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What does trauma blocking behaviour look like?

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

After a traumatic experience, it is completely natural to want to forget everything that happened to you. The avoidance of pain is one of the most common coping behaviours. The emotional response after experiencing something traumatic may be so heavy that you may want to avoid anything that might remind you of what happened.

Some people’s efforts to block feelings of trauma may look like adapting avoidance behaviour to avoid feelings of pain, this can sometimes be referred to as trauma blocking.

Trauma blocking behaviours induce a calming, relaxing, and/or numbing that serve as a pain reliever. This can become problematic as the brain will adjust to this coping behaviour and will become necessary to continue in order to avoid feeling pain.

Despite using avoidance and suppression as a tool to block the trauma, your body and mind will continue to process what has happened. In the absence of deliberate reflections, this may look like having flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and intrusive thoughts, which is the body’s way of trying to work through and process the trauma that you are blocking.

Survivors use blocking techniques to soothe long-standing pain. Awareness is the first step to addressing trauma blocking. A way to do this is by examining the ways trauma blocking negatively impacts your life. Once awareness is gained, people can create a plan involving healthier ways to self soothe.

Trauma blocking is an effort to block out and overwhelm residual painful feelings due to trauma. You may ask “What does trauma blocking behavior look like?"

1. Trauma blocking is excessive use of social media and compulsive mindless scrolling.

2. Binge drinking every weekend because you are off from work.

3. Excessive and mindless eating even when you are not hungry

4. Compulsive exercising to reach a goal you are never satisfied with.

5. Being uncomfortable being alone resulting in staying in toxic relationships long after their expiration date.

6. The feeling of being uncomfortable if you have nothing to do and the need to always have projects to do.

7. Compulsive online shopping for things you do not need and going into debt.

8. Becoming a workaholic and having poor boundaries at work including being available 24/7

A more in depth article on trauma blocking can be found on The Gottman Institute website.

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