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There are many different types of trauma out there, and just about everyone will experience some form of it at some point. Some people deal with bad traumas in their youth, while others experience them later in life.
These experiences can cause various types of psychological and physical damage, and this damage may take a long time to heal.
The good news is that healing does happen eventually. It can take time and patience to get through, but there is indeed light at the end of this proverbial tunnel.
We’ve gathered together some of the most common signs that you’re healing from trauma. These will look different for everyone, of course, but these are good general markers to keep an eye out for along your healing journey.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you heal fully from the trauma you experienced. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
1. Things that triggered you severely in the past don’t hurt quite as much.
This is one of the strongest signs that you’re healing from a trauma that you’ve experienced.
When a trauma is still fresh and strong, it hurts like hell when it’s poked at. It doesn’t even have to be a forceful poke either: a feather-like touch can cause pain, panic, crying episodes, or make you feel like you’re right back in the place where you were hurt.
In fact, even seeing images of a situation that reminds you of what you experienced might be enough to get the downward spiral going. A song, a scent, a word: all of these might be powerful triggers that remind you of what you’ve experienced.
Then, one day you come across an image of a similar trauma as you’re scrolling social media, and it doesn’t make you flinch. Or you hear a song that your deceased loved one adored and you don’t immediately get teary-eyed as you would have in the past.
You may very well still feel emotions ranging from anxiety and anger to grief, but they’ll be dulled down a bit. Lessened. Sort of like feeling a punch through a pillow or thick blanket rather than right against already tender skin.
2. You’re responding to things rather than reacting to them.
Although the words “respond” and “react” are often used interchangeably, there are significant differences between them.
A reaction is often instant: like the “knee-jerk” response that happens when the patella is tapped. In contrast, a response usually takes longer, and occurs after one has taken the time to process all the information or stimuli given, and can then determine how they want things to unfold.
When traumas are still fresh in the mind and in the heart, we’re hypervigilant to any kind of transgression against us. Situations or experiences that we might otherwise have been able to process from a place of emotional distance and intellectual awareness are suddenly threatening and need to be dealt with accordingly.
If you’re healing from trauma, then it’s very likely that you’re reacting a lot less, and responding more. You may still feel the knee-jerk response internally, but you’re aware of that reaction. As a result, you can take time to gather your thoughts and then respond from a place of calm and groundedness.
Sure, you might still react with flashes of anger or defensiveness now and then, but that’s part of the healing journey. Be aware of your own responses, as well as the factors that contribute to these different responses, so that you can recognize patterns.
You may discover that you’re more likely to react badly late at night when you’re tired and overstimulated, or during particular hormonal phases. If you can figure out these patterns, you can be proactive about counterbalancing them in the future.
3. You can feel emotions without repressing or disassociating from them.
Many people who have gone through trauma tend to disassociate from their emotions whenever something stressful occurs, even long after they’re no longer in damaging or dangerous circumstances.
This type of coping strategy was helpful to them when they were going through difficulty, but it is now a knee-jerk reaction whenever something unwanted occurs.
While this might have been beneficial for keeping things like fear or anger in check, reactions don’t differentiate between good and bad emotions. When the portcullis slams down, it traps good stuff inside too. This can make it difficult for traumatized people to feel joy and love until they’ve healed a bit more.
If you’re well on your way toward healing from trauma, you’ll find it easier to feel various emotions. You might catch yourself feeling love and attachment toward a partner or animal companion where previously you kept them at a distance. Or you’ll get a wave of sadness thinking of a beloved grandparent who passed away years ago.
Sure, you might still slam the door on these when you notice that you’re feeling them, but that’s okay too. The door will open again, and it’ll open a bit more widely every time from now on until you’re ready to wedge it with a doorstop.
Speaking of being able to feel emotions…
4. You break down crying after feeling great for a while.
If you’ve been on a healing journey, you might feel like you’ve taken a step backward if you find yourself crying for no particular reason one night.
This is actually a sign that you’re healing really well.
When going through difficulty, we often set our emotions aside and pack them away to deal with later. But these build up over time. It’s like tossing trash bags in the garage to take out when the weather improves. Before you know it, there’s a landfill in there and you can’t bear the thought of opening the door.
If you’ve been feeling great for a long time and suddenly get overwhelmed by a wave of emotion, that tells you two things:
- You’re in a place where you feel safe and healthy enough to be vulnerable
- It’s time to let that stuff go
Crying like this isn’t being “weak.” It’s the body purging negativity in the best way it knows how. If you vomit because of a stomach flu, your body isn’t being weak. It’s letting go of substances that don’t serve it well and may cause damage if not released.
The same goes for emotional buildup and crying. Once these emotions are out, they’re out for good. You may still get waves of them now and then, much like the aftermath of that pesky belly bug, but the worst will have passed.
5. You don’t feel “fragile.”
After experiencing trauma, many people end up feeling quite fragile for a while. This can manifest in different ways depending on the person, and can include both emotional and physical fragility.
For example, someone might crumple at the tiniest hint of perceived criticism, or take to their bed if feeling mild discomfort. Dealing with an unwanted phone call might seem a monumental task that they just can’t handle, and they shield themselves from news, social media, and any social interactions that have the potential to upset them.
In contrast, once you’ve been healing for a while, you’ll discover that you feel more capable of handling various situations that may arise. You might answer the door when someone knocks instead of hiding in the restroom until they leave.
Depending on how much healing you’ve experienced, you might even be drawn toward doing things that you’ve always wanted to do but hesitated about before. Maybe you want to take a course in a subject you’re interested in, or try axe throwing for fun. Whatever your personal inclination, you’re feeling much more capable lately, and trust in your ability to deal with things as needed.
6. You feel like you “should” feel bad about your experience, but you don’t.
Or at the very least, you don’t feel as bad now as you did before.
There seems to be an expectation that when something traumatic happens, we need to feel horrible about it indefinitely.
But that isn’t always the case.
In fact, many people who have been through severe traumas move past them to live healthy, happy lives. They never forget what they’ve been through, but they aren’t permanently crippled by the experience.
This has been the standard for most of history, in which people went through various difficulties, dealt with them, and then got on with life.
If you’re in the process of healing from your trauma, you may discover that sometimes you just don’t feel as terrible as you think you “should,” or the way others expect you to feel. Those thoughts and emotions that used to occupy such a prominent place in your psyche are now on a back shelf rather than the living room coffee table.
You may even find yourself feeling things that you never expected to feel again. For instance, if you’ve been grieving the death of your spouse, you may be surprised to find yourself attracted to someone else.
This isn’t something to berate yourself over or feel guilty about. In fact, it’s a really healthy sign that you’re healing well!
7. You don’t think about it.
If you’ve ever been quite ill or broken a bone, you think about how awful you feel dozens of times over the course of any given day. Every time you cough or wince in pain because your broken bone twinges uncomfortably, your entire focus is on the thing that is wrong with you at that moment.
Quite often, we know that a bone is mended or an illness is over when we can go for a day or two without feeling like absolute crud about it.
You might pause in the middle of enjoying your afternoon coffee to discover that you haven’t thought about your trauma all day. In fact, you haven’t thought about it for a couple of days now, and isn’t that odd?
The thoughts you struggled with both first thing in the morning and last thing at night for goodness knows how long haven’t even come up for a while. You have new, different things to think about that are a lot healthier and more beneficial to you than ruminating over those old hurts.
8. You experience less negative self-talk.
In the past, you may have beaten yourself up mentally for all kinds of different things. Most of us have a constant inner dialogue going on, and for those who have experienced various types of traumas, that mental chatter is often quite negative and critical.
Many people have other people’s criticisms rolling around in their minds on a regular basis and repeat those to themselves every time they make a perceived mistake.
If they do poorly on a test, they’ll berate themselves for being stupid instead of acknowledging how lack of sleep contributed to the low grade. Or if they gain weight, they’ll be cruel to themselves rather than acknowledging that these numbers fluctuate on a regular basis.
If you’ve been taking strides toward a healthier, more grounded headspace, it’s very likely that you aren’t being quite as critical toward yourself. You’re acknowledging that you’re echoing words from people who didn’t love you, and you’re resolved to end that abusive cycle.
We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to explore your trauma and heal more quickly from it.
9. You can be more authentic, rather than putting on acts for others’ sakes.
Many who have experienced trauma end up wearing many different masks for other people’s benefit. For example, they might be overly people-pleasing in an attempt to protect themselves from criticism or abuse. Or they might downplay things like physical strength, articulate speech, and so on, in order to fit in better and not draw attention to themselves.
If you’re healing well from the difficulties you’ve been through, there’s a strong chance that you’re comfortable with being a bit more authentic. Maybe you’re expressing your real thoughts and opinions with trusted friends, rather than simply nodding and smiling along.
Similarly, you may be more comfortable saying “no” when you don’t want to do something, rather than feeling as though you’re obligated to do so, or doing it despite not wanting to because you’re afraid of potential repercussions.
Basically, you can step into the version of yourself that you want to be, not the persona you’ve cultivated in order to navigate unsafe waters.
10. You’ve stopped blaming others for your behaviors.
And furthermore, you’ve stopped demanding that other people protect you from yourself by changing things about themselves to better suit your needs.
Instead of expecting the world to readjust itself for your benefit, you take responsibility for your own actions and emotions. You’ve developed healthy coping skills instead of insisting that others avoid “triggering” you.
You’ve also cut back on (or stopped) making excuses for poor behavior, such as blaming those who hurt you for damaging you, or telling people that they “made you” lash out by upsetting you.
11. You don’t cling to others, nor try to force relationships before they’re ready.
One can generally identify someone who hasn’t healed from old traumas by how quickly they try to force relationships to unfold. If you’ve ever rushed your way through a relationship and then looked back on it to ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” then chances are that was a trauma response.
Many people who have abandonment issues from past traumas tend to try to force relationships to unfold before their natural paths form. They’re so fixated on getting to a place where they feel comfortable, safe, and loved that they get super clingy and overstep boundaries. They might need constant reassurance, call or text a new friend or partner countless times a day just to connect, and want to rush things like meeting family or moving in together.
When you’re healing well from a trauma, you’re more comfortable with the fact that relationships need to unfold on their own time. Everything happens when the time is right, and forcing the issue won’t lead to anything good.
Furthermore, you don’t take it personally when other people establish their own healthy boundaries. You recognize that just as you have boundaries that you want respected, other people have theirs as well. They’re not trying to hurt you or push you away by maintaining theirs, but instead you both have the opportunity to support and guard one another’s boundaries from a place of mutual care and respect.
If you’re in a place where you appreciate socializing with others as well as time alone, and you don’t need a ton of reassurance that everything is okay, then that’s a really good sign.
12. You’re more patient with other people, as well as in less-than-ideal situations.
When one is healing from trauma, the tiniest irritation or inconvenience can seem monumental. That molehill isn’t just a mountain: it’s Mount Everest. Other people’s subconscious or unintentional actions can trigger a wave of incandescent rage seemingly out of nowhere. Similarly, being inconvenienced can trigger the desire to walk away from pretty much anything.
Someone’s taking too long in line ahead of you at the supermarket? You may have the strong desire to abandon your cart, stomp out of there, and never return. Your partner wakes you up by coughing in the middle of the night because they have bronchitis? Then you may feel an intense desire to pack your stuff, leave, and never have an intimate relationship again so you can have undisturbed sleep whenever you like.
These kinds of reactions may sound extreme, but they’re quite normal when one has been through a ton of crap and they’re just over it. Tolerance levels have dropped to a point where they don’t want to deal with anything. They just want to do their own thing and not have to deal with drama, inconveniences, nothing.
If you’ve been healing from the trauma you’ve experienced, then you’re probably developing greater tolerances to things that may have set you off just a few months earlier. Instead of going ballistic at the elderly lady at the store, you might acknowledge that she’s not doing too well, and even offer to help bag her groceries. And if your partner coughs at night, you feel a wave of compassion instead of rage, and offer to get them medicine or a hot cup of tea to help. You can sleep in together and catch up on rest.
13. Old pastimes you used to enjoy come to the foreground again.
Have you lost passion for hobbies or other pastimes that you used to love? Maybe you came to associate those hobbies with the difficulty you went through, and couldn’t deal with them for a while. Or perhaps you were so focused on simply surviving that there wasn’t time or space for frivolity.
Suddenly, you realize that you haven’t done That Thing You Love for a really long time, and you have the urge to pick it up again. Sure, you might be a bit rusty at it, but once you start doing it again you remember why you loved it so much to begin with.
This is a huge sign of healing. It means that at the very core of your being, you feel that you’re in a place that’s secure and nurturing enough that you can let your guard down again. Furthermore, you can actually have joy and fun without feeling guilt about it, or having to be vigilant that something (or someone) might attack you while you’re distracted.
Finally, getting back into things you once loved shows that the wound has healed over. This is like the emotional/psychological equivalent of that broken bone being mended, to use a previous simile. You know you have the all-clear to start running lightly again when the leg you broke no longer screams at you in pain every time you put weight on it.
14. You can have fun.
You might have taken part in fun activities during the healing process so far, but you haven’t really been into them. That rollercoaster ride at the theme park was “meh,” and the supposedly amazing food at the international buffet didn’t make an impact. Films or concerts didn’t affect you one way or the other: you just felt beige the whole time.
Now, you’ve suddenly found yourself cheering at a sports game for the first time in a while. Or laughing hysterically at a ridiculous TikTok reel. Food has more flavor again, and you might even have a real appetite for it now and then. You might look forward to outings with friends, and the idea of riding down a lazy river on an inflatable unicorn is actually appealing.
In simplest terms, if you find yourself laughing more than crying these days, that’s a good sign.
15. You have more energy.
When people are dealing with trauma and its subsequent emotional fallout, they’ll often feel energetically flattened. It might take absolutely all they have to take care of life responsibilities like basic hygiene and food preparation. They won’t have the energy to socialize with anyone, and their home environment might get quite cluttered and dusty for lack of regular maintenance.
Being able to drum up enough energy to vacuum your apartment or wash dishes that have been piling up is a huge sign that you’re healing from trauma well. You might have been paralyzed with emotional and psychological lethargy at the height of your difficulty, but that has passed.
16. Your health is improving significantly.
Many people who have been through trauma end with a wide range of poor physical health effects. Insomnia is common, and studies show that people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have higher incidences of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.
Furthermore, since emotions get stored in the body, they can manifest in all kinds of physical issues. Joint pain, chronic headaches, temporomandibular disorder (TMD), and so on, can all be caused by stress and long-term pain. And stress can worsen skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne, not to mention contributing to hair loss.
If you’re recovering from the trauma(s) you’ve experienced, then you’re likely feeling – and looking – a lot healthier. You might notice that you’re not clenching your jaw all the time, and that your joints feel looser and more limber. Your hair might be more lustrous and your skin a bit smoother, and your digestive system might be working really well.
17. You can appreciate the lessons that the experience taught you.
Last on this list, but certainly not least, is the ability to feel gratitude for the difficulties you’ve experienced.
You might read this one with incredulity and think that there’s no way you could ever be grateful for awful things that you’ve been through, and that’s okay. Not everyone will experience this aspect, and a lot depends on what type of traumas you’ve gone through.
People who haven’t been through difficult stuff don’t know how to cope when the sh*t hits the fan. Furthermore, they don’t have experience to draw from when they find themselves in difficult or dangerous circumstances.
When a person has experienced trauma, they have a choice as to whether they want to heal from it, or use it as a shield to hide behind. Much like with body parts damaged by traumatic injury, one can either do physio to heal and strengthen them over time, or baby the wounds indefinitely just in case something hurts again.
Growth and healing do hurt, but the healing that comes at the end is transcendental.
If you can say to yourself, “Yeah, I went through sh*t, but that’s over now, and I learned a lot from it,” then you have transcended the awful things that you experienced. You’re not a victim of what you’ve been through: you’ve risen above it, and can look back and appreciate what those painful lessons have taught you.
Abusive family members offer perfect examples of the kinds of people we never want to be. Unhealthy relationships can teach us what red flags look like so we can avoid them again in the future – and help others to avoid them as well! And natural disasters give us insight on how to be better prepared.
If you can look back on what you’ve experienced and express gratitude for all the growth you gleaned from it, then that’s a huge sign that you are progressing well on your healing journey.
No two people on this planet are exactly alike. As such, every single person on Earth will process – and heal from – trauma differently.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see your own experiences on this list. That means that your journey toward healing from trauma is unfolding in your own unique way. Additionally, please don’t feel “attacked” if you see traits you exhibit listed as those done by people who are still healing.
If you feel some sore spots from the signs mentioned above, then that’s a good thing. You’re able to identify which aspects still need to be worked on to get you to the place of healing that you’re aiming for. This is like a physician poking your belly to check for inflammation. It’s only by finding sore spots that healing therapies can be determined properly.
On that note, if you’re uncertain how to go about healing the sore spots you’ve found, then you may wish to consider getting some therapy to help you move forward.
This may be especially helpful if you’re feeling guilt about moving on after the death of a partner or child. You may feel as though you’re betraying their memory by experiencing joy instead of lifelong sorrow, and could use some reassurance about how that isn’t the case.
A therapist whom you can open up to can offer a number of different techniques to help you move past obstacles. We’re often blinded by our own experiences and can’t see the greater picture, whereas therapists have a wider perspective and helpful tips to share.
You might not be able to climb over a high wall in your path, but a therapist can help you move shrubs aside to see the doorway that leads through it.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
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