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  • Writer's pictureMaria Diaz

How Abuse Affects The Nervous System

Updated: Jan 31, 2023



It is common for survivors of abuse to struggle with triggers associated with the abuser. This may include thoughts, sounds, or smells, but can also include other people, places, or items that may remind the survivor of the abuser.


It is an unfortunate reality that memories of abuse can often be stored in the body in the form of sensations and physical arousal. When we are reminded of our abusive ex-partner, our nervous system is often triggered and goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode. The body and mind are flooded with emotions and sensations that can leave survivors feeling overwhelmed, confused, and powerless.


The triggers associated with abusive ex partners often evoke strong memories of the past trauma, which can be frightening and cause a sense of helplessness. Our body can become flooded with fear, rage, sadness, or a combination of all three. This flood of emotions can lead to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight or flight response. When this system is activated, our heart rate and respiration increase, and we are primed for action.


Because the body often remembers traumatic experiences, it can become easily triggered when we are reminded of an abusive ex-partner. This can result in a range of physical and psychological responses that can vary in intensity depending on the individual and the nature of their trauma. It is important to remember that these reactions are necessary as they help us to protect ourselves from the potential threat of further harm.



It is also important to remember that we are not powerless in the face of trauma and triggers. Developing effective coping strategies such as self-care, mindfulness, and therapy can help us to recognize and manage our triggers so that we can heal and live with greater autonomy and strength.



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