Past Trauma, Future Health

By Teresa Pitt Green, Founder

The impact of abuse on health is of signal interest to many of us who have survived trauma. Over the years, I have come to read research that relates the two with a personal cautionary note, based on first-hand experience of how medical care and research often interact with survivors in studies with biases such as a blind spot to our resilience and other strengths developed despite or even because of abuse, and also such as the far less studied phenomenon of misdiagnoses based on medical bias.

All these issues will be explored during the First Annual Spirit Fire Conference on Abuse and Faith in May 2020. More about that later. For now, it’s important that I share my personal cautionary note with readers before I share information about this very interesting study out of Harvard regarding the impact of trauma on health, especially childhood trauma.

As you read it, notice how trauma is not always illegal. It might be loss of a parent when very young, or a diagnosis of terminal illness, or sudden homelessness or poverty or hunger. It may also be suffering sexual abuse.

Another important point is captured by this statement from the article: “Child abuse is particularly likely to affect your adult life because it occurs at a time when your brain is vulnerable — and it often occurs at the hands of people who are supposed to be your protectors,” magnifying the trauma.

But trauma for many studies also may refer to “things that are a lot milder than things people typically think of as abuse. It might include being hit with a hard object, like a whip, a belt, or a paddle…. The behavior doesn’t necessarily need to be illegal to induce a traumatic response.”

This article is rich with insights and practical ideas. The greatest challenge one researcher points out rings true. Of the many good suggestions, “unfortunately, all of these things are hard to do when in depressive states,” says Andrea Roberts. “That’s why many people may need to start with therapy, and then add other strategies later on.”

From February 2019, Past Trauma May Haunt Your Future Health

Harvard Health Publishing

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