20 Signs of Unresolved Trauma

Here is a fascinating article about how trauma due to abuse can lead to a post-traumatic condition that resembles Borderline Personality Disorder in almost every aspect. I wonder if this could mean I don’t actually have BPD. I have a lot of these symptoms, although they’ve improved over the years. I was diagnosed with BPD twice but maybe my therapists were wrong. These are symptoms of C-PTSD (which I have seen compared with BPD which it closely mimics). I thought I had recovered from my PTSD but maybe I have not. I’m still going to assume I’m borderline for now, but this makes me wonder. Borderlines have most of these traits, including dissociation.

I am also adding this website to my blogroll because I think it could be of great help to survivors of trauma and abuse. A social worker friend of mine just told me about it. She does not think I’m borderline. Now I’m REALLY confused.

Discussing Dissociation

Unresolved Trauma

Many people enter the therapy process with minimal awareness of their trauma history.  When the trauma survivors are dissociative, they have the ability to block out an awareness of their trauma.  They may know that their family had problems, or that their family was dysfunctional, etc, but they may believe they were never abused.

child abuse child abuse (Photo credit: Southworth Sailor)

However, blocking out conscious awareness of trauma does not mean that the survivors have no effects of that trauma.  Using denial and dissociative skills does not mean that the abuse did not happen.  Denial means that the person simply is refusing to acknowledge or accept the fact that they were traumatized.  They are pretending they were not hurt, when they were actually hurt very badly.

Even if the memories of abuse are hidden from the survivor’s awareness, blocked trauma / unresolved trauma creates very noticeable and obvious symptoms that…

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22 thoughts on “20 Signs of Unresolved Trauma

  1. I totally agree with this. ❤

    My PTSD was diagnosed by Paul Meier, MD, a psychiatrist with over forty years of experience, co-founder and head of a nationwide chain of mental health clinics, and the author or co-author of over 80 books, many of which were best sellers. Dr. Meier has been on the Oprah show, among many other national and local TV and radio talk shows.

    After having been diagnosed since the age of 14 with several horribly stigmatizing mental illness labels, I went to Dr. Meier's clinic in Richardson, Texas, shortly before my 50th birthday. Dr. Meier ordered a full battery of psychological and physical tests for me. When all the results were in, Dr. Meier himself told me: "You are NOT crazy! What you have is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a NORMAL reaction to overwhelming trauma, just as bleeding is a normal reaction to being stabbed!"

    After believing that I was crazy and inherently/genetically defective most of my life, what a RELIEF my PTSD diagnosis was! Only a person who has been through the shame of a stigmatizing "crazy label" can fully understand the harm these labels cause. My trauma was horrific — but the trauma of my crazy label was far more debilitating.

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    • It would be great if I could be rid of this BPD label. I can’t afford a new psychiatrist for a battery of tests though. I’ve gotten used to my BPD dx. so I’m going to still assume I have it. But this is definitely food for thought, isn’t it? It’s great you were able to get a competent psychiatrist to tell you what the real problem was and that you wren’t crazy after all. These labels can be very damaging and stigmatizing, especially the ones that make people “back away slowly” because you’re assumed to be either “evil” (Cluster B disorders) or “batshit insane” (schizophrenia, manic-depressive, etc)

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      • It is tragic that the vast majority of people who have been severely psychologically injured cannot afford good mental health care. I couldn’t afford it today. The only reason I was able to go to Dr. Meier’s New Life clinic back in 2003 was because I had just gotten a settlement from my divorce. I had enough money to pay cash for a very modest but liveable old rowhouse on the bad side of town. I had a cute little place all picked out. But while I was waiting for my big check to clear, someone recommended that I read one of Dr. Meier’s books, Love is a Choice. That was what led me to decide to go to his clinic instead of buying a house.

        I lost my monthly support and my health insurance in my divorce, so I had to pay my way through the clinic in cash. Thousands of dollars of cash. I left there nearly broke and a couple of months away from being homeless. But it was worth it.

        Lauren, I believe that what you are doing now — reading good therapeutic books and websites, and journaling online about your insights — is every bit as effective as my time in the clinic, if not more so — and way less expensive.

        I also believe you can do exactly like bpdtransformation did, and disown that BPD label. I don’t think you are borderline, either.

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    • Sure Alaina…your brain is signaling a reactionary message because its conditioned subconsciously from abuse during its development. Its definitely PTSD…

      I believe most Malignant Narcissistic/Psychopaths identify with their victims trigger points. They are upwardly aware of what they do. They assess their victims with a false pretense to reparent them. When they fail to reparent you they devalue you, because you didn’t follow their rules. After all they are the omnipotent guru’s…your savior and incapable of making a mistake.. Lol

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  2. I agree with this too. You seem very reasonable and balanced. Trauma occupies you focus with confusion. I noticed trigger points…set people back.

    A family trigger point will trigger your thoughts back to the most recent Narcissist in your life. Perhaps the Narc is a safer place to go because he is in relations and has learned to access and control you by mimicking your childhood trauma…but he is not the same…he’s only familiar to the behaviors you were subjected too.

    And also…there was so much gaslighting and confusion…that your mind tries to sort and compartmentalize memories that are too painful for you to revisit and therefore you push these down and replace them with thoughts of romantic wants and needs of the Narcissistic lover. I call them lovers because they are not capable of having healthy partnerships with anyone.

    Maybe the thought is this. A victim subconsciously believes they need to win the approval of the abuse mimicking Narc because they have compartmentalized that the Narc has the power to heal the trauma.

    And the somatic Narc might actually be doing something similar to this. Maybe he feels if he takes…takes…takes enough adoration.. He will also relieve the abuse and trauma he endured in childhood.

    I’ll say he…because most somatic narcs are men. For those who suffered from a she…just replace the gender in my dialog.

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  3. I’ve pretty much believed for a long time that BPD is a result of trauma and therefore the symptoms of it are also the result of trauma. Since BPD is just a title for a group of symptoms. Just because a bunch of men sitting in a board room decide that certain symptoms equal a personality disorder while others equal PTSD doesn’t mean they’re right or that it’s written in stone or that it’s really what it should be called.

    I realize that the label can be helpful in the realm of therapy and to search out what will help to heal. But it all leads to the the same thing…trauma. People with BPD were traumatized. That’s the bottom line. It can be confusing, but if you think of it as a result of trauma and that if you heal the trauma, the BPD (symptoms) will take care of itself.

    I noticed the list hit home with me too. And it’s because I have unresolved trauma. I have BPD symptoms because I have unresolved trauma. Use both labels (BPD and PTSD) to look for ways to heal and most seem to lead down the same roads… At least that’s what I’ve been finding. I believe they’re one and the same really. It’s just that different symptoms can manifest themselves in different ways in different people depending on environment, situation and the innate personality traits that were there to begin with.

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    • I agree, SF. I’m really beginning to believe what BPDTransformation belives– and that Borderline PD doesn’t even exist–that it isn’t a personality disorder in the same sense other PD’s are–it’s really a group of symptoms of trauma the experts couldn’t decide fit anywhere else so they decided to make a personality disorder out of it. It’s really uncanny how similar it is to the symptoms and behaviors of C-PTSD and should possibly just be scrapped as a personality disorder and people labeled BPD should be dx’d and treated for C-PTSD instead, because that’s really what it is.

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  4. Hmm… that is very interesting. In my own researching I’ve discovered that PD’s develop much earlier in childhood than PTSD. PD’s tend to develop as early as 2yrs, while PTSD hasn’t been diagnosed in anyone younger than 4yrs. I think that might be the only defining difference between the two.

    At least in my personal experience that seems to be the case. I started my treatment assuming I had PTSD due to some traumatic events in my recent past, but the farther I go in my recovery, and the more I work with my therapist PTSD doesn’t really fit which is why we started exploring BPD. I’ve struggled with the same emotional deregulation since well before the first traumatic event I can remember, but my mother is also an abusive Narc so… I share your confusion! I’d love to see where your research goes. 🙂

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    • I think you may be right. BPD may just be more deeply ingrained in the personality than C-PTSD because it started earlier and is less easily cured for that reason. But the symptoms are remarkably similar (almost identical,really) and both are caused by trauma (which of course all PD’s are). So the only real difference may be when it started.

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  5. I think many people with C-PTSD could meet the diagnostic criteria for a BPD diagnosis at some point in their lives, whether or not they show the general signs of a personality disorder or character disturbance (e.g., lack of self-insight, lack of empathy, manipulativeness, exploitativeness, etc.).

    If I wrote the DSM, I’d change “Personality Disorders” to “Empathy Challenges,” and I’d perform Borderline “splitting” on Borderline Personality Disorder itself—that is, I’d split the diagnosis into “Borderline Empathy Challenge” (Borderline traits w/character disturbance) and “Highly Sensitive Person with Trauma-induced Emotional Dysregulation” (Borderline traits w/o character disturbance).

    Also, you might find this interesting (if you haven’t already read it): http://www.abandonment.net/articles/distinguishing-borderline-personality-disorder-from-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-of-abandonment

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    • Thank you, Ruji. Those are some very interesting ideas you have. I do think BPD should be split up into more than one subtype if the label is kept. In fact, I think there is one psychologist (I can’t remember who it is atm) who did actually do this–and came up with FOUR subtypes! Going by yours, I’m definitely the second type–which is quite different than the empathy challenged character disturbed type–although when I was younger I did diplay traits of that too–along with recklness and self destructive behavior. I do still have a few problems with empathy–but I think that’s due to general emotional numbing that happens with PTSD. I’m using DBT tools for mindfulness and reparenting to try to access my inner child and get more in touch with my true emotions. It does seem to be having some results, but it’s hard work and can be frustrating sometimes because they;re hard to access sometimes.

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