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    3 Ways You Can ‘See’ Someone Has Experienced Trauma

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD from emotional and psychological trauma are often considered invisible conditions. The invisible nature of these conditions can lead to being overlooked or under-considered when survivors visit general doctors and specialists who lag behind in trauma-informed practices. In addition to the effects of trauma itself, survivors are often stigmatized by those who mistakenly believe symptoms are “all in their head.” Thanks to the work of researchers and professionals, however, great strides have been made in helping the public understand the physiology and neurobiology of trauma. Experts such as California’s Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and psychiatrist Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, among others, have linked the physical symptoms of emotional and psychological trauma. When a survivor has been carrying the weight of an invisible illness, like PTSD or complex PTSD, it can be a great relief to discover there are tangible, measurable effects of trauma in the body. When survivors and their care teams are able to “see” the issue, it can often lead to more effective solutions for treatment. Here are some ways you can “see” the effects of trauma : 1. In the Eyes Cardiff University and Swansee University researchers recently released a study that looked at the pupils in the eyes of trauma survivors, which can be measured when shown images of stimuli. The pupils of trauma survivors showed an increased response when looking at both threatening and non-threatening images. In general, trauma survivors tend to take in more sensory information than the average population, which can often lead to a whole host of other issues, including overwhelm and fatigue. There is also a link between high-sensitivity and trauma. 2. In the Brain Brain scans can reveal a number of insights as physical “proof” of trauma. In trauma survivors, it’s common for experts to observe a number of brain changes in several areas of the brain. An overactive amygdala, which controls the fight-flight response, means a survivor can be in a state of constant hypervigilance. A weakened prefrontal cortex (PFC) makes it difficult to concentrate, and an underactive anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) means emotional regulation is more difficult. 3. In the Body In addition to psychological symptoms, including depression and anxiety, there are a number of physical ailments linked to trauma as well. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, other autoimmune diseases, migraine, high blood pressure, night terrors, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) seem to occur more often in trauma survivors. Trauma is one potential trigger of fibromyalgia, for example. It’s believed almost half of all men with combat-related PTSD also meet the criteria for fibromyalgia, a chronic illness that puts your nervous system into a hypervigilant state, causing chronic pain, fatigue and other symptoms. In addition, 64% of nearly 14,000 people diagnosed with fibromyalgia reported they experienced trauma as a child in a survey conducted by The Mighty. Treating Physical Trauma Symptoms While not all health issues are trauma-related, it is worth a deeper look at the root causes of these symptoms if you have a history of trauma. If you suspect trauma is an underlying cause of your physical ailments, it’s important to find health care professionals who are well-informed on the latest research on trauma-informed care. Depending on where you live and your level of access to health care, you may need to search outside of your immediate area to find the right doctors or direct your health care team to further information to support you. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study is a great place to start, and “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk is also an excellent resource to understand the connection between emotional trauma and physical pain. Final Thoughts Finding the right support for trauma recovery can be a harrowing experience on top of an already challenging condition. Trauma survivors often need a host of medical doctors, psychiatrists and therapists working in tandem to find the right solutions. Other “alternative” therapies, such as diet changes, massage, yoga, acupuncture or tai chi, may also be of benefit. It can require a lot of patience and trial and error to find what works, but relief is possible. Often, the first step lies in acknowledging that the trauma is measurable and real.

    Community Voices

    Child Loss: Why I Want Another Child After Losing One

    I lost my daughter Braylee on December 6, 2015. I had her when I was 18 years old. She was diagnosed with agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC). ACC is a rare congenital disorder in which there is a complete or partial absence of the corpus callosum, the area connecting the two hemispheres in the brain. Hers was completely missing. Doctors told us she wouldn’t be able to reach “normal” milestones or have a normal lifespan. I didn’t want to believe it. She had to have a trachea put in at a year and a half old. I never heard her voice again, but she always had a special way of talking to me. December 6, 2015 was the last time I held my baby, and I remember every minute of it like it was yesterday, just like I remember holding her for the first time. She would have been 3 on February 23. I loved being a mom, especially her mom. Being a mom was the only thing I absolutely loved doing. Being a mom was the only thing I was ever good at in my eyes. She passed away two months ago, and now I want another baby. I’m sure some people might disagree with it, but here are my reasons why I want to try for another one. 1. There is a 2 to 3 percent chance the new baby will have the same condition my daughter did. Yes, I’m terrified of something happening. No, I won’t love the baby any less. We didn’t expect Braylee to have the condition she did, but we didn’t love her any less, and we tried our hardest at everything we could. 2. No, the new baby will not replace my daughter. Nothing will ever replace her. She was my first child, and we went through hell and back together. We will always have a special bond, and she will always have a special place in my heart. 3. Yes, I am still grieving over the loss of Braylee, and there might be a slight chance I do want another baby to help fill the emptiness. I had her when I was 18; I didn’t go to college parties and what not like other people my age often did. Now that I am 21, I still have yet to go to the bar since she has passed, like other people my age often do. The thing is, when you have a child, you do grown-up stuff and family-oriented things. So that is what we did, and we still do that to this day. When your mind is set like that for three years, it’s hard to break the habit. We already missed out on a lot, and I’m not going to change it now. Missing out on those things was worth it. 4. We’re a family. Braylee will not be forgotten. Her brother or sister will know about her. They will know they have a big sister up in heaven looking down on them. I will talk about her and her condition and how strong she was to them as they get older. They will be proud to say they have a big sister even though she isn’t here. She will always be in our hearts and with us wherever we go. Pictures will still be all over our house of us together, and I will try my best to make her included in family pictures. This is our life. This is our family. If this is what we want to do, please support us. Just know, I will not be replacing her. We want to be happy again. We want to live our lives as happily as possible. After losing her, there has been emptiness there. The stress and depression has taken over us. In my heart, I believe this is a way to heal.