Is there a link between trauma and chronic illness? By now most of us have heard about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), or PTS as I prefer, because more times than not these responses are a natural consequence of our traumatic or adverse experience/s.

When we think of PTSD, our minds usually go to ex-military personnel or emergency workers. Although these people are certainly prone to experiencing PTS, it is an affliction that can impact anyone who has experienced significant trauma or adverse circumstances, especially during, but not limited to childhood.

A good definition of PTSD is as follows:

“an anxiety disorder initiated by an exposure to a discrete traumatic event that has generally occurred in the past… and is characterised by symptoms such as re-experiencing (flashbacks), cognitive or behavioural avoidance of reminders of the event, and physiological hyperarousal”.

Edmondson, 2014.

Trauma, toxic stress and PTSD have now been directly linked to several types of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, chronic pain, digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and fibromyalgia. 4 Sept 2019 How Are Chronic Illness and Trauma Related? | The Mighty.

When we experience stress, our brain communicates with our body, activating the release of adrenaline and cortisol into our system, preparing us for fight or flight. This is great when we encounter something that threatens our safety, such as a wild animal, enabling us to fight the risk or to run away from it.
But what happens when that metaphorical wild animal comes into the home every day, every hour or even every minute for some people?

Recurrent exposure to stress hormones can have a seriously detrimental effect on our physiology. Children are especially sensitive to being subjected to repeated stress activation, resulting in a long list of illnesses from cancer to ADHD and leading to a dramatically decreased life expectancy of up to 20 years.

The link between childhood trauma and chronic illness has been well documented, and rather than bore you to death will all the specifics, instead I urge you to check out this brilliant Ted Talk by Dr Nadine Burke Harris, Paediatrician.

Dr Nadine Burke Harris Tedmed 2014

Author: Pete Welsh