trauma?

Unresolved trauma refers to trauma that has not yet been fully addressed. Sometimes, unresolved traumas may not have been addressed at all; a person may not have had access to therapy when they first needed it, for example.

Other times, a person with unresolved trauma will have been to therapy, taken medication, or tried other treatments, but they still have a way to go in their healing journey. Every step is something to be proud of.

Unresolved trauma is not a value judgment, nor does it mean that a person hasn’t worked hard to get to where they are right now. Trauma survivors frequently face significant adversity, and overcoming unresolved traumas takes time. There are usually “layers” to healing from trauma, so to speak. You may have worked through certain effects and challenges but have others to address now.

Often, you’ll be able to tell that trauma has not yet been resolved when it still impacts your daily life, perspective, or mental well-being negatively. For example, unresolved trauma may present in the form of extreme anxiety, PTSD symptoms, trust issues, or challenges at work, school, and in interpersonal relationships.

Physical and Psychological Effects of Unresolved Trauma

Psychological Effects of Unresolved Trauma

Any type of traumatic experience or event can lead to unresolved trauma. Physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse, betrayal trauma, natural disasters, and neglect are just some examples of traumatic experiences that could lead to lasting consequences.

While you might have family members or even a spouse or partner who says, “Why are you still dealing with that? Why is that coming up now?” or “Leave the past in the past,” it doesn’t work that way. Addressing these consequences takes marked effort; many effects of trauma, especially in those with trauma disorders, don’t go away on their own.

Sometimes, the impacts of trauma will relate to the event itself. For example, a car accident could lead to the fear of another accident. However, this isn’t always the case. Some people have physical and emotional responses that seem entirely or partially unrelated.

Regardless of the traumatic event or events you’ve endured, here are some common effects of unresolved trauma.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Not everyone who goes through traumatic experiences will develop PTSD, but PTSD is considered a very common disorder. Anyone who has endured, witnessed, or come in close contact with one or more traumatic events can develop the condition. Everyone experiences PTSD symptoms differently.

Catalina Behavioral Health can assess for PTSD and other mental health concerns before your treatment start date to ensure that the mental health professionals you work with in our programs can help you most effectively.

PTSD symptoms can include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Avoidance symptoms (e.g., avoiding memories or reminders of an event).
  • Difficult emotions like anger, guilt, shame, or self-blame.
  • Trouble feeling positive emotions, like happiness or joy.
  • Social isolation or withdrawal from others.
  • Trouble in interpersonal relationships.
  • Insomnia.
  • Disruption in mood.
  • Distressing nightmares.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Hypervigilance.
  • Getting startled easily.
  • Feeling anxious or on edge.
  • Dissociation.

All unresolved trauma symptoms can interfere with all aspects of your daily life. As just one small example, sleep problems can cause daytime fatigue, which can make it hard to get through the work day, impact driving safety, and cause new or worsened physical health issues.

Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)

Certain events can be correlated with something a disorder called Complex PTSD, which can cause additional symptoms, like increased difficulty with emotion regulation and relationships. C-PTSD is caused by ongoing traumatic events. For example, people with early childhood trauma may have experienced prolonged abuse or neglect, which are both common causes of C-PTSD.

Other Mental Health Symptoms

Mental Health Symptoms

In addition to PTSD and C-PTSD, other mental health conditions and symptoms are more common in those who have endured traumatic events. For example, depression, eating disorders, high anxiety levels, and substance abuse all have a high co-occurrence with trauma and PTSD.

Physical Symptoms of Trauma

Addressing trauma and other mental health concerns, like anxiety or stress, can help alleviate physical symptoms in some cases. Research shows us that having gone through traumatic events and other psychological factors can have physical health effects, hence the mind-body connection coming up often in popular literature surrounding trauma and mental health.

Body aches and muscle tension, high blood pressure, headaches, trouble sleeping, chronic pain, and TMJ disorder (TMD) are some examples of physical health concerns correlated with trauma and anxiety. Stress management or reduction is a big part of managing many health conditions, and it is a part of most successful treatment programs, including the cutting-edge offerings at Catalina Behavioral Health.

Can You Have Unresolved Trauma Without Knowing It?

Unresolved trauma isn’t always obvious. Sometimes, people don’t realize that they have unresolved trauma. Maybe, you’ve been to therapy before, or so much time has passed since a traumatic event that you think, “Well, I must be past it.”

Having talked about trauma doesn’t always mean that you’ve addressed it. Trauma survivors usually have a high level of resilience because they have to; you might be able to talk about the details, but you might not have really thought about the lasting effects trauma has had on you.

Unresolved trauma can be particularly common in people who went through childhood or developmental trauma. For example, childhood sexual abuse survivors often have a high level of symptomology in adulthood.

How Treatment for Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma Can Help

Treatment for Symptoms of Unresolved Trauma

Whether you’ve worked with a mental health professional before or have never been able to access help in the past, Catalina Behavioral Health’s comprehensive trauma treatment programs are an excellent way to overcome unresolved trauma.

Our mental health professionals use the most research-backed forms of trauma therapy alongside a range of additional treatments that will support your well-being and personal development.

We believe in a whole-person approach to trauma, mental health, and addiction treatment. Here are some of the offerings at Catalina Behavioral Health and what to expect.

Get Effective Trauma Treatment Options

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Catalina Behavioral Health

Trauma can be a risk factor for substance use disorders. In the case that you live with addiction and any co-occurring mental health concern(s), including trauma, our dual diagnosis programs will be the best fit. It’s recommended that addiction and other mental health concerns are treated comprehensively when a person has both for the most positive treatment outcomes.

If you experience drug or alcohol addiction and have a history of trauma, we’ll address all of the above from a trauma-informed perspective.

Catalina Offers Standalone Mental Health Treatment

Catalina Behavioral Health doesn’t treat addiction and dual-diagnosis disorders alone. We also have treatment programs for standalone mental health concerns. In other words, we have programs for addiction but also offer programs that help with mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, or PTSD that don’t co-occur with substance abuse.

Whether you need help with PTSD, C-PTSD, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, or another condition we work with, Catalina Behavioral Health is here for you.

Evidence-Based Treatments and Trauma Therapies

Evidence-Based Treatments

There are many different forms of trauma therapy. Trauma therapy can help you address the root cause of your symptoms and get to a place where you feel safe, both emotionally and in your physical body.

Every Catalina Behavioral Health client gets a custom treatment plan created to fit their unique needs. Just like not everyone who has been through a traumatic experience will have the same symptoms, people have different life circumstances and needs that could influence their treatment.

Our mental health professionals are highly experienced, with a range of specialties, including a diverse set of therapeutic modalities known to address trauma. Therapies used to treat unresolved trauma and concurrent symptoms may include but aren’t limited to the following:

Before you start treatment with us, you’ll get a confidential consultation. During that assessment, our intake specialists will gauge your current symptoms and help you decide on an ideal starting level of care.

Clients in all of our care levels engage in combined group and individual therapy. Family therapy and couples counseling are also available at Catalina Behavioral Health.

Levels of Care Provided at Catalina Behavioral Health

Catalina Behavioral Health offers a full continuum of care. We have sub-acute detox, inpatient, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment programs. If you’re experiencing trauma symptoms and concurrent substance use, we may recommend detox as a starting care level.

Otherwise, you can enter one of our inpatient or outpatient programs as soon as there is an open placement. We can help outpatient clients find supportive housing nearby if desired.

Health insurance can help you cover treatment costs regardless of which level of care you enter at our facility. Catalina Behavioral Health accepts most private health insurance, as well as some forms of Arizona Medicaid (AHCCCS).

If you’d like to use your insurance plan to cover treatment costs, please give us a call. With your insurance information ready, the process should only take a couple of minutes.

Get Support for Unresolved Trauma at Catalina Behavioral

Get Support for Unresolved Trauma

Many people who have endured trauma face emotional pain, flashbacks, mood swings, high stress levels, and other symptoms that can interfere with their entire life. Getting appropriate treatment is integral for many people’s healing process, and it can help address possible psychological and physical symptoms of trauma.

If you’re ready to find out more about how Catalina Behavioral Health can help you or a loved one overcome signs of unresolved trauma, call our admissions line today. Our friendly and compassionate team is available 24/7 to take your call.

Up To 100% of Rehab Costs Covered By Insurance

FAQs Regarding Unresolved Trauma

What are the signs of unresolved trauma?

Past traumatic experiences can affect your current life in countless invisible ways. Unresolved trauma could lead to negative emotions, mood swings, anxiety or panic attacks, relationship and communication issues (e.g., inability to tolerate conflicts, boundary issues, or patterns of unstable relationships), negative perceptions of others, oneself, and the world, or poor self-esteem.

Some people also experience flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, emotional numbness, trouble sleeping, horrible memories or nightmares, avoidance symptoms, and physical health symptoms. No matter how your symptoms present, treatment can alleviate or reduce symptoms.

How do you release past trauma?

There are a variety of evidence-based treatments known to improve trauma symptoms. Therapy and medication can both be helpful during the healing process from trauma. Generally, working with a mental health professional for trauma therapy is seen as the golden standard for trauma treatment. Medication can be paired with therapy if needed for the best outcomes, depending on your unique needs.

Our programs for trauma are thorough and individualized, so we offer many forms of trauma therapy that can help you release past trauma in the most effective way possible. We also offer life skills, enriching recreation activities, and other services that’ll help you rebuild your life after trauma.

What qualifies as trauma?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines trauma as an “emotional response to a terrible event.” Examples of traumatic experiences include but aren’t limited to war, domestic violence, neglect, or traumatic medical experiences. Trauma has a real effect on the brain, leading to a range of possible physical and mental health symptoms.

What does trauma release feel like?

As you work to release trauma, you’ll often start to notice gradual positive effects. You may feel more able to experience positive emotions like joy and happiness, live in the present moment with less anxiety or stress, stay or fall asleep easier, have less muscle tension, or find that symptoms like panic attacks, flashbacks, hypervigilance or feeling “high-alert,” and so on, happen less in your daily life.

With increased coping skills, you’ll also be able to more effectively navigate daily life stressors, interpersonal relationships, or potential breakthrough symptoms. Sometimes, change happens in small steps at the beginning of recovering from unresolved trauma, but little things add up over time. People healing from unresolved trauma may, or often have, a day later in the recovery process when they realize how far they’ve come.


  1. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8667899/
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/substance-use-and-mental-health
  4. https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence https://www.samhsa.gov/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

You may also like

Popular Posts

Joint commission seal accreditation given to Catalina Behavioral health
Catalina Footer Logo

Our mission is to help as many people as possible overcome their addiction or mental health struggles. We do this by offering evidence-based and individualized treatment programs to each person who enrolls in our facility.

Copyright @ Catalina Behavioral Health 2024  All Rights Reserved

Call Now (520) 999-2560