Strong emotions can cause significant physical changes. Extreme happiness and excitement are often accompanied by bursts of increased energy, while overwhelming stress or frustration can cause muscle tension, headaches, and stomach aches. In cases of untreated trauma, the physical response can be particularly intense. But can this extend to a person’s hair? Does hair hold trauma, or can it be affected by a person’s struggles with extreme emotional distress?
What Is Trauma?
Trauma can refer to both physical and psychological damage.
- From a medical perspective, trauma involves serious bodily injury. Automobile accidents, explosions, shootings, and assaults are examples of events that can cause physical trauma.
- When the term trauma is used in a mental health context, it describes the intense psychological pain that a person may experience in the aftermath of a life-threatening event. Military combat, child abuse, acts of terrorism, and serious illnesses are potential sources of psychological trauma.
Some experiences can lead to both physical and psychological trauma. In other cases, a person who lives through a particularly horrific event may develop only one type of trauma – or they may escape without incurring any grievous physical or psychological damage.
For the rest of this post, we will focus on psychological trauma – but we will address how this form of trauma can affect a person’s body as well as their mind.
What Are the Effects of Trauma?
After living through or witnessing a traumatic event, it is both common and understandable to experience a variety of negative emotions. Fear, frustration, anger, and sadness are normal and even healthy responses.
But if these feelings persist for an extended period, or if they become so intense that they undermine a person’s ability to function in one or more areas of life, this could indicate that the individual has developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or is otherwise being affected by untreated trauma.
It is difficult to overstate how destructive untreated trauma can be. For example, experts have identified trauma as a risk factor for several mental and behavioral health concerns in addition to PTSD:
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Depressive disorders
- Substance use disorders (addiction)
- Eating disorders
As we will discuss in the next section, untreated psychological trauma can also have a negative impact on a person’s physical health.
How Is Psychological Trauma Stored in the Body?
It is common to view physical health challenges as separate from mental health concerns. We even did so at the outset of this post when we differentiated physical and psychological trauma. But as researchers gain greater insights into the causes and effects of various mental illnesses, they have also developed a deeper appreciation for the significance of the mind-body connection.
For example, psychological trauma can affect a person’s body in several ways, such as:
- Persistent muscle tension
- Recurring headaches and stomach aches
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Dramatic changes in appetite and resultant weight loss or gain
- Exaggerated startle response
Identifying how a person’s body is impacted by their trauma can be a vital step on the path toward alleviating their emotional distress. Which brings us to the question at the top of this post: Does hair hold trauma?
Does Hair Hold Trauma?
At first glance, the question, “Does hair hold trauma?” may not make much sense. Hair doesn’t have anything to do with mental or behavioral health, does it?
Actually, it does.
For example, if someone has been engaging in substance abuse, their hair may retain evidence of this behavior long after the drugs are no longer detectable in their saliva, urine, or blood.
And remember the physical effects of trauma that we discussed in the previous section? One that we neglected to mention there is hair loss. The British charity PTSD UK has reported that trauma has been linked with three types of hair loss:
- Alopecia areata: This occurs when the immune system begins to attack hair follicles. PTSD UK noted that 78% of children who develop this condition have a history of psychiatry problems.
- Telogen effluvium: This is an abrupt and usually temporary form of hair loss. It often leads to hair falling out while a person is washing or brushing their hair.
- Trichotillomania: This form of hair loss results from a compulsion to pull or pluck one’s own hair, which can be a maladaptive response to trauma or stress.
Now, does this definitively answer the question, “Does hair hold trauma?” No, it doesn’t. But it does indicate that the health of a person’s hair can be both a symptom and an effect of psychological trauma and other mental health concerns.
What Is the Best Way to Treat Trauma?
There is no single, universally effective way to treat trauma. An approach that is extremely beneficial for one person may be of little to no value to someone else. This underscores the importance of doing your research and finding the trauma treatment provider who can assess the full scope of your needs and develop a truly customize plan just for you.
The following are examples of the many factors that can influence which services and levels of care are right for you:
- Your age and gender
- The nature and severity of your traumatic experiences
- The specific ways that trauma has impacted your life
- If you have any co-occurring mental illnesses
- If you have become addicted to alcohol or any other drugs
Depending on these and other factors, you may benefit from services such as:
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Spravato treatment
- Red light therapy
- Biosound therapy
- Holistic therapies
The degree to which untreated trauma has disrupted your life can also influence which level or levels of care are right for you. Common levels of care for trauma treatment include:
- Residential care
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
Some people benefit from spending time in all three of these levels, while others are best served by participating in just one or two. As with deciding which services you should receive, determining which level or levels of care are right for you should be based solely on your specific needs, progress, and goals.
Begin Trauma Treatment in Atlanta, GA
Peachtree Wellness Solutions offers customized trauma treatment services at the residential, PHP, and IOP levels. Our trauma treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, serves adults whose lives have been disrupted by PTSD and other effects of untreated trauma.
In every program and at every level of care, our patients receive close personal attention and comprehensive support from a team of skilled and compassionate professionals.
To learn more about how we can help you or someone that you care about, or to schedule a free intake assessment, please visit our admissions page or call us today.