This glossary identifies some of the most frequent terms I use and points you to posts for more information.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): over 25 years of research showing links between trauma in childhood – including sexual and physical abuse, neglect, and witnessing of violence – and risk for chronic physical disease that often don’t start until decades later in adulthood. Here’s a detailed post about ACEs and a summary with ACE fact sheets you can download for a 1 page summary to give your doctor.
Adverse Babyhood Experiences (ABEs): stressful and difficult experiences before conception, during pregnancy and birth, and in the first years of life play an especially powerful role in shaping risk for chronic illness. Learn more in the Essential Guide, Chapter 5.
Adverse Childhood Relationship Experiences (ACREs): the effect of the attachment bond between children and parents shapes long term health. I refer to these as “invisible ACEs” since they are harder to recognize but their effects on risk for chronic illness are as powerful, if not more so.
Adverse Institutional Experiences (AIEs): systemic trauma (discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation and much more) and institutionalization (hospitalization, jail, foster care etc) are risk factors for disease. See the Essential Guide, Chapter 5.
Adverse Multigenerational Experiences (AMEs): trauma that our parents, grandparents and other relatives experience can shape our health and affects risk for chronic illness for more than one generation. Learn more in the Essential Guide, Chapter 5. Also known as transgenerational trauma.
Adverse Pre-Onset Experiences (APOEs): trauma and stress can trigger the onset of chronic illness and often occurs in the 1-2 years prior to getting sick. Learn more in the Essential Guide, Chapter 5.
Bonding: The relationship between a parent and his or her baby in the period leading up to and occurring during and after birth.
Buffers: Events, resources and experiences that decrease the impacts of stress and trauma. See more in The Chronic Illness Model.
Critical Periods: Important periods in the growth and maturation of our organ systems and developing bodies, when the direction of development is most influenced by interactions with the environment. See more in The Chronic Illness Model and Essential Guide, Chapter 4.
Development: Periods of brain, immune system and other organ and body growth and maturation from conception through to adulthood.
David: is my husband. We were married in June 2011. I’ve shared how we celebrate our anniveraries.
Early Life Events: This refers to events occurring during childhood.
Epigenetics: This field of study is discovering how environmental factors, such as stress and trauma, diet and exercise, medications and and other non-genetic factors influence our genes without actually changing the genese themselves. Epigenetic changes occur on or around genes and modify their behavior by turning them on or off. These changes can be passed down through generations, just like genetic information and mutations can. Unlike genetics, however, epigenetics are processes that can be reversed. There’s more in this post on epigenetics and why chronic illness may be reversible.
Freeze: When fight and flight are not options for surviving a threat, our physiologies shut down into the state of immobilization, known as freeze. It is the inability to shift back out of freeze that leads to symptoms. See more in The Chronic Illness Model and Essential Guide, Chapter 4.
Latency Periods: The period of time between initiation of patterns during a traumatic events, and the onset of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often delayed by weeks, months or years. This is known as a latency period. Latency periods are also seen in many chronic illnesses between the experience of stressors and the onset of symptoms. See more in The Chronic Illness Model and The Adverse Childhood Experiences..
Patterns: I refer to patterns as conditioned responses that are initiated by traumatic events. Additional traumatic events and triggers perpetuate and strengthen these patterns, which can show up in our everyday lives as well as in our relationships and with our symptoms. See more in The Chronic Illness Model.
Perinatal: The period occurring a few months before, during birth, and after birth.
Prenatal Stress: Stressful events during pregnancy, including from hunger and starvation, emotional and physical trauma, have significant impacts on a baby and its development. These effects can last into adulthood.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Symptoms of PTSD occur following traumatic events for some, though not all of us. Symptoms can include anxiety, depression, rage, and guilt; being highly reactive to sights, sounds, smells and other reminders (triggers) of the original event(s); reliving the original event(s) or having nightmares related to it; losing the ability or interest to connect with others, and more. The presence of symptoms suggests the existence of more than one experience of trauma. See more in The Chronic Illness Model.
Prior Trauma: Traumatic events that occur before the final, most visible trauma, increase risk for the eventual development of symptoms. Soldiers who develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for example, are more likely to have had experiences of trauma before joining the service. I believe that the same occurs in chronic illness, where the final stressor preceding onset of disease is an event that unmasks a preexisting pattern, rather than being the actual cause of symptoms. See more in The Chronic Illness Model.
Resources: Events, experiences, people and things that help us feel safe or supported, that enable us to soften and our hearts to open, or that help us to recover following stressful events, are resources. See more in The Chronic Illness Model and Resources.
Triggers: Triggers are sights, sounds, smells, events, people and other experiences that act as reminders of past traumatic events. They “trigger” or stimulate our bodies and minds to react as if we were re-experiencing these old events in the moment. More in Essential Guide, Chapter 6.
Trauma: Trauma is an event that is experienced as both life-threatening and inescapable. When there is no option for successful escape through fight or flight, this is the kind of event that elicits an unconscious state of shutting down, known as the freeze response. An event that is considered traumatic is unique for everyone because it is shaped by perception and influenced by our past life events, including adverse childhood events (see ACEs above) and trauma in early life. See more in The Chronic Illness Model and The Essential Guide.