So many people ask me about the relationship between trauma and chronic illness, especially if the trauma was experienced in childhood.
There are definitely links between experiencing trauma and going on to develop serious diseases like heart disease and chronic illness conditions including autoimmune disease from all of the data and research that was collected during the Adverse Childhood Experience project.
Some of the things that are considered to be traumatic in childhood are:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- emotional abuse
- physical neglect
- emotional neglect
- witnessing domestic violence
- substance misuse within the household
- mental illness within the household
- parental separation or divorce
- incarceration of a household member.
The risk increases if you have experienced more than 3 ACE events.
To take the ACE Self Assessment test and get lots of background information on the ACE Study click here.
It’s not just trauma in early childhood that causes issues though. Research has shown that the experience of becoming chronically ill can create trauma and PTSD because of the complex issues involved.
From “Chronic illness, trauma, language and writing: Breaking the silence.” by Peggy Penn M.S.W.
To paraphrase the article, it was determined that illness is a relationally traumatising experience, not just for the person with the illness, but for other members of the family as well.
Looking at language, we are particularly attentive to the social prevalence of negative metaphors that surround and engulf the ill person and her family: dependence, poor genes, repressed personalities, weak constitutions, et cetera
These negative metaphors, or outside voices, join with the inner voices of the ill person and result in a silence that disconnects people at a time when connections must be relied on and above question.
This aligns with our own lived experience once we are diagnosed with chronic illness. Those closest to us don’t seem to understand. We are often accused of exaggerating, making it up, being weak, whiny or always complaining.
We are often met with disbelief, gaslighting and rejection which adds to the feeling of social isolation, marginalisation and feeling judged or abandoned.
You can read the abstract of the article here.
In another study by Angelo A Alonzo: The experience of chronic illness and post-traumatic stress disorder: the consequences of cumulative adversity, the researcher examines the experiences of chronically ill people to explore how the lived experience post illness including medical interventions, test and experience, can create or lead to PTSD over time.
This recognises that the experience of becoming chronically ill can create maladaptive coping behaviours including profound trauma.
You can read the abstract here.
So much of this will come as no surprise to those of us living with chronic illness.
In this podcast I dive into all things related to trauma and PTSD, why it matters if you live with chronic illness and why we need to start taking it seriously.
You can listen here on the blog, search for the Emotional Autoimmunity podcast on iTunes, Spotify and most podcast players and subscribe or if you want to watch the vlog, you can head over to my Youtube Channel.
Remember, if you need help resolving trauma, you can book your FREE Discovery Session with me and we can eliminate your trauma once and for all.