A Gateway to Mental and Physical Health Problems
Traumatic experiences, particularly those that one may encounter in childhood, are a major risk factor for a number of mental health conditions. These can range from substance use and eating disorders to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. However, according to an article by Harvard Health, trauma can also make a person more prone to several physical conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and obesity. Andrea Roberts, a research scientist with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health believes that some of these physical problems are a result of behavioral changes brought on by trauma. People suffering from trauma are more likely to attempt to regulate their emotions through risky behaviors. These can include heavy drinking, illicit drug use, smoking, and disordered eating. Roberts says, “Those can all be used as a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with emotional dysregulation that occurs when someone has been traumatized.”
Over-Working the Engine
However, studies still reveal a link between trauma and physical health issues even after accounting for behavioral factors. Irritability, anger, hostile behavior, and severe anxiety are all common symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They are all also closely related to cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure along with inflammation in the body. The article points to the body’s stress response and biological effects that occur in times of extreme stress. Roberts compares it to constantly revving a car. It puts extra wear and tear on the engine and takes miles off of its lifetime. When we live with the type of chronic anxiety that trauma survivors do, our stress response constantly activates. Our adrenaline surges and our heart rate increases. The body is constantly priming itself to react, just like that over-worked car engine.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
The DSM-5 defines traumatic events as those that involve “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.” However, these are criteria for adults. We mentioned earlier that traumatic childhood experiences are particularly detrimental to one’s health. Furthermore, because their minds are so vulnerable, those negative experiences require a wider set of parameters. After an extensive study with Kaiser Permanente in the 90s, the CDC developed a list of ten Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs. These include physical and emotional abuse and neglect, as well as sexual abuse. It also includes household dysfunction, specifically domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, divorce, and an incarcerated relative. Their research revealed that any four of these ten puts someone at an increased risk of behavioral, mental, and physical health problems later in life.
Real Courage Means Asking for Help
Traumatic experiences often require professional help to process and overcome. The expert staff at Ocean Recovery has been helping our clients work through their trauma since 2002. In addition to individual and group counseling sessions, we offer addiction education, nutritional counseling, yoga, and more. It’s all part of our holistic approach to mental health treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling from the fallout of traumatic experiences, please consider giving Ocean Recovery a call today. Real courage means asking for help. Ocean Recovery is here to answer.