Trauma Loops: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Katie Rapkoch, CHPC

Published on

January 18, 2024

Updated on

January 18, 2024

Medically reviewed by

Ben Ahrens, HHP

When you experience trauma in your life, you might find yourself with more anxiety and maybe even the symptoms of PTSD. These are very normal reactions, but people often do not know why this happens, how they get triggered, and often are left to wonder whether or not it’s all in their head.

Trauma loops, also known as limbic trauma loops, are defined as the body’s response to traumatic situations through stress responses that are generally more exaggerated due to the extent of the previous event. These are loops that many people experience in their lives, so you are not alone if you find yourself amid a trauma loop. However, it is essential to understand the symptoms, the causes and risk factors, and how they are formed and ultimately treated.

Symptoms of a Trauma Loop

Several symptoms are associated with a trauma loop. If you have any one or a handful of these, you likely might be experiencing the symptoms of a trauma loop[1] from an event in your past.

  • Nightmares
  • Visual images of the event
  • Loss of memory or concentration abilities
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion and mood swings
  • Intrusive thoughts of the event that occur suddenly
  • Avoidance of specific triggers of the event
  • Social isolation
  • No interest in formerly fun activities
  • Feeling startled
  • Tachycardia
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pains
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Altered sleeping and eating patterns
  • Complaints of pains and aches
  • Extreme alertness
  • Intense fatigue and exhaustion
  • Fear
  • Obsessive behaviors
  • Detachment from others
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Shock
  • Disbelief
  • Feeling irritable and angry
  • Anxiety and panic attacks

If you experience any of these symptoms when thinking about a particular place, person, or event, you may be experiencing the remnants of a limbic trauma loop.

It is essential to recognize that the response you are feeling is the result of old, obsolete wiring based on past experience. And it no longer says anything valid about you or your current level of safety. It is important to note that your post-traumatic response to the trigger is indeed valid and a response from your body’s old security system. With it on high alert, it is not enough to avoid what has happened and caused this, but to work at exposing oneself once again to these events, people, or places, all to limit your brain’s heightened response to perceived dangers.

More on the treatment will be discussed later, and how we at re-origin believe in rewiring your brain to help you escape these loops once and for all.

Causes and Risk factors for a Trauma Loop

There are numerous causes and risk factors for individuals who might experience or develop a trauma loop. One of the leading causes is experiencing a traumatic situation. This ranges from person to person, as this can be an event like a car accident or even potentially early childhood trauma. Here is a complete list of the causes[2] that potentially can lead to a developed trauma loop:

  • Bullying
  • Community violence
  • Complex traum
  • Disasters
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Medical trauma
  • Physical abuse
  • Refugee trauma
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terrorism and violence
  • Traumatic grief
  • Chronic illness
  • Combat trauma

Statistically speaking, many of these causes can also be deemed risk factors. Those who have more exposure to these events in their lives end up experiencing more challenges and have more of a chance of developing a traumatic loop.

How Trauma Loops are Diagnosed or Assessed

Surprisingly, there are not many ways for people to diagnose trauma loops alone. Instead, psychologists and other medical professionals will likely find ways to scan the brain or even assess the levels of stress, anxiety, and fear in one’s life. When you visit your medical professional, they will likely evaluate to see if you have high levels of anxiety, fear, and stress. For those who believe they might have PTSD specifically, brain scans[3] are one way that they can diagnose if there are signs of trauma within the individual. An MRI or an fMRI can do brain scans. Another scan that also could be adequate for diagnosis is a PET scan or a CT scan. If the doctor sees the brain’s structures responding in unique patterns, they might assume that there are potentially trauma loops formed. Doctors and other medical professionals will also assess the history and exposure to trauma, the frequency of flashbacks and other nightmares, and the avoidance level of specific situations about the traumatic event. They will also assess the hyperactivity that the senses provide when facing that particular situation; the doctor can accurately diagnose the amount of stress and the negative emotions that the individual faces. They can also choose the level of trauma that the individual might be facing.

How Trauma Loops are Formed

Trauma loops are unique in how they form. Whenever the individual is facing a specific traumatic event, their limbic system responds with a stress response. This is done because the body wants to defend itself from potential threats. However, it should be mentioned that the body responds in varying ways. Therefore, what one person might deem traumatic will be different from another, so understanding trauma loops is essential to seeing the unique experiences that people face with each situation.

Many causes change the nature of the brain and the way that the limbic system works. Trauma loops can arise from exposure to chemicals, heavy metals, environmental toxins, infections, bad diets, EMF, prolonged minor stressful events, and even other forms of trauma. Everyone has their own unique experience, making it even more challenging to categorize people’s trauma into only one.

Once the limbic system has been activated and responds, physical, mental, or even emotional responses will be. The body will realize that this might be a threat, producing symptoms like fear, heavy breathing, or even an elevated heart rate. The individual might even attempt to avoid the situation if they deem the problem overly fear-inducing. Likely, a coping mechanism will also be employed to relieve oneself of the fear and the stress that one is experiencing.

This cycle repeatedly happens as soon as the threat comes into contact with the individual again until something breaks the process. Unfortunately, the more the threat is exposed to the individual, the more automatic the response to said trigger becomes, and the individual has a more difficult time overcoming the sense of threat that’s been previously conditioned. The trauma can be wired into the limbic system this way, especially when it is being re-exposed to the threat or when people relive their trauma due to triggers. Yet, there are ways to treat the trauma loops that can help break the cycle and relieve the individual of the concerns that they face in their everyday lives.

How Trauma Loops are Treated

People can turn to several possible methods to help treat their trauma loops and allow themselves to be free of their fear and avoidance behaviors. However, it is essential to remember you are not alone, and you have to find the treatment that works best for you. Here are the best options for treating trauma loops and retraining your limbic system to eliminate this harmful cycle:


Meditation is one of the ways that many people find relief from their trauma loops. Several scholars and professionals have often commented on how meditation can help the individual become more aware of their present sensations. When you sit down to meditate, it allows you to focus on your breathing, center yourself, and even uncover some unrecognizable trauma responses you might have to your triggers. In one study in Tibet and other local populations, people found their minds to become more “flexible”[4] after engaging with this practice. This can be done in the long-term and many people find relief from this practice in several areas of their lives.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly shortened to CBT, has been used for years for a variety of concerns, including trauma loops. CBT can help with trauma loops by helping the individual become aware of their triggers[5], their responses, and work through their emotional responses to these situations. You can achieve results through individual or even group therapies, and most psychologists recommend up to 12-16 sessions. While not everyone has this sort of investment in their daily lives, this is a beneficial tool, but not the only one that people can turn to to help with recovering and rewiring their trauma loops.

New Neuroplasticity Treatments at re-origin

At re-origin, we believe in the power of neuroplasticity. We think that you do not have to turn to medication or drastic changes but can rewire your brain through training. While we employ different methods than other programs, our program is advantageous because we focus on the individual’s ability to control their own health. In working with you through our online courses, group coaching sessions and live programming we can provide you with all of the tools and skills needed to rewire your own brain, reverse old trauma loops, and help you gain awareness about the stressors in your life, so you can change your responses to them.

Conclusion and Final word from re-origin

We believe that trauma loops exist, but they needn’t be permanent parts of your daily life.. With our unique tools, program, and supporting community, re-origin can help you rewire your limbic system and replace your old trauma loops with new affirmative behaviors and bodily responses. Last but not least, remember that you’re not alone, and there is a way to find peace and reconnect with yourself and the world with joy! Click below to learn how.


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Katie Rapkoch, CHPC