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Health impact of childhood trauma and/or stress

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  • Health impact of childhood trauma and/or stress

    Study says childhood trauma can shorten life, presage heart trouble

    "http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-08-14-APA-adversity-shortens-lifespan14_ST_N.htm"

  • #2
    It's weird that in a study evaluating life span and inflammation they excluded those with cancer and diabetes.

    But they said nothing about the lifestyles of those with trauma vs those without, nor about poverty. So I don't think they could conclude anything except maybe it's worth looking at in a better study.

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    • #3
      I can say through personal experience that it does cause a form of stress that impacts your health until you've managed to heal your wounds of the past. I'm well aware that the stress of dealing with the repercussions of my childhood are screwing with my immune system today.
      Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, steak in one hand, chocolate in the other, yelling "Holy F***, What a Ride!"
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      • #4
        I work in an organization that supports trauma survivors. Particularly in repeated traumas, the body's stress hormone levels get elevated over a long period of time. After a while, that becomes the new baseline, thus leading to chronically high levels of cortisol, etc. What that means is that the system runs on perpetual high alert, which does significant damage over time and really messed up a lot of body systems.

        We also know now that childhood trauma impacts neurological development and can create actual differences in the brains of adult trauma survivors. It's pretty scary stuff.
        “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

        Owly's Journal

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        • #5
          Well, I posted this because I'd rather pooh-poohed the effect of childhood trauma on difficulty losing weight in another thread. Rather wanted to reflect that there is more to the story, because clearly there is much to it.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Owly View Post
            We also know now that childhood trauma impacts neurological development and can create actual differences in the brains of adult trauma survivors. It's pretty scary stuff.
            And even prenatal factors play a role. In utero vitamin D deficiency as well and nutritional deficiencies create long term health risks. Maternal stress levels during pregnancy impact the fetus in a variety of ways as well.



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            • #7
              This makes sense. In my line of work (neurofeedback), I can tell if someone's nervous system is out of whack depending on their brain map.
              If the right side of their temporal lobes are dominant, they are Sympathtic Nervous System dominant and likely overproduce stress hormones, which can lead to so many issues, including eventual underproduction of cortisol, which is the body's major anti-inflamatorry corticosteroid.
              I can also tell at which age range the trauma occurred by the concentration of frequencies (for instance, if they have a crap-load of delta waves there, birth trauma is very likely.)

              Thank goodness these nervous system imbalances can be corrected and traumas dissipated!
              http://www.prettyinprimal.blogspot.com

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              • #8
                Yes, a lot of trauma therapists I know are now doing a lot of work reintegrating both sides of the brain, connecting people with body states, and so on. It's not just woo--there's good emerging neuropsych data to back it up. We used to say that people had psychosomatic illnesses, but now we know that somatic complaints are actually often real physical manifestations of a person's emotions. We're just now really understanding how much of a relationship there is between psychological state, the nervous and endocrine systems, and people's health. As one therapist I know says, our heads are part of our bodies. Good therapy for trauma survivors recognizes that relationship and works both aspects.
                “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

                Owly's Journal

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                • #9
                  This is so interesting to me. The heightened baseline that Owly wrote about is exactly what I feel like. Always on edge. I grew up with parents divorcing when I was 5 (mother had an affair prior -- I remember it), mother's new boyfriend was horrible, father tried to commit suicide when I was 6 and then escaped a mental institution and tried to take us. Mom diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 8 (she was 31). She fought and fought it. From the time I was 7, I went back and forth from my mom's to my dad's every week (after my father supposedly recovered -- but he was diagnosed as bipolar). Eventually my mom died when I was 12 and I lived with my father/grandma full time. Both my father and grandma were bipolar so it was like walking on eggshells all the time. Father spent all our social security money from my mom at strip clubs (even married a psychotic 26 year old stripper at one point) and he had a good job with very few bills (lived with my grandma). He never had time for me. So I got involved in church, which became my life. Never felt good enough. I used to lie in my room, praying and crying to God to fix me because I was broken and cried all the time. And was gaining weight at lighting speed. I went from 160 to 260 in a couple years. Then diagnosed with Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroid disease. Never lost the weight. Then started sneaking food and eating it all the time. Father was emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes physically abusive. It goes on and on.

                  I say all that to say this: there are many people who have had it worse than me. It's no wonder this society is so screwed up with addictions and diseases. Add inappropriate food, lack of rest, and so on and you've got a real mess. It's sad, really.

                  The thing is, I have tried therapy, but it doesn't work. I don't know how to fix my brain. People like me don't know how to fix ourselves. We want help, but don't know what to do. Or if there are methods, they are usually really expensive.

                  The other issue, as Owly mentioned, is the new "normal" baseline. My normal is on edge and high strung. I don't know how to be any other way. I'm always waiting for something to go wrong, because that's what always seemed to happen. I'm fortunate that I was able to get out of my situation by 19 years old...yet I haven't escaped its effects and part of my psyche holds onto it all like it was yesterday.

                  I'm glad more research is coming out. It's about time.
                  Last edited by ShannonPA-S; 08-17-2010, 08:38 PM. Reason: spelling

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by hazyjane View Post
                    This makes sense. In my line of work (neurofeedback), I can tell if someone's nervous system is out of whack depending on their brain map.
                    If the right side of their temporal lobes are dominant, they are Sympathtic Nervous System dominant and likely overproduce stress hormones, which can lead to so many issues, including eventual underproduction of cortisol, which is the body's major anti-inflamatorry corticosteroid.
                    I can also tell at which age range the trauma occurred by the concentration of frequencies (for instance, if they have a crap-load of delta waves there, birth trauma is very likely.)

                    Thank goodness these nervous system imbalances can be corrected and traumas dissipated!
                    Have you noticed a correlation with birth trauma and anxiety or a tendency to be high strung? Curious because my daughter is really high strung and had a very traumatic birth (c-section due to transverse lie presentation, also use of forceps and vacuum...seriously. It took 1.5 hours for the c-section).

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                    • #11
                      Shannon, depending on the type of trauma, therapy simply does not work. What therapists (clinical psychologists) forget is that there is emotion tied to the event.

                      So, while I can rationalize my mothers actions when she tried to kill me multiple times, I cannot rationalize the emotions and the toll that they have on my body. My lack of voice at being abandonded by my family to the care of this woman, and the anger that I feel hasn't been addressed. I can talk to someone about it and they can be genuinely horrified, but the trauma remains.

                      I know that there is something "deep" within me that keeps the fat on me as a sheild or a barrier, when I start to let go of the emotions that choke me, I start to loose weight.

                      There is a type of therapy called psychosynthesis, that is supposed to help with the emotions tied to the trauma. Trying it now. Have also heard wonderful things about neurofeedback and am interested in learning more.
                      SW: 235
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                      Rough start due to major carb WD.

                      MWF: 1 hour run/walk, 1.5 hours in the gym - upper/lower and core
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                      • #12
                        Another good one can be Hakomi therapy, which reconnects the emotions with the body. EMDR has some interesting possibilities as well.
                        “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

                        Owly's Journal

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ShannonPA-S View Post
                          Have you noticed a correlation with birth trauma and anxiety or a tendency to be high strung? Curious because my daughter is really high strung and had a very traumatic birth (c-section due to transverse lie presentation, also use of forceps and vacuum...seriously. It took 1.5 hours for the c-section).
                          Yes, Shannon, although the type of trauma will affect people differently. If the child registers the trauma as infringement (or older kids with abusive parents or even controlling parents) it tends to manifest as Sympathetic Nervous System dominance and over-vigilance.

                          On the other hand, if the birth trauma registers as isolation or abandonment (like if a baby were in an incubator) or if a child had a parent (s) that left or were very unavailable, it manifests as Parasympathetic Nervous System dominance, which is more of a freeze response. These people don't fly off the handle- they are more likely to stuff negative emotions under the surface until one day they blow up or go postal. Literally. When people in prisons are brain-mapped, they usually have this second pattern going on.

                          Shannon, there is help out there for you! Your brain is just stuck with a system of unhelpful neural networks, but that can be changed. Neurofeedback could be of huge help. I've seen it help people just like you, as well as veterans with PTSD, a guy who heard voices (he stopped hearing them after his treatment!) and people with depression. I have a client right now with extreme anxiety and panic attacks.

                          The kind of Neurofeedback I work with is really neat- it gets much faster results than other forms because it engages the auditory system in a unique way. The founder developed the technology to heal his own trauma. He was nearly beaten to death and it completely changed him (in a bad way) and he was determined to get back to normal. This company now has research projects with several universities and has done studies on prison inmates (talk about extremely imbalanced brains!) with amazing results.

                          Here is the company- you can learn more about it and see the practitioner locations: http://www.brainstatetech.com/
                          http://www.prettyinprimal.blogspot.com

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by elorajade View Post
                            Shannon, depending on the type of trauma, therapy simply does not work. What therapists (clinical psychologists) forget is that there is emotion tied to the event.

                            So, while I can rationalize my mothers actions when she tried to kill me multiple times, I cannot rationalize the emotions and the toll that they have on my body. My lack of voice at being abandonded by my family to the care of this woman, and the anger that I feel hasn't been addressed. I can talk to someone about it and they can be genuinely horrified, but the trauma remains.

                            I know that there is something "deep" within me that keeps the fat on me as a sheild or a barrier, when I start to let go of the emotions that choke me, I start to loose weight.

                            There is a type of therapy called psychosynthesis, that is supposed to help with the emotions tied to the trauma. Trying it now. Have also heard wonderful things about neurofeedback and am interested in learning more.
                            I completely agree with you regarding the shield/barrier fat thing. Obesity/overweight is not always linked with trauma. But sometimes it is...I'd venture to say that many times it is. I know some people on these boards really believe trauma doesn't cause obesity, but I think it can play a major role.

                            I am going to look into pyschosynthesis and neurofeedback as well. I really want to heal, to feel like this weight is GONE. No amount of talking is going to take that away. I need help with my brain and how it processes things. I feel "stuck."

                            Not that I'm happy you also have to deal with this; but I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

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                            • #15
                              I know that the rates of both eating disorders and addictions are extremely high among the type of trauma survivors my organization supports. The rates of trauma histories among people with addictions are extremely high (some place it as much as 95%), and we know that eating disorders are another potential outcome.

                              I think now that we're understanding the neurological and biochemical effects of childhood trauma, we are coming to realize that it isn't just about emotional eating; there's a very real problem with damage to the sympathetic nervous system and the body's hormonal systems. We know that elevated cortisol has a huge effect on the body, and trauma survivors have measurably elevated baseline levels of stress hormones. People may not buy the emotional eating hypothesis, but it's hard to deny the science we know about the effects of stress hormones on insulin regulation, etc.
                              “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

                              Owly's Journal

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