When a person experiences trauma, processes in their body and brain can be altered by the trauma response. This can include changes to their sense of interoception, or more specifically changes to how they experience their internal body sensations.   

For example, some people report:

  • A muted inner experience, where their inner sensations are quieted and might go completely unnoticed. Take Francine, who shared that after her trauma her body just felt numb. The body signals letting her know when she was hungry or thirsty were non-existent and she could go a full day, maybe more, without eating or drinking water. She would forget to eat or drink and her body sensations indicating hungry! or thirsty! were not loud enough to remind her. Francine reported that even her pain sensations were so dull that one day she realized that her finger looked very different in appearance only to realize that she had developed a significant infection around her fingernail that required medical care.  
  • An intense inner experience, where inner sensations are distracting or loud. A person might notice one or two sensations that are all encompassing (e.g., common during a panic attack) or they might notice so many body signals at once it is difficult to work out which are providing the most relevant information in that moment.  Jace shared that his inner experience was a mass ball of sensation—he didn’t know what to pay attention to—he constantly felt anxious and uncertain about what his body felt or needed in the moment. Quite often this inner uncertainty and loudness would lead to him attempting to quiet his bodily sensations thru several addictions.
  • A mix of the two—fluctuating between a muted and an intense inner experience where one minute a person might be overwhelmed by their body signals and the next minute they completely miss noticing important body signals.