Trauma Is Held In The Body: 5 Ways To Release PTSD, Anxiety, Depression and Trauma through Somatic-Focused Therapies
As explored in our previous articles on PTSD and Trauma, it is well established what can cause individuals to suffer from traumatic experiences. These experiences can include:
- Car Crashes
- Sexual Assault and Rape
- Domestic Abuse
- Loss of a loved one
- Witnessing a traumatic event (murder, assault, any other crime)
What was not expanded on, however, was where trauma can be held within the body. It is important to note that trauma can be stored in many different places, depending on the individual and the traumatic experience. Every person will react differently when presented with a traumatic event, and therefore every experience should be treated as unique. This article will show examples of where trauma can be stored, why they may be stored in certain places, and then explore how Somatic-Focussed therapies can help target these areas.
Your Body Holds Trauma in These 5 Places
- Muscles – The muscles are a common place for trauma to be stored. This is because it stems from social conditioning and the psychological stressors that may arise from it. It is common for us as humans to ride on ‘auto-pilot’ through our daily interactions without noticing the stress certain interactions can impact on us. Over time our body reacts negatively to this. This can cause slumping, aches and pains in our joints, and deeper muscle pains due to the neglecting of our bodies. Your chest may also feel tight after a draining day, or your bones ache.
- The Brain – The brain seems to be the most obvious place for trauma to be stored. After all, it is where our emotions are stored. Negative emotions stemming from traumatic experiences include anxiety, panic, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, anger, and hate. It is easy for us to fall into these emotions as they are reactive and are often stronger than our positive emotions. Disassociation may also occur, where an individual feels disconnected from their own body.
- Organs – Trauma can create tension within the organs, which are felt through heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, stomach cramps, digestive pains, constipation, and similar ailments.
- Limbs – Similar to muscles, our limbs can also react to trauma. The most common reaction is the ‘flight-or-flight’ response to danger. Our bodies may choose to seize up, or decide to energise and run away when faced with particular issues. This is deeply linked to an emotion vibration with your brain and your nervous system reacting thusly.
- Buried Deep – In relation to the brain. Emotions that aren’t processed or confronted after a traumatic event become buried deep within the psyche. This can lead to long-term trauma, where the individual is unaware of behaviours or actions that are negative for them, instead believing they are natural and positive. These can be the most harmful as they impact the ability to think rationally, connect with others, or become satisfied with their lives.
How Somatic Therapies Help Heal Trauma
It is important to firstly understand what Somatic Therapies are before listing the many benefits. Somatic Therapy is an experience that incorporates the body, mind, and spirit into a form of therapy. It is specifically aimed at helping PTSD, trauma and emotional health issues. Somatic Therapies incorporate body-oriented therapies which include breathwork, meditation and even dance. This is often paired with talk therapy and mind-body exercises conducted at home by the individual.
The reason why Somatic therapy promotes more physical therapy is because it aims to delve into how the physical body has reacted to trauma, and help identity places of tension or pain in order to target it effectively.
The NIHR has published evidence reviews concluding that both somatic and non-somatic (such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or talking therapy) together yield the highest success rates of recovery from trauma and long-lasting healing from PTSD.
5 Different Types of Somatic Therapy – What Works For You?
Somatic Experiencing Therapy
This is the most common form of Somatic therapy. It involves an individual discussing their problems through talk therapy. Whilst this is happening, the individual should focus on their physical sensations that occur when discussing traumatic events. Once identified parts of the body that need work, a more refined therapy can take place. This can be done through many methods including breathwork, meditation, massages, dance, grounding exercise, or visualisation.
The Hakomi Method
This method was developed in the 1970s and merges philosophies from Buddhism and Taoism with body-centric approaches. The core aspect of the Hakomi method is for the therapist to consensually touch the patient whilst they go through talk-therapy. It aims to bring mindfulness and an inward focus for the patient to bring unconscious emotions to the surface. It’s non-violent, organic approach also allows for self-correction and healing through comfort and without interference. Instead of attacking negative emotions, it seeks to befriend and understand where emotions come from. Ultimately it seeks to unify the body and mind to improve one’s self-perception. Therapists may also attempt to create new experiences within a person’s psyche, unpack trauma through small sessions, and get the patient to focus on their body responses. This method focusses on a therapist-led treatment, rather than an independent therapy.
Bioenergetic and Biodynamic Therapy
These therapies aim on understanding the energies a person emits when recalling a traumatic experience. Once symptoms are understood, a therapist can analytically approach the issues with the patient and recommend the best therapy. This can include holistic methods such as full body massages, acupuncture, aromatherapy, PEMF therapy, and chiropractic sessions.
Independent Somatic Therapy
Somatic Therapy is accessible to all, and therefore can be conducted at home. This will usually require extensive research by an individual, as well as the confidence to confront your own emotions. Some people may ask for family and friends to help, but often undertake this therapy alone. There are many Somatic therapies conducted at home which include grounding (connecting with the world around us), movement (dance, yoga, walking), diet (eating fruits and other healthy food to improve health), and mindfulness (quiet reflection, listening to binaural beats, massages). It is often recommended that you visit a therapist first in order to fully identify the issues within the body and mind before you undertake Somatic therapies by yourself.
This therapy was developed with help from the Hakomi school of Somatic therapy. Sensorimotor therapy aims to relive trauma in order to help individuals reach a feeling of completion or closure. For many individuals, traumatic events feel unresolved, and therefore allowing a safe space to explore the experience allows individuals to take new actions based on their desires relating to the experience. In short, people can set aside their fears by discussing what they felt they should have done during a traumatic experience, reimagine it within this framework, and therefore reach a satisfying, calming conclusion.
Studies into the Benefits of Somatic Therapies
Somatic Therapies have helped a lot of people over the decades and many recent studies reflect the benefits.
- A 2017 study found that Somatic therapy was beneficial in reducing the negative effects of PTSD
- Another 2017 study found that Somatic treatments helped lessen back pain and relieve PTSD symptoms.
- Further studies have shown Somatic therapies being especially useful for refugees fleeing war, especially after settling in a new country
- Teenagers experiencing behavioural and cognitive difficulties have directly benefitted from Somatic Therapy as it has been shown to calm anger outbursts, as well as help teenagers better understand their emotions and how to confront difficult experiences
- It has been shown that individuals seeking mental health care but struggle to find appropriate support have found home-use Somatic therapy beneficial to their mental health and overall wellbeing
It is clear that Somatic Therapy is beneficial to a wide array of individuals. Trauma is not selective and can strike any individual at any moment. The important thing is to seek therapy that best helps you. By exploring traumatic experiences, the individual is able to release the body and mind from the pain that stems from trauma.
Our UK-Based Pilot Study into PEMF for PTSD
In 2021 we conducted a small pilot study researching the effects of Pulsed ElectroMagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy for PTSD in adults. After just three weeks, a noticeable difference was observed in the reduction of PTSD symptoms of the participants, including more sound, restorative sleep, reduced anxiety and a clearer, more balanced perspective in life.
If you are interested in experiencing Somatic therapy, you can reach us on 03301 3301 83 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Our PEMF therapy is directly correlated to Somatic therapy, and our therapy rooms offer a safe space for exploration, reflection, and healing. We also offer non-local healing for PTSD and Trauma, which you can read more about here: https://ncet.co.uk/scio-distance-healing