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There is an expanding body of scientific research about the dynamic relationship between our experiences as children and our physical and mental health later on as adults.
Our growing understanding is that when a child witnesses or experiences overwhelming negative events the nervous system becomes so inundated that the brain is unable to process what is happening.
In response to a perceived threat, there is a rising energy and arousal level and this energy is understood to get trapped in the body’s nervous system resulting in the inability to restore equilibrium. Because this energy is not released, it can cause a number of physical and emotional symptoms.
This understanding of trauma may seem a little esoteric but, based on accumulating evidence, we know that trauma involves specific physiological processes that can last throughout a lifetime contributing to a range of chronic diseases.
We also know that these adverse childhood experiences are a lot more common than we might have previously realised. Given that trauma is the result of a perceived threat, rather than an actual event, there are, in fact, countless circumstances in which this may occur.
You only need to put yourself in the shoes of a young child under the age of 6 or 7 and think about the number of possible experiences that might be perceived as threatening or dangerous.
And, while the effects of trauma can be severe, science also tells us they can be reversed.
The implications of this cannot be overstated. When we take trauma into account we start to look at chronic disease through a whole new lens and the possibilities for healing, disease prevention and wellbeing widen significantly.
Dr Veronique Mead joined us on the podcast to help us better understand this critical phenomenon. She was an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Obstetrics before changing careers and retraining as a Somatic Trauma Therapist. For the past 20 years, she has been integrating existing research on trauma into a new model for making sense of chronic illness.
This is the full recording of the interview conducted for our Patient Journeys podcast titled Overcoming Chronic Pain.
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Find the podcast transcript in the Materials section.
Dr Veronique Mead’s website: https://chronicillnesstraumastudies.com/
Cell Danger Response: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567724919302922
Polyvagal Theory: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666497621000436