Ancient cultures have known for centuries what modern science is now learning: many physical illnesses are linked to emotional health and emotions are guided by our nervous systems ability to determine safety. When our nervous system responds inaccurately to present circumstances, we experience conflict between feeling states and logical explanation. Stress, whether chronic and prolonged or an extreme brief exposure, can burden our immune system and we become vulnerable to a host of illnesses. Symptoms are an expression of conflict linked to the perception of self and environment. They are expressed as physical, emotional/behavioral and mental problems and rarely appear as a single symptom.

According to Dr. Levine- a leading expert in the field of trauma, "Not all of these symptoms are caused exclusively by trauma, nor has everyone who exhibits one or more of these symptoms been traumatized. The flu, for instance, can cause malaise and abdominal discomfort that is similar to trauma symptoms. However, there is a difference; symptoms produced by the flu generally go away in a few days. Those produced by trauma do not. The symptoms of trauma can be stable (ever-present), unstable (will come and go), or they can hide for decades."

List of symptoms

Symptoms of trauma are listed in four groups; however, symptoms from any group may randomly mix with symptoms from other groups. There is no fixed rule that determines when or which symptom the organism will enlist. Group I

  • Hyper-arousal (nervousness)
  • Constriction (tightness, pressure)
  • Dissociations (not fully present, lethargic, denial)
  • Feelings of helplessness

Group II

  • Hyper-vigilance (being "on guard" at all times)
  • Intrusive impressions or flashbacks (visual or auditory)
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
  • Hyperactivity (fidgety)
  • Exaggerated emotional and startle response
  • Nightmares and night terrors
  • Abrupt mood change (e.g. rage reactions or depression)
  • Reduced ability to deal with stress (easily and frequently stressed out)
  • Difficulty Sleeping (interrupted and irregular sleep patterns)

Group III

  • Panic attacks, anxiety, and phobias
  • Mental fatigue (blankness, spaced out)
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Avoidance behavior (avoiding certain circumstances)
  • Attraction to dangerous situations
  • Frequent crying
  • Exaggerated or diminished sexual activity
  • Amnesia and forgetfulness
  • Inability to love, nurture, or bond with others individuals
  • Fear of dying, going crazy, or having a shortened life

Group IV

  • Excessive shyness
  • Muted or diminished emotional response
  • Inability to make commitments
  • Chronic fatigue or very low physical energy
  • Immune system problems and certain endocrine problems such as thyroid dysfunction
  • Psychosomatic illness, particularly headaches, neck and back problems, asthma, digestive issues, spastic colon, and severe premenstrual syndrome
  • Feelings of detachment, alienation, and isolation
  • Diminished interest in life
  • Feelings and behaviors of helplessness
  • Reduced ability to formulate plans