Home » Blogs » Addiction and Mental Health Demystified » Top Signs of Unhealed Trauma, Part 2

Top Signs of Unhealed Trauma, Part 2

“The psychological distress symptoms of traumatized people simultaneously call attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect attention from it.”

In this quote from Trauma and Recovery, trauma expert Judith Herman makes an important point. On one hand, people with trauma often call attention to their suffering through unhealthy behaviors such as self-harm and drug abuse.

But on the other hand, these same behaviors also serve to distract others from the real issue at hand. The addictions and abuses cover up the secret pain at the core of the individual’s experience.

In working with addiction, it’s essential to get to the heart of the matter – to look beyond the obvious symptoms of dysfunction to the underlying core issues that are actually driving the behavior.

In our last post, we shared 5 key indicators of unhealed trauma. In this post, we’ll give you 5 more, as well as resources to guide you on the road to recovery.

5 More Top Signs of Unhealed Trauma

1. You’re struggling with substance abuse and/or behavioral addiction.

Addiction and unhealed trauma go hand in hand. When you have emotional pain from trauma, you’re likely also experiencing great amounts of anxiety and fear. You’re looking for ways to feel better, or at least to numb out. Drinking or taking pills provides an escape … at least temporarily.

But of course, the problem is that your coping mechanism becomes an issue in its own right. Soon you’re addicted and you don’t know why.

In our experience, it’s not about the drugs. Rather, it’s the underlying core issues – the trauma, shame, depression, and anxiety — that are really driving your drug use.

2. You find yourself acting like a little kid right when you most want to act like an adult!

Do you freak out over situations that your rational mind knows are “no big deal”? If so, you’re probably dealing with unhealed trauma. If you’re exploding into temper tantrums as a grown up, it’s time to look back in time.

An emotional part of you is “stuck” at a younger age, and in order to “grow up” emotionally, you need to heal the hurt that you experienced.

As we wrote in our blog post on the Anger, Hurt, Loving Model: “If our response seems out of proportion to the situation, we can be sure that we’re carrying around a lot of emotional baggage!

For example, when that other car cut us off in traffic, it tripped a wire on some old emotional pain.

Deep down, we’re furious about all the times in the past when others didn’t respect our needs, and moreover, when we ourselves didn’t respect our needs. That’s our underlying source of pain.”

3. You can’t bear to sit alone in silence.

This is such a common problem in our culture. So many of us will do just about anything – including abusing drugs, or keeping ourselves frantically busy – to avoid how we’re really feeling inside.

Yet the paradoxical truth is that time in silence can actually help us to heal. Once we learn how to act as our own compassionate witness, we can let our pain arise and also let it go. Meditation aids in mind body health, and it also helps men and women overcome addiction.

4. You have certain “shameful” stories you’d never share with anyone.

“If you have a story you’re not telling anywhere in your life, dollars to donuts it’s a shame story … and that is absolutely in charge of your life.” So said Laura Parrott Perry, a woman in recovery from alcohol abuse and a sexual abuse survivor.

The way we stop our shame stories from running our lives is not to bury them further, but rather to share them with a kind, present witness who can help us to offer ourselves compassion and forgiveness. That’s how we rise above the toxic mix of shame and addiction.

5. Your inner dialogue is characterized by harsh criticism.

If you’re cruel to yourself inside your head, then chances are you’ve been through a traumatic experience that taught you to be very, very careful not to get hurt again. Strange as it sounds, your inner critic is actually trying to protect you from more pain!

But the self-protective criticism is actually hurting you, so you need to work together with your inner critical aspect and assign it a healthier, more functional role in your life going forward. To learn how to do this, check out Is There A Positive Aspect From Addiction?

Do You See Yourself in this List?

If you see yourself in this list, know that you’re not alone. Everyone goes through some form of trauma in this life, and most people have at least one significant Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).

As we wrote in our blog post on Do You Have Adverse Childhood Experiences? Take the Quiz, approximately 64% of people in the original ACE study had at least one traumatic childhood experience – and 12% had four or more.

Early life trauma is sadly common, but the good news is, you really can heal from it. Here’s your next step in a nutshell: When we apply love to the parts of ourselves that hurt, we heal.

How do you learn to do that, though? While our top recommendation is to get great professional counseling or join us for our Non 12 Step Rehab program, we also offer free resources to get you started on your healing journey.


Addiction and Powerlessness: Learn how to take back your power

Addiction and Reparenting: Learn how to take care of yourself for real

Addiction and Judgments and Addiction and Limiting Beliefs: Learn how to recognize and forgive your judgments and limiting beliefs

Addiction and Self-Forgiveness: Learn how to offer yourself forgiveness and feel free


Top Signs of Unhealed Trauma, Part 2

Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder and CEO of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife Betsy’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment.

He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life.

In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realized his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

2 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2018). Top Signs of Unhealed Trauma, Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Aug 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.