Chronic Illness Trauma Studies
How Adversity Shapes Health & Why It's Not In Your Head
February 15, 2015 at 6:07 pm
Hi, I am 46 years old and was very recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. My Dr. Told me about there being new evidence that this illness can be linked to trauma. I had a really rough childhood and I really believe that I have blocked a lot of my memories. It is common knowledge that my brother was put in a foster home because he was beaten so badly by my step father. I am only a year younger than him and yet I don’t remember the actual beatings. I also believe I was whipped a few times but don’t actually remember or know what I may have been thinking at the time. I was also involved in a bad car accident when I was 18. I am really interested in dealing with this trauma and trying to get better. I do ok with the pain but the fatigue is debilitating and causing me to miss a lot of work. I was wondering if you could recommend a Dr. That specializes in trauma near the Ann Arbor, Brighton, Mi area. Thank you so much for your blog! It is very interesting!
February 15, 2015 at 7:35 pm
Hi Patti, I’m so glad you have a doctor that considers links to trauma, especially given what you sense and know about your history. Sounds like you have managed to get through a lot in your childhood and now with your health. Hang in there! I don’t know specific people in your area but the links below are to lists of practitioners around the country who have trained in approaches I like and respect. As with searching for any practitioner, you may want to interview, meet and try out a session or two with more than one to find someone who feels like a good fit for you (personality, perspective, style) and perhaps someone who is familiar with working with chronic illness as well (though this may not be common). Let me know if you have any questions. I wish you all the best on your journey!!
Somatic Experiencing http://www.traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/index.html
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy http://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/psychotherapists.html
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) http://www.emdria.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=235
Cathy Foster says
April 27, 2015 at 8:41 am
Thanks for your work – it makes more sense to me than anything else I have read.
Another resource is Clean Language. Have a look at this paper: http://www.positivehealth.com/article/alopecia/the-mind-metaphor-and-health
If you want to know more, drop me a line.
April 27, 2015 at 10:24 am
I’m so glad this work makes such sense for you. I just read your link and so appreciate this perspective on the use of metaphor – I’ve posted it on my Facebook page. It has many similarities to the somatic psychotherapy based approaches for working with trauma that I’ve trained in and continue to use on my own healing journey – and it is such a validation of the importance of listening rather than fighting. Listening to our bodies, our emotions, the images and sensations that reside within us and more. It also is reminiscent of the stories of people’s journeys and healing in the work by physician psychotherapist Rachel Naomi Remen in her book “Kitchen Table Wisdom.” I’d love to hear more about your story or your work.
Rachel Katz says
September 17, 2015 at 8:30 am
Wow, Veronique!!! Your site is not only so clear and sounds just like you talking, but it’s gorgeous too. I’ll be looking forward to your posts. I will be digging in and looking around your site. So much info here. I feel like I came to a lovely home….not a clinic. I like that.
Veronique Mead says
September 17, 2015 at 9:08 am
Hi Rachel, I’m so glad you’re finding a sense of a home on the site! I so enjoy posting and sharing pictures and making it as beautiful and artistic and personal as I can. Welcome to the blog!!
January 10, 2017 at 10:46 am
Would appreciate any information on fibromyalgia or can I contact someone to see how they manage this chronic disease
January 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm
Hi Linda, There is information linking trauma with fibromyalgia sprinkled throughout the literature though not as much as in some other chronic illnesses. I recommend trauma therapies that work outside the cognitive and pay attention to how the perception of threat gets stored in ways that are not accessible to conscious awareness.
Here’s a link to the ones I particularly respect, if that’s at all what you are looking for. This blog post gives links to finding therapists around the world in each different modality.
I recommend the same types of therapy regardless of illness (mine is chronic fatigue and I only occasionally experience severe pain). The work with trauma therapists then focuses very specifically on you as an individual and what is going on for you.
Re other ways of managing, check out the blog Health Rising, which talks about all sorts of (non trauma) related research in chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. The community is very active there, get involved in comments and conversations, and share what they do that is helpful in addition to all the posts
carolina lein says
September 4, 2019 at 11:32 pm
Hello Dr. Mead- Thank you for your expertise, research and opinion. I listened to the interview conducted by Clinician Laura Reagan. I have been able to identify how work related stress and secondary trauma in my field of Child Protection Services has strongly affected my Central Nervous System throughout the years..of course this has never addressed in trainings, supervision or consults with colleagues within the profession…I continue to do my own research and self care?. Thank you
Veronique Mead, MD, MA says
September 5, 2019 at 10:48 am
Hi Carolina, Yes – vicarious trauma from witnessing and dealing with other people’s trauma is a vastly under-recognized issue and it would make sense that your work in CPS could have had a significant impact on you. May our own increasing awareness help bring this information to the field and trainings, supervision, consults and elsewhere, where it is so badly needed! Thanks for writing and wishing you all the best on your journey and with your self care!!
December 2, 2020 at 6:10 am
Hi there, I am living with CFS which I believe is a result of years of coping very badly with workplace stress, trauma from a very frightening childbirth experience and childhood trauma from a very dysfunctional childhood. I feel like my eyes have been opened by your work I couldn’t put my finger on that feeling of fighting to stop my body shutting down u till I read about the hibernation and freeze theory. I am working on boosting my immune, and resolving emotional issues with a very good psychotherapist. I am wondering about studies done using hypnotherapy to retrain the subconscious as I have found someone who I am thinking of attending. Thank you for your thoughts.
December 2, 2020 at 9:21 am
Hi Eithne, So glad to hear that my blog is resonating and helping with insights. I don’t think it matters whether there are studies about hypnotherapy and don’t know if there are any. Ultimately I think it’s about the therapist and how the relationship feels and how the work goes. Hypnotherapy HAS been helpful in some work with asthma I share in a blog post about birth trauma (maybe that’s where you saw the reference) and I think it could be helpful with probably just about anything. I wish you well on this journey and maybe come back some day and let me know how it’s going! xoxo
September 25, 2021 at 5:02 pm
I just received this information; so grateful to be able to get involved. I’m not familiar with how all works, but, oh my goodness, it sounds like there are people who actually can relate to my inner pain! – I think this information was forwarded through a support group I just started. Thank you.
September 25, 2021 at 8:11 pm
Thanks for your comment Shelia and yes – there are more people than we realize who know all about inner pain, and many who have found ways to work with it and heal (even if it takes time and is one small step at a time). Wishing you well with your support group!!
December 17, 2021 at 1:16 pm
So grateful for your work and the amazing uptick and development happening in this field. I am 50 years old and struggling to find solid ground in a life that feels like a mine field. I recently tried working with a therapist with experience and training in Somatic Experiencing. I have a feeling my nervous system felt threatened because I experienced a significant increase in addiction drive (might be better words but it’s an instinctive description). I have stopped working with the therapist and pulled back to set up a safe place in my home for healing work. I am currently working on approaching my Trauma in a gentler way but am terrified of the prospect of things getting worse again. I would be grateful for any guidance you have to offer and appreciate the resources you have here.
December 17, 2021 at 9:32 pm
Hi Misty, I understand what you mean by having an increase in an addictive drive (I see behaviors and cravings that pull at us in certain ways as commonly based on survival responses that get triggered by things that feel threatening to our systems).
Finding a therapist that is the right fit can be tricky and a process in which we often have to try out a number of therapists, which can involve getting triggered. Stopping, listening to your system (such as increases in addiction drives) sound like great self-care and self-compassion in gentle ways. That is, in my opinion, already a sign of how much you work with you are doing with honoring your needs. I would guess this is something you’ve had to learn, hence a sign of the amount of work you’ve already done, and of all the tools you have now that you may not have had in the past when things were worse. In other words, if things were to get worse, you already have experience of how to get back out and that things change and can improve.
My therapies post gives a few tips for looking for a therapist and I wonder if that might feel at all reassuring in how to continue to explore ways that support your healing journey (if you haven’t looked at that post already). Another is my post on 11 tools, many of which you may be familiar with already. I hope that helps. Feel free to email me directly if you need a different kind of response. Wishing you all the best on your journey!! xoxo
April 3, 2022 at 2:41 pm
Hi Veronique! I feel so lucky and fortunate to have been able to find your blog, and the well of wisdom and knowledge you’ve unloaded here. Myself and my mum both have CPTSD, and my mum has T1D, as well as chronic kidney disease and possibly some more. We’ve been dealing with doctors for a while that have no clue about how to treat her, and don’t seem to know anybody who can either, so having something to refer to for her care is huge, and I wanted to say thank you. Do you have or recommend any specific studies or writings that I can use with her doctors to be taken more seriously with her care management? It’s unfortunate that we know the kind of routes to take but nobody has been taking us seriously or listening for us to get anywhere with medical/clinical/physical progress.
Again, thank you SO much for, I guess, using the experience you have to provide others with the answers we’ve been longing to have in front of us. Have a good day!
April 3, 2022 at 3:43 pm
I’m so glad to hear that this perspective feels helpful – including what I have the privilege of learning through direct experience!!!- not just for you but also for your mom (and given her diagnoses and yours, it sounds like the adverse experiences likely go back at least another generation if not more).
Here are some articles that support the role of adversity in risk for chronic disease and might be something to offer her / your doctors.
Here are my favorites: One of the importance of doctors needing to recognize the role of trauma in long-term biology and physical health is by a Director at Harvard who is himself a pediatrician and at the forefront of much of the ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) work and implementation: The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress
Another is a more recent article by Dr. Gordon, a retired family doctor emphasizing the research supporting links between adversity and adult illness, which include autoimmune diseases: The importance of child abuse and neglect in adult medicine (It’s not free but you can email me for a copy if you’d like one)
A third is a study finding that adversity in childhood (ACEs in particular) is a risk factor for autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes.
You’ll find links to research supporting the role of adversity in risk for type 1 diabetes in some of my articles, including Dan’s story, if you haven’t seen those already.
Wishing you both all the best!! Every step we take that educates our doctors helps, even if all we’re doing is planting seeds that might take a little while to sprout (say the next time they hear about it or read something)! xoxo
I love hearing from you. I read and review every comment before publishing it to make it visible to everyone. Your stories and insights make the writing and running of my blog so worthwhile. Although your email is required, it is not made public. You can use any name you wish. How do you work with your health? What has helped as you've become an expert in your own right? Does understanding the science of trauma make your journey any easier? Is there anything you need or wish I wrote about more?
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