Are You Experiencing Intrusive Memories?

Physical and Psychological Symptoms Can Substantiate Memories of Trauma and Child Sexual Abuse

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms can vary in intensity, and can come and go depending upon your level of stress, joy, whom you are with, or where you are.

You may have more PTSD symptoms when you’re stressed about small or large things happening in your life.

You may feel the PTSD symptoms when you experience reminders of any past trauma or repressed trauma.

Some examples are a car backfiring, someone slamming a door, the sound of footsteps, dishes being rattled in the kitchen, someone knocking on a door, or any sudden or unexpected sound.

Anything on a television program can trigger a post traumatic response, and sometimes, a voice on a television show –especially if you are not watching the show and only listening to it– can trigger a repressed memory. You may not be certain what the memory means, or have a full memory of anything, but the trigger is often a piece of a puzzle.

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of a traumatic event (and the event might not make any sense to you)
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
  • Avoidance (which is avoiding certain people, places, events, or activities that could remind you of a traumatic or emotionally painful event).

Other PTSD symptoms can include:

    • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
    • Always being on guard for danger (hyper-vigilance)
    • Overwhelming guilt or shame
    • Self-destructive behavior, like drug or alcohol addiction, or sexual promiscuity
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Being easily startled or frightened


People who have been sexually abused, psychologically traumatized, and physically traumatized as children can also experience a variety of other symptoms. These include somatic disturbances, visual images, auditory memories, and memories that are experienced in the form of taste, touch, and smell.

“Body memories” are somatic reactions to unhealed sexual abuse and trauma, and have been reported in Holocaust survivors who have not gotten past their depression and anxiety. The relentless somatic disorders in the war survivors have been linked to their trauma in the camps.

Body memories are a common reaction to trauma

Most people who have been sexually abused (whether or not they have always remembered it) have physical problems which stem from the abuse. The brain is attached to the body. Body memories are simply the brain sending signals to other parts of the body in the moment when the person is reminded of the trauma or sexual abuse. The trigger is usually subconscious, so often, the person has no idea what has triggered their reaction.

The body holds the emotional pain when the mind cannot yet handle it –due to denial, or perhaps an inability to yet comprehend something horrific that has happened to them at the hands of family members, loved ones, or a parent.

A study on eighty-six women found that those with unclear memories of abuse suffered symptoms close to, or as severe, as those who had always known they were sexually abused. Those with unclear memories ranked higher in the number of symptoms than those who had suffered physical abuse in childhood, but not sexual abuse.

The symptoms reported were heart problems, neurological issues, and other chronic physical ailments. Excessive prescriptions, medical appointments, visits to emergency rooms, and extreme cases of PTSD were also listed.

In another study, rape and incest victims were found to have severe symptoms of PTSD, and only the victims of incest had chronic PTSD.


The research from one study revealed that patients with chronic pelvic pain also have somatic symptoms unexplained by anything organic, and the subjects also had a history of trauma and suffered dissociation.

Columbia University Medical Center confirms that at least one third of females with chronic pelvic pain have been sexually assaulted at some point of their life. The pain can feel as though it is deep inside the pelvic area, or it can feel close to the surface. It might come and go, in addition to being sharp or dull. People have described it as burning, crushing, a feeling of pressure, or like “pins-and-needles” inside the vagina.

I experienced that exact pain in my vagina for years, and it dissolved by regressing to the rapes during hypno-analysis, and by facing those rapes, and healing them at the subconscious level.

Traumatic experiences are strongly associated with physical problems that cannot be assigned to any organic disease. Physical abuse and threats to one’s life are also more linked to somatic dissociation.

People who completely dissociate from, or have repressed memories for, an abusive experience in childhood often have more physical symptoms than those who do not. Women who report a lesser amount of trauma, or none at all, display and report less psychological dissociation.

It is well documented that on-going physiological and psychological reactions to reminders of childhood trauma is a prime and common response to that trauma.

Dahlenberg found that delayed memories of abuse are as authentic as memories which have never been forgotten.


Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Psychiatric Disorders among Persecution Victims: A Contribution to the Understanding of Concentration Camp Pathology and its After-Effects, William G. Niederland, M.D. Vol 139, 1964, page 459
Holocaust Survivor’s Mental Health, T.L. Brink Ph.D. Editor, pages 22-23 (Also published as Clinical Gerontologist, Volume 14, Number 3 1994), 1994 Haworth Press, Inc. Birmingham NY
Traumatic Amnesia: The Evolution of Our Understanding From a Clinical and Legal Perspective, Charles Whitfield M.D., Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 4, 2, 1997
Dahlenberg, C. (1996, Summer) Accuracy, timing and circumstances of disclosure in therapy of recovered and continuous memories of abuse. The Journal of Psychiatry and Law.
Physical symptoms, posttraumatic stress disorder, and healthcare utilization of women with and without childhood physical and sexual abuse. Farley M, Patsalides BM Psychol Rep 2001 Dec; 89(3):595-606
 Nijenhuis ER, van Dyck R, ter Kuile MM, Mourits MJ, Spinhoven P, van der Hart O
J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol 2003 Jun; 24(2):87-98.
The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma Re-enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism, Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Volume 12, Number 2, Pages 389-411,
June 1989.
The Body Keeps the Score: Memory and the Evolving Psychobiology of Post Traumatic Stress by Bessel van der Kolk MD. Harvard Medical School.
 Mayo Clinic
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3 Responses to Are You Experiencing Intrusive Memories?

  1. PDD says:

    About a year ago, after two back-to-back concussions, I started experiencing uncontrollable, irrational, and destructive emotional outbursts. I also became addicted, not to alcohol or drugs or promiscuity, but to a very unexpected source (no need to go into details). I was falling down a path of self destruction, not knowing why I was being quite hurtful to myself and to my wife. PTSD with lability was the diagnosis. Fortunately, an anti-epilepsy drug turned me around (often prescribed for lability), almost overnight, and just in time to save my marriage. I’ve wondered why I behaved so embarrassingly and destructively the last year; its easy to say an organic basis from the concussion, but I accept that there’s more and I accept and take ownership for my actions. I thrived on the forbidden nature of my addiction, even though it made me forfeit my integrity in the process, but why…? I’m still searching.

    • Alethea says:

      Dear PDD,

      This is interesting. The concussions alone were a cry for help, or some kind of self-destructive behavior. The anti-epilepsy drug is also interesting. It seems like you may have some kind of subconscious issue with total loss of control, or maybe extreme fear. (My dog’s seizures have been DIRECTLY linked to my being threatened with death).

      The self-destructive behavior might be linked to it being something you can control, or maybe self-punishment for whatever you felt out of control about.

      The “forbidden nature of your addiction” tells me that you may have been trying to subconsciously counter something being ‘forbidden’ in childhood –kind of like an extreme rebellion.

      Things that are forbidden in childhood, are often acted out by adults.

      • PDD says:


        Interesting speculations. Interesting in that I have heard similar statements from my wife and from my T. I have wondered is my (chronic) bumping of my head me simply being inattentive, or at the other extreme a subconscious form of “cutting”. Self loathing is certainly present, sometimes a quiet hum, sometimes a roaring volume; the magnitude of self-loathing was the highest I think it’s ever been back in May2014. I had a desire as a child to run away; actually attempted it 3 times (4th grade, 9th, 12th). Sad, a 10yr old trying to run away. Equally sad, a 48 yr old trying to run away for the exact same reasons. I came damn close last summer to being homeless living on the street, by determined choice.

        “Forbidden”. Around the time my lability ramped up, was when I finally learned the reason for an extremely painful and melancholy situation from my early college years, was my mother’s sabotage. This situation was so emotionally traumatic for me, I was devastated for several years, and for almost 25 years left wondering what in the hell went wrong….? I finally did find out, then became an addict who wanted to run away from his life.

        But, what is the connection to my emotional lability & destruction? I take ownership that I was a total prick and asshole. None of this is any excuse for me to fuck up as I did. I just wonder why I allowed (encouraged?) that part of my personality to dominate my integrity.

        Integrity. The work ethic of my mother was voiced twofold: a) doesn’t matter what you accomplish, it only matters when you wake up; b) PDD is lazy. That voice has long been in my head, and absolutely contributes to my self loathing. If only I woke up earlier. If only I were smarter. If only, if only, perhaps I wouldn’t be the scorn of Mother/Father. Over my life, I have had two friends whose work ethic I have deeply admired. One became an amazingly successful entrepreneur, I wouldn’t be surprised if his net worth exceeds $50MM. The other was a professional who resigned to become an unpaid live-in caregiver; he lived his life as if every day were Saturday morning, stopped wearing a watch, no calendars on the wall; (“why need them? Every day is Saturday morning.”) I deeply envy them both.

        (But, perhaps they envy me, too? The first lives in a loud east coast megapolis with a 50 min commute, while I live in a small mountain town; the second’s professional career was a soulless rat race, while mine led to profound medical advances)

        A deeply philosophical cartoon by Kliban, sent to me a few weeks ago, has really challenged just what is important in life. Being worth $50MM, or every day is Saturday morning? I know precisely what my mother’s opinion would be. But what is my opinion? Is that a contributor for why I was a prick which only anti-seizure medicine (and an amazingly patient yet injured wife) could rectify?

        I ask more and more loudly: why aren’t I living in an RV puttering around the American Southwest and the Australian interior? Would it be running away, being lazy, or living every day as Saturday morning? I have several reasons why I don’t live in an RV, some very legitimate, some not so much.

        Google the cartoon “Wasted and Useful Lives”. Then ask, which is which…

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