Traumatic Stress: Wounded Mind, Wounded Body
It is now well accepted in the medical profession that chronic stress, over time, will have a negative impact on a person’s health. But did you know that the researchers have also established that children who grow up with adversity will be more likely to suffer from serious health conditions as adults?
An excellent discussion of these findings can be found here, in this fifteen minute Ted Talk from pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris:
There are several prominent and innovating thinkers carving the path at present in terms of helping us understand how the body and the mind are connected when it comes to trauma. The book that I tend to recommend to people when they start with me is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, which is a highly readable and interesting book.
“Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, one of the world’s foremost experts on trauma, has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity.” (click here for reference)
Another rising star who has devoted his career to exploring the link between childhood trauma, addictions, and physical/mental health is Dr. Gabor Mate. Click here for his website. Dr. Mate posits that childhood trauma underlies all addictions, and that it can also explain the rise in conditions such as ADHD. Once considered more of an outsider, his ideas have increasingly gained traction and been accepted within the mainstream scientific community. He can be heard on numerous podcasts these days, but I liked this interview from Laura Reagan, Podcast #148, Effects of Childhood Traumatic Stress on Physical & Mental Health.
Stephen Porges (website) is responsible for what is known as the Polyvagal Theory. This is something for those of you who like to understand how things work. It is pretty technical, but Dr. Porges has helped advance the work of trauma therapists dramatically, particularly in terms of understanding the mechanisms of action in the nervous system that direct the fight, flight, or shut down responses. He has several talks on his website, but the interview I have found easiest to understand is this one by Laura Reagan, Podcast #159, Understanding Polyvagal Theory. This is not Dr. Porges, but Deb Dana, who wrote her book The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy in conjunction with Dr. Porges.
Therapist Lauren Selfridge, who herself has Multiple Sclerosis, hosts this podcast that focuses on living with what are mostly “invisible” illnesses—typically autoimmune in nature, difficult to diagnosis and/or treat, and leaving those who suffer with them with the confusing experience of looking “well” on the outside, while feeling terrible on the inside.
Two other books that I have found to be helpful on the topic of coping with chronic illness, or perhaps just accepting something that feels unwelcome but that can’t be changed: