Does Trauma also refer to emotional/ mental trauma as well as physical?
Hello, I am really enjoying your course! I have currently completed up to ch.3.0 and perhaps my question is answered later on, but I am wondering if when we are referring to trauma in relation to how the body responds to it with inflammation and biochemical mediators of pain, can this process also happen due to emotional and mental trauma, perhaps even spiritual trauma, or are we speaking on soft tissue injury only? I am wondering this because I am fascinated by the relationship between mind and body, and have recently read Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score” and have been making many connections in the back of my mind. In the book, Van der kolk mentions studies on how traumatized people often experience obesity and related conditions, cancer and heart disease in greater numbers which really reminded me of when you were speaking on serotonin and its relationship to fibro symptoms. I see many relationships on how someone suffering from any number of mental health conditions could end up with inflammation and chronic pain. For example lack of sleep due to nightmares could set off a chain reaction all on its own concerning the relationship with the circadian rhythm and all that entails. However, I wanted to clarify in case I may be getting way off base here and wouldn’t want to be making assumptions and drawing lines where they may not actually exist.
Hi Amanda. Thanks for your question. We had to mull this one over for a little while.
Let’s get some simple points down first …
As we’ve mentioned in the lectures, any stimulus, whether positive or negative, will ripple through the system with its positive or negative influence. When we talk about trauma we acknowledge both physical trauma (which can impact body systems, ie: neuromusculoskeletal, organ and neurological systems) and metabolic/biochemical trauma (we are looking at the cellular level and the easiest way to think about that would be destabilization of cellular membranes and mitochondrial functions). Both traumas are all encompassing. And all negative stimuli would also negatively affect all systems.
When we are looking at emotional stresses, which would include your list, we could agree that they are negative in nature These stressors could include social, financial, geopolitical, etc., and could be looked upon as longstanding and potentially debilitating. The systems that these stressors would initially impact would include endocrine, autonomic and enteric. And these are systems that we have only transiently touched on at this point. We hope to cobble these into future lectures.
The goal is to achieve a knowledge base whereas you can make physiological and biochemical linkages that will allow you to better understand what is happening with these types of stressors. The knowledge of understanding what is going on, along with things you can do to mitigate, not only helps directly with treating the issue but also helps with the stressor of the unknown. Sometimes the lack of control via not having any idea of what is going on and having your life in the hands of other people, ie: practitioners, is the greatest stress of all.
So, perhaps the short answer to your question could have simply been, yes! Any negative stimulus is going to negatively impact all systems and certainly emotional and mental trauma fall into this category. Seeing connections in your mind are usually correct and the fun part is gaining a knowledge base that will allow you to make those connections more concrete.
Just to add to the above, if you are concentrating on trauma, you have to remember the relationship to infection, noted in Chapter Two. With the accumulation of negative stimuli, we will see a greater susceptibility to infection both from inside and outside sources. We will also see a diminished ability to fight these infections.