Christian Stress Release

What is Trauma (Pt. 5) – Signs & Symptoms (2 of 3)

Today I’m talking about one of the main signs and symptoms of trauma, which is dissociation.

Today we’re continuing our series on Trauma, by continuing our discussing on the different signs and symptoms of trauma. Specifically, we’re talking about dissociation.


This series is here to help you understand what trauma is, what the signs and symptoms are, and how and why God created you in a way that includes trauma. We’ll cover the basics of this mental health dysfunction, all the way into some of the science of how it wires into your memories and nervous system. This will give you the foundation for understanding how to heal any trauma you may be carrying. Because trauma is one of the main causes of stress in life as a human.


This is the 5th in a series of 10 posts called “What is Trauma”. Learning about trauma can be overwhelming and even triggering. I encourage you to go slow, letting God lead you to where He needs you right now. And if at any point your get triggered and need help, there are free and paid resources linked at the bottom of each post. They’ll help you out of those triggers, back into the state of peace in your mind and body. You deserve that, so don’t shy away from help if you need it. I’m praying for you.

The Signs & Symptoms of Trauma

Today I’m talking about what the signs and symptoms of trauma are, expanding on the last post with a discussion on dissociation.


If you missed the previous posts, I introduced what trauma is, along with the 5 different types of trauma (Acute, Chronic, and Secondary, and Developmental, Complex and Complex PTSD). These are great introductions into trauma that will help you understand these symptoms deeper.


Dissociation is one of the main symptoms of trauma (especially Chronic, Developmental and Complex Traumas).


It’s the process where parts of your brain that are typically “associated” (or working together), are now “dis-associated” (or not working together). Dissociation is a form of compartmentalization, where a part of your brain is separated from the rest (via thoughts, memories, emotions, etc).


This happens when a part of your brain is holding too much pain.


When you go through something shocking, life-altering and/or life-threatening (like we see with the events where you stored trauma), we see dissociation. This is because the amount of pain you’re carrying in that trauma is too much for your brain, heart and body to handle.


God designed you with a way to keep surviving life, without feeling and remembering all of the pain. This is really helpful when you need to survive. Not so helpful when He’s calling you to thrive with Him in your life.

What Dissociation Does

Clinically speaking, dissociation locks away a part of your memories and emotions so that you don’t have access to them. This allows your brain to continue functioning outside of the survival mode states of Hypervigilance and Fight, Flight or Freeze. Which gives you the ability to continue living life in the calmer states of Rest & Digest and Movement & Exercise.


While that’s helpful to survive your life, you’ll still carry the trauma, painful memories and emotions within you. You won’t have access to them, as your brain has locked them away for “safe keeping”. So they won’t get healed or removed; they’re locked away inside of you, in what we call a repressed memory.


These repressed memories will be inaccessible to your conscious brain (your conscious thoughts), but will surface whenever you get triggered. These triggers are known as trauma triggers, or clinically as Post-Traumatic Stress (or PTS).


A trauma trigger is when your brain is sensing that something in your external environment is identical to the bad thing that happened to you (that caused all of this pain). It shifts you into a survival mode state of either Hypervigilance or Fight, Flight, Freeze. Once in that state, your brain will be accessing the repressed memory, thinking it’s happening again; which leaves you half in the past, half in the present moment.


Aside from when these triggers trigger, you won’t have access to these repressed memories, because they’re too painful for you to feel.


This is a gift from God in the short-term to help you move forward in life physically, without reliving your painful past. And, it will hurt you if it stays this way in the long-term. Healing is always the best way forward.

Symptoms of Dissociation

When you have these repressed memories dis-associated from the rest of you, you’ll notice (at least some of) these symptoms:

Mental/emotional symptoms include:

  • Mental numbness
  • Inability to feel emotions


  • Flashbacks


  • Partial or complete amnesia
  • Not able to think clearly (no rational, logical thinking)


  • Unexplained “irrational” behaviors
  • Emotional reactions that seemingly have no basis in reality


  • Depersonalization


  • Out-of-body experiences

Physical Symptoms Include:

  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Breathing is slow and shallow


  • Agitation and inability to sit still


  • Hypervigilance (eyes scanning the room)
  • Flat stare (not present)


  • Face pales in color
  • Skin is clammy


  • Rigid body posture

Phrases You Might Say When You’re Dissociated During the Event:

  • “I left my body”


  • “Time slowed down”


  • “I went dead and could not feel any pain”


  • “All I could see was the (gun), nothing else mattered”


  • “I saw my whole life flash before my eyes”

What Dissociation Looks Like with Trauma

When you dissociate because of trauma, typically your mind is trying to escape the pain, so you don’t have to feel (all of) it. This is often with trauma from events where you couldn’t Fight or Flee the danger.


When the safest thing to do is Freeze and survive through it, your mind needs a way out, so you don’t have to feel all of it. Dissociation is the way “out”. By dis-associating part of your brain from the rest of it, you can mentally “check-out”, so you don’t have to feel everything happening to you.


We see this often with survivors of sexual assault. When you can’t escape, your brain will dis-connect, so you don’t have to feel and know everything happening to you. This is truly a gift from God in the moment.

Trauma Capsules and Blackouts

What remains after is a repressed memory, where your trauma is locked away, and the rest of you is in the present moment. We call this a trauma capsule. The trauma is locked away in a capsule (the repressed memory dis-associated from the rest of you), so you don’t have to feel and relive it everyday.


If you’ve lived through abuse and have high levels of trauma, like Developmental or Complex Trauma, or Complex PTSD, you may have many repressed memories blocked from your awareness. (Along with the thoughts and emotions from that time in your life). This is where we begin to see blackouts in your memories, where you may not remember entire seasons (months, years, even decades) of your life.

Me Too Movement

If you followed the Me Too movement in 2018, many women had repressed memories of sexual abuse surfacing for the first time in their lives. Some may have known these events happened, but had blacked them out after. While many were completely unaware, with the events blacked out immediately after.


As stories of survivors came to public attention, it began to feel safe enough for their brains to feel the pain of these memories again. They came out of dissociation.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

If you’ve been abused at severe levels, and are carrying high levels of trauma from it, you might be struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID, formerly known as Multiple Personalities Disorder). This disorder is the extreme end of the dissociation spectrum. It’s when your brain has dissociated so many parts of you (memories, emotions, etc.), that what remains in your conscious mind is minimal. You don’t even know who you are anymore, so you begin to act in ways different from who God created you to be.


Even if you aren’t suffering from dissociation at this high level, you may have parts of your behavior that aren’t really you, because of dissociation.

How You Move In & Out of Dissociation

When you have repressed memories that are dissociated, you’ll move in and out of the symptoms of dissociation throughout your life. This is because your brain is unable to stay present when anything triggers your trauma.


When you’re in the present moment and you’re safe, your brain will be in the state of Rest & Digest or Movement & Exercise. These are healthy states for your brain to be in (not survival mode states).


As soon as your brain senses something similar to your painful past, it shifts you into the state of Hypervigilance or Fight, Flight, Freeze, in what we call a trauma trigger. These are unhealthy states for your brain to be in (survival mode states).


Once in this triggered state of survival mode, you will begin to experience the dissociation symptoms. This is because it’s too painful to feel what exists in this part of your brain (the thoughts, memories and emotions). Part of your brain is trying to access the memories, and another part won’t let it because of the dissociation.


What this means for you, is that when you carry trauma, part of your trauma symptoms will include this disconnect within you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You’ll be checked out, fidgety or numb, unable to focus on anything, unable to remember things or maybe even playing a part of someone that you’re not.


While these symptoms aren’t who God created you to be, they are normal symptoms of trauma. Signs that there is pain within you that needs to be healed.

Finishing our Discussion

In the next post, I’m finishing our discussion on the signs and symptoms of trauma, by introducing you to ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). This is a deeper dive into developmental trauma, child abuse and the signs and symptoms you may carry from it.

Do You Have Trauma and Need Help with Your Triggers?

If you’re struggling with trauma triggers and life-altering effects they bring, I have resources for you.


While I always encourage healing in 1-on-1 sessions with a therapist or trauma coach, you’re also going to need help in between those sessions.


Here is a free video of one of my favorite mental health techniques for turning off trauma triggers. It’s a quick 5 minute exercise that will shift you back into the state of peace in your mind and body.


I also have a full Membership of videos and audios (just like the free one) to help you turn off your triggers anytime, anywhere. Some are short exercises to turn off your triggers quickly so you can get back to your life, while others are longer opportunities to turn off your triggers and release the hard emotions that came with them.


You deserve to live and thrive in the state of peace in your mind and body. And God wants that for you.


If you’re struggling with trauma and the damaging effects of it, know that it’s not only ok to get help. It’s beautiful.


From one survivor of this hard life to another,

I’m praying for you ♥︎

   – L aura

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