Immune Response is Secondary to Trauma


immunefirst published on Beyond Meds

For the most part I remain on hiatus, but I wanted to share the below article because I’m learning about immune response right now and I think it’s important to share it. When I say I’m learning it I mean that my body is revealing the truth of it to me. Our bodies hold information to heal us. We all learn different things because we’re all aspects of the whole. I’m sharing what I am receiving through my healing experience. This information needs to get out there and every single one of us that understand (in whatever way it comes to us) can help it go society wide.

Mad in America has featured an article about inflammation and the immune response in the Lancet. It’s great that these things are being studied, but as usual it’s done from a dangerously reductionistic perspective. We must broaden our lenses if we hope to profoundly help people. Again, my favorite meme: everything matters.

Please read the comments that follow the excerpt. It’s important that those of us who have the body knowledge of these realities come to understand what it is we are experiencing so that we can communicate it to others and help ourselves and each other. It’s possible to get well. It’s very helpful to understand what is going on.

So from the featured article on Mad in America:

There is mounting evidence that inflammation and altered immune system responses may be playing important roles in the pathogenesis of psychological distress, including in the etiology of schizophrenia, according to a research review and editorial in The Lancet Psychiatry.

“Contrary to the traditional view that the brain is an immunologically privileged site shielded behind the blood–brain barrier, studies in the past 20 years have noted complex interactions between the immune system, systemic inflammation, and the brain, which can lead to changes in mood, cognition, and behaviour,” stated a team led by University of Cambridge researchers.

“Early in the 20th century, there was great excitement when general paresis of the insane was shown to be due to syphilis and curable with penicillin, inspiring hope that similar organic causes might be found for other types of mental illness,” stated the editorial. “This hope was not realised and for the rest of the century immunology and psychiatry went their separate ways. Now evidence is accumulating that neuroinflammation might after all contribute to some disorders, such as schizophrenia(.)”

The Lancet Psychiatry. “Mind and Antibody: The Return of Immunopsychiatry”.

“Inflammation and Immunity in Schizophrenia: Implications for Pathophysiology and Treatment.” The Lancet Psychiatry 2

From Mad in America

Gabor Mate’s work is very important here and pulls together much of what is going on although not all of it is explicit.

Another person doing really important work around these issues from a trauma perspective is Bessel van der Kolk:

Both these men see that chronic illness is often part of the picture. Immune response is a large part of why this is the case.

This sort of research so often misses the scope of what is happening to our body/minds but there are people stringing it all together finally. A lot of those people are us. Those who are dealing with these issues. It just needs to get out there a little more widely. Pharmaceutical management is NOT the way to go. A lot of people are coming to understand this.

Healing requires understanding ourselves as holistic beings for which everything we do matters. It also requires understanding that as individuals every path to wholeness is different. There are no cookie cutter solutions here. This is the biggest reason that reductionistic research, applied without greater understanding about the whole to pharmaceutical and other sorts of targeted treatments end up being dangerous for often large percentages of people subject to standard care.

More related:


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. Incredible article Monica. Thank you also for the many links to study. It makes me think of ASMR. When I am at my highest level of mental and physical distress it works better than anything. I’ve been thinking of starting a thread on the forums where people can discuss it. I love how non-invasive it is. I would be curious to know what you think of it if you have run across it?

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    • ASMR is fascinating. I resonate in that it makes perfect sense to me but I’m not really one to get soothed by that particular thing…but I’m drawn and guided to numerous different sounds and tones and music to heal specific patterns I’m dealing with…the tones and sounds and music change…who knows, at some point ASMR too may be helpful sounds…

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        • Hi B,
          A lot of info about there on it,
          Here is the Wikipedia:

          But really it’s hard to say what it is. Your guess is as good as mine. I just know certain sounds and other sensory inputs help me feel able to better exist in my skin at moments of my highest panic, distress or anxiety.

          The best way to explore it is to go to YouTube. Type ASMR in and dive in. It seems to be more popular in Europe so you could probably find a bunch of German speaking videos. That would help because a lot of it is language oriented. I think the reason it is so popular on YouTube is that the best videos get watched over and over. This is my favorite. I ‘be probably watched/listened to her over 1,000 times.

          I ‘m not advertising anything. I hate that shit. I’m a very poor person with no health insurance. I love that these are free. Free is a magical word in my world.

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      • I think that one of the problems with concepts like ASMR is that they are not easily defined. So much that is useful to the traumatized mind and body are not easily quantified or defined. The medical model is uncomfortable with ambiguity, like the DSM. I have the classic “brain spasm” with certain specific triggers. One of the strongest is, randomly and oddly enough, the sound of a person eating cornflakes or frosted flakes. I have a much larger number of lesser “triggers” that aren’t as dramatic, but absolutely calm me down in predictable and consistent ways. I think that defining ASMR in a too rigid fashion has created an artificial division between those who might have strong and acute triggers vs those who don’t. At bottom, isn’t any activity or sensory space that we can control and deliberately inhabit therapeutic? I’d love to see more discussion of this on MIA.
        Your cat is adorable, I think cats know a lot about ASMR, starting with the purr.

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        • oh, thanks…that’s interesting way to think about it. Chewing actually triggers me in the opposite direction…and that is actually pathologized in some autistic and other such medical communities…there is an actual label with “disorder” attached to it…I don’t remember what it is, because I stay mostly away from such nonsense…anyway, yes, it’s all very interesting.

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          • It’s not so much chewing as crunching. But yes, a large proportion of ASMR videos involve eating of some sort. I had no idea that was a topic in autistic circles.

            It’s the kind of thing I’d like to see a bunch of idealistic young minds chew on. Anecdotal experience can only take it so far.

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        • “Ps Your cat is adorable, I think cats know a lot about ASMR, starting with the purr.”
          I wanted to say the same thing:). Cats are little narcissists but they’re so cute and cuddly everything is forgiven (mine won’t get off my knees when I come home).

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  2. You are absolutely correct, Monica, the psychiatric industry’s primary function in society may be covering up adverse adult or childhood traumatic experiences. In other words further traumatizing and torturing victims of real life crimes. And I am starting to have concern it is possible that the primary cause of schizophrenia in this country could be such medical cover ups of child abuse being misdiagnosed as “psychosis.”

    I was misdiagnosed as “psychotic” because I had expressed concerns of the abuse of my child to a psychologist, I went to a talk therapist to overcome my denial. I was eventually handed over the medical evidence of the abuse in my child’s medical records, and the fact I’d been misdiagnosed based upon lies from the alleged child molesters. John Read’s research indicates that 77% of children who’d suffered from child abuse ended up also being diagnosed as “psychotic.”

    As a grown adult, I was put on a child’s dose of Risperdal, .5 mg, and within 2 weeks suffered from a terrifying psychosis (I was also on the anti-inflammatory Voltaren at the time). The antipsychotics do cause psychosis and the other schizophrenia symptoms, via what is known as the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. And a grown adult can be made psychotic on a child’s dose of Risperdal.

    It is possible the primary cause of schizophrenia may very well be the psychiatric practitioners claiming that the the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome are schizophrenia, or in my case all the major mental illnesses, because those are profitable and billable disorders, while neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome is not.

    And as I pointed out on the other article, the anti-inflammatory drugs can actually cause the symptoms of the so called “mental illnesses.” Voltaren can cause “change in consciousness, confusion, depression, irritability, loss of consciousness, nervousness, unusual drowsiness, dullness, or feeling of sluggishness” to name just a few of the potential adverse side effects of that drug – that, in part, led to my misdiagnoses of “bipolar,” “paranoid schizophrenia,” and “depression caused by self” – by three different doctors within just a couple weeks. I’m quite certain there is neither validity nor reliability when it comes to diagnosing people with the DSM disorders.

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    • And the neuroleptics DO, in fact, cause the schizophrenia symptoms. From

      “Agents with anticholinergic properties (e.g., sedating antihistamines; antispasmodics; neuroleptics; phenothiazines; skeletal muscle relaxants; tricyclic antidepressants; disopyramide) may have additive effects when used in combination. Excessive parasympatholytic effects may result in paralytic ileus, hyperthermia, heat stroke, and the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. Peripheral symptoms of intoxication commonly include mydriasis, blurred vision, flushed face, fever, dry skin and mucous membranes, tachycardia, urinary retention, and constipation. Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

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  3. “Healing requires understanding ourselves as holistic beings for which everything we do matters. It also requires understanding that as individuals every path to wholeness is different.”

    That’s really the bottom line, isn’t it? Finally, we’re honoring ourselves, our hearts, our voices, and our unique individual spirits.

    Aside from all the physically-oriented work I had to do to heal (gut healing, yin/yang balancing, working out energy blocks, re-routing neural pathways, etc.), healing for me was, more than anything, about forgiving the past, so that I could really heal my heart and accept the totality of who I am in present time, without the baggage from the trauma. That not only shifted my self-perception and my entire outlook on life, and even my perception of others, coming now from a more empathic and soul-like perspective (which really helped me to release fear, resentment, and judgment), but it also directly lit up my own path toward full healing and integration.

    When the heart is calm, expansive, and robust from forgiveness and gratitude, then our minds clear and we’re in direct communication with our spirits as well as the universe. For me, this was like a lumen lighting up my path, and it hasn’t failed me yet. That’s the inner guidance I continue to follow. For me, personally, that healed anything that I had up to that point believed was chronic. In the world of energy healing, nothing is chronic and everything is repairable. That was a huge discovery for me.

    Keep up the beautiful work, Monica, you’re helping a lot of people. Best wishes with your continued healing, and the work you do for the betterment of others. I love witnessing the healing and evolution of others, as I continue with my own personal growth. I think that’s what a healthy, balanced and mutually empathic community is all about.

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  4. Thanks for highlighting the growing interest in immune response, Monica. I am excited about the concluding paragraph of The Lancet article, and I agree with you that “everything matters.”

    “The road ahead forks: one branch leads to progressively more fragmented disease classifications managed by ever more specialised physicians, the other to holistic care of patients by integrated teams, taking into account their immune, somatic, and psychiatric symptoms. For the sake of our patients, we need to follow the path to integrated care.”

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  5. If there were a second system in the body that may be approaching the complexity of the nervous system it would be the immune system. And there are broad interactions between the two.

    I wonder if the link between trauma and immune response is not linked to the effects of chronic stress. Stress has a repressive effect on the immune system which makes sense in a a short term but after a while this becomes problematic. Many people can go full steam ahead for a few weeks or months before an exam session, end of a work project etc, but then inevitable crush mentally and physically. I was down with what was described as “chronic fatigue syndrome” (another non-sense diagnosis which is simply re-iteration of symptoms) for a few months after completing my PhD. It took a lot of time and effort to recover. I am sure that experiencing things like war, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, bullying and so on has a lasting effect on people’s bodies, including the immune system. That may be why some people get through the difficulties only to succumb to “mental illness” when all seems to be over and good.

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  6. the immune response is a sort of fight or flight response…sometimes to what are otherwise totally benign “foreign invaders” when it goes really crazy…hence the sort of crazy food and multiple chemical sensitivities etc etc.

    and yes, I think chronic stress is likely to be a large part of it too.

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    • There’s also the problem of chronic infections. Viruses are the biggest problem with that but there are also latent bacterial and parasitic infections (malaria is one of them). They appear “asymptomatic” but the immune system is constantly fighting them. There was recently a paper showing that birds latently infected with malaria show worse rates of reproduction and die more quickly than healthy ones though on the first glimpse they appear not to have any problems. During life we all acquire a lot of pathogens that we have to keep in check and when we put stress, poor nutrition and lack of sleep on top of that it can have dire consequences.

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  7. I get a little bit nervous when I read some of this, and here’s why:

    If a physical condition is deemed to be *secondary* to trauma, this conclusion could easily be interpreted as a “psychosomatic” condition – or in laypersons’ terms: “all in your head.”

    I think a strong case could be made that many health conditions are “soma-psychotic” – head injuries, toxic exposures, sleep deprivation/disorders, etc. – all of which are real health conditions that affect thought, mood, behavior.

    It seems reasonable that the medical profession rule these things out, before the psychotherapists are ruled in.

    Please, let’s not create a new paradigm of care that sees these things as *secondary* to emotional trauma. Many people have undergone *real* physical trauma –

    No further comment. Not in the mood for a debate (or long argument) on this subject.


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  8. part of holistic thinking is embracing more not less….both/and thinking rather than either/or. Of course physical trauma is real…and it impacts the emotional/psychological and vice versa. Starting points and lenses onto the truth are endless…it means many perspectives are valid… It’s actually rather exciting. The truth is also filled with nuance…and yeah, it makes people nervous…let’s grapple with it…

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