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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Baker

Is Your Trauma Making You Sick?

A lifetime's worth of experiences creates a deeply entrenched pathway of thoughts and behaviors.

Ever since you were a baby, your body has developed adaptive behaviors in response to your environment regarding determining what is deemed 'safe' or 'unsafe'.

This happens without your conscious control, and you may be unaware of what needs have not been met around attachment or safety, which can cause both mental and physical illnesses and maladaptive internal working models of the world.

This perception of being unsafe can, over time, create dis-ease in the body and affect your decisions. Significantly affecting 'approach and avoidance' strategies in your daily living.

While trauma is a psychological wound, it leaves deep imprints on the body that can contribute to physical illness and disease over time.

When discussing the bodily impacts of trauma, we often focus on the brain and nervous system. However, trauma can wreak havoc in the core of the body below the diaphragm as well.

This subdiaphragmatic region houses many vital organs profoundly shaped by traumatic stress.

The Gut Termed the "second brain," the gut contains the enteric nervous system with millions of neurotransmitter receptors. Trauma can disrupt the gut microbiome, contributing to issues like:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Food intolerances

  • Malabsorption of nutrients

The Reproductive System Trauma's effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis impacts reproductive hormones. This can lead to:

  • Amenorrhea (lack of menstruation)

  • Fertility issues

  • Endometriosis

  • Low libido

The Musculoskeletal System Chronically tightened core muscles from "bracing" against threat can result in:

  • Chronic back/hip/pelvic pain

  • Pelvic floor dysfunction

  • Urinary/digestive issues

  • Structural imbalances

The Viscera Trauma unleashes inflammation that can impact organs like the liver, kidneys and spleen, leading to issues like:

  • Fatty liver disease

  • Kidney stones

  • Autoimmune flare-ups

The Nervous System Trauma triggers a freeze/fight/flight response where the body goes into a state of heightened arousal. The autonomic nervous system stays chronically dysregulated, with impacts like:

  • Racing heart

  • Tense muscles

  • Digestive issues

  • Sleep disruption

The vagus nerve, the main nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system, becomes impaired. An understimulated vagus nerve handicaps our ability to self-soothe and relax vital organs.

The Endocrine System Trauma leads to abnormal releases of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Over time, this wears down the body and depletes the immune system. Potential impacts include:

  • Inflammation

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Reproductive/fertility issues

  • Weight gain or loss

The Brain Areas like the amygdala remain overactivated, interpreting everything as threats. Conversely, other regions can become underactivated, including the:

  • Prefrontal cortex (decision making)

  • Hippocampus (memory processing)

  • Anterior cingulate cortex (emotion regulation)

Over time, trauma actually reshapes neural pathways and alters brain functioning and structure. If you were wondering why your 'brain' is thinking and doing something different than your behaviors or body? As we know, 'what fires together, wires together'!

A lifetime's worth of experiences creates a deeply entrenched pathway of thoughts and behaviors.

With the body and mind working together, we can resolve trauma and restore balance. EMDR and Somatic Experiencing, combined with top-down Cognitive and Behavioral psychotherapeutic interventions, considered a 'whole-body approach' gives trauma survivors the best chance at restoring lasting physical and mental well-being.


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