12 Jan The Connection Between Trauma and Autoimmunity
Trauma: a small word with such mighty meaning. In my practice, trauma is a big deal. Not only is it a substantial part of a person’s health, but more often than not, it’s completely unrecognized or unacknowledged by the individual. This kind of unrecognized and unaddressed trauma can feed into a host of physical, mental and emotional problems. This is why the connection between trauma and autoimmunity must be known. More importantly, it must be understood and addressed to experience full healing and wholeness.
What is Trauma?
Trauma is defined as, “a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time.” Life experiences, positive or negative, that we are unable to fully process, understand, handle, or integrate at the time, often lead to a sympathetic response. In other words, the body subconsciously chooses to fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Usually, these experiences are associated with a level of overwhelm, either abruptly (acute) or over time (chronic). In order to adapt and survive, the body packages up and stores that experience to deal with later. Unfortunately, our busy lives don’t usually allow us time to process, reflect, and heal at a later time. So, we subconsciously continue to collect and carry these “trauma packages” or as we often refer to them, “baggage.” Ultimately, the trauma continues to go unaddressed and unrecognized, sometimes for a lifetime.
There are different kinds of trauma to become aware of:
Big “T” and Little “T”
Big T “Trauma” refers to situations where a person’s life or bodily integrity is threatened. On the other hand, little T “trauma” refers to situations that cause distress or impact one’s quality of life.
Objective and Subjective
Objective trauma is similar to big “T” trauma, as they are typically marked by a harmful, painful, or damaging experience. Subjective trauma is different from little “T” trauma. Not everyone will consider subjective trauma to be “traumatic.” In those who are highly sensitive, empaths, or intuitives, this is the most relevant trauma to look at. In the sensitive population, something seemingly benign to most can be quite overwhelming and traumatic. For example: the same loud, rambunctious concert can be enriching to a non-sensitive person and very overwhelming to a sensitive individual.
Acute and Chronic
Acute trauma happens suddenly, like an accident or attack. Chronic trauma happens gradually, such as a neglected relationship or continuous lifestyle stressors.
Understanding the different forms of trauma can help us identify traumatic experiences in our own lives.
Can Trauma be Healed?
It is possible to heal and recover from past traumas. However, it requires the ability and time to process, understand, and integrate the past experience and create meaning out of it. As a result, trauma transforms into expanded consciousness and wisdom and we no longer react to the same traumatic stimuli.
Trauma that is not yet healed often leads to the 6 types of sensitivity: physical, chemical, mental, emotional, social, and energetic. These different types of sensitivity often present themselves in very specific symptoms. For example: mental sensitivity might look like road rage, OCD tendencies, addiction, chronic pain, stress, or anxiety. Physical sensitivity can present as hypersensitivity to lights, noise and/or touch, mind-body-spirit disconnect, or an aversion to specific textures.
The Connection Between Trauma and Autoimmunity
Trauma has recurring effects on the mind and body. Eventually, it alters the way we perceive the world, changes how the brain communicates with the body, and keeps us stuck in a sympathetic response (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn). More so, unrecognized and unaddressed trauma drives stress chemistry, suppresses the immune system from fighting harmful pathogens (ie. precancerous or cancerous cells), and causes us to stay hyper-vigilant. It’s no wonder that over time these physiological changes result in immune dysregulation.
In fact, one study shows that those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are at higher risk for thyroid disorder. And, the ACES study shows a direct correlation between traumatic events early in life, such as abuse or neglect, and physical, mental, and emotional health struggles later.
How to Address Unhealed Trauma
I’m on a mission to help the world heal from their traumas, one person at a time. While it takes intentionality and understanding, it most definitely is possible. I’ve witnessed it time and time again.
- The first and possibly most important step to healing trauma is to recognize where trauma has occurred and is still unresolved. The most common reasons trauma goes unrecognized are: 1. We suppress trauma because it’s just too painful. 2) We ignore it in an effort to diminish its significance or because we’ve been told it’s “not a big deal.”
- After trauma recognition, it’s necessary to learn compassion and grace for ourselves. Once again, trauma is a big deal. It’s important to allow ourselves time to process and grieve the experience. In order to heal, we need to create a sense of meaning out of the trauma. After all, we can’t change what happened, but we can change what it means and how it impacts us moving forward. We must allow it to expand our compassion and understanding of ourselves and the world.
- Next, create a list. Write down a comprehensive list of your traumatic experiences, filed under “Big T” and “Little T,” subjective and objective, and acute and chronic. Take your time with this one. It will likely require multiple sessions to complete.
Once trauma is recognized, it’s time to pursue healing. Luckily, there are a variety of mind-body techniques that are successful in trauma healing. These are a handful of approaches I’ve witnessed firsthand:
- Re-parenting communication tools
- Trauma processing techniques (CPT)
- Energy psychology (EFT, AIT)
- Bodywork (chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, reiki)
- Talk therapy and counseling
- Brain-based therapies and functional neurology
- Community support and loving relationships
- Self-compassion and love
- Nutrition and lifestyle changes
- Homeopathy and plant remedies
- Spiritual practices
- Nature and animals
Trauma, no matter how big or small, should not be taken lightly. And, as we now know, it can have significant impacts on our mental and physical health, when left unaddressed.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with many clients, who’ve since worked through their lifelong traumas. As a result, they’re living vibrant, full lives. To connect with these individuals and experience healing for yourself, join Club Sensitive, a monthly service for like-minded individuals!