Your brain really wants to keep you alive. It is a major preoccupation, literally of life and death importance. And with good reason — the people in the past who did not detect danger got gobbled up by the wolves or bears. You are alive because your ancestors’ brains noticed the predators, and turbocharged their muscles to get away faster than their neighbors. The system is quick and complex, and it kept them going, eventually resulting in you being born.
Our skill at reacting to dangers that we can see applies to more than snakes or tigers. It is also how we have set up our healthcare system. We put enormous effort into it, with the US spending 3.5 trillion dollars a year on healthcare. We have MRI machines of staggering complexity, and hospitals filled with smart and highly trained people.
What Are the Invisible Killers?
But there is a problem. All that technology and expertise is focused on what we can see. A physical injury is obvious, we can look at the broken bone or the blood. Bacterial infections can be spotted pretty fast and we can see the evil little microbes under a microscope. Our healthcare system addresses these very well. They also happen to have been the biggest cause of early death in the 19th century. 150 years ago, what usually killed people was smashed limbs, or disease. Thankfully, we have excellent interventions to deal with them.
That was then. This is the 21st century, and things have changed dramatically. Of the ten leading causes of early death, physical injuries and infections are 5th and 8th on the list. They actually are the least of our worries. Something else, something we cannot see, yet is very powerful, is pushing us to an early grave.
We need to know what that is. If we zero in on what shortens our lifespans, then we can address it. We can take action to live long, robust lives. We can employ bright, passionate people to strengthen our bodies, and lengthen our years.
But we are not. Not in the slightest. Although the research papers have been pouring out by the thousands during the 21st century on the single biggest cause of early death, all that knowledge is pretty much ignored. Passed by. The doctors don’t know about it, you don’t know about it, the hospitals don’t measure it, the insurance companies won’t pay to treat it — nothing. It melts a few brain cells when you think about it. The single largest cause of early death is ignored by our expensive and sophisticated healthcare system.
Which is why you are lucky to be reading this article. You will learn how these invisible injuries occur, and the many ways they shorten a person’s lifespan. And once you understand what they are, you can take action. You can take a simple assessment to see if you have the risk factors, and then you can address it. You can treat this hazard with interventions that not only are safe, but effective. Multiple studies show that these treatments are powerful enough to rewrite your DNA. More on that later.
Where the Invisible Injuries Come From
First of all, we need to understand the injuries that our healthcare system cannot see. And some of the most advanced minds in medicine tell us to begin our journey in an unexpected place. The cardiologists in the American Heart Association are grappling with “the greatest public health burden in the United States . . . cardiometabolic outcomes, including obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.”1 Every week, physicians watch more Americans die from these conditions than any other. And the older that people get, the higher their risk rises. But the American Heart Association points us to the opposite end of the lifespan. It says that intervening with children who experience trauma is a more appropriate way to address this huge cause of early death.
Well, that is a surprise. Cardiologists say that we should focus on abuse and neglect to kids, in order to reduce diabetes and heart attacks in 70 year olds. The nature of the invisible injuries, the ones that our healthcare system ignores, is revealed. They are psychological injuries. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Emotional or physical neglect. Having a parent with a substance abuse problem, a major mental health issue, a criminal, violence between the parents, or separation from a parent by divorce or death before age 18: these are some of the most common psychological injuries that people experience. They are so powerful, and shape people’s lives to such a degree, that they show up 60 years later as poor health and premature death. That is why the heart specialists are more worried about what happens to 7 year olds, than the seniors who sit in their waiting rooms.
How Emotional Wounds Damage Our Flesh
How on earth does this happen? How does experiencing physical abuse as an 8 year old shorten one’s lifespan? How do insulting words turn into diabetes? Or sexual abuse trigger a heart attack 50 years in the future? To answer this, we need to dive deep into what happens when a child is badly frightened.
When a person experiences a terrifying event, one system in the brain kicks in very rapidly, the fight or flight response.2 Regardless of the threat (a bear or a raging parent), the brain helps you to respond immediately, and have the maximum amount of energy available to either fight the threat or flee from it. A region of the brain called the amygdala monitors the information from the eyes, ears, and other senses. When it interprets something as dangerous, it zips a signal to another part of the brain, the hypothalamus. This functions as a command center, and activates the sympathetic nervous system. This system tells the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which squirts into the bloodstream. Now things really start rocking, because adrenaline is designed to energize the body to either fight the threat and kill it, or flee from it into safety. The heart beats faster, pushing blood to the muscles and other organs. Blood sugar and fats are released from temporary storage, which puts more energy in the blood stream. Not only do people breathe faster, but the airways in their lungs open wider, to absorb more oxygen.
It is not just the organs that are activated, muscle cells are revved up by adrenaline as well. If you are faced by a bear, you want your muscles to work very fast and hard. As the adrenaline is carried to the muscles by the blood, it locks onto receptors.3 This triggers a very complex cascade in the cell, that frees up a lot of glucose. The glucose is broken down into carbon dioxide and water, and in the process, it creates dozens of molecules (ATP) that are used to power the muscles. This process happens in the power plant of the cell, the mitochondria. And like all power plants, it emits some noxious byproducts. Diesel engines produce little particles of soot, gasoline engines produce carbon monoxide, and the mitochondria produces a group of molecules known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). The worst member of this group of ROS are hydroxyl radicals. And like radicals everywhere, they are not interested in keeping things stable. They are radicals after all, and they want to bust things up. They will break bonds in DNA, in proteins, even in water.
The Tears in Our DNA
Breaking bonds in water is not a big problem for cells. Breaking apart DNA molecules is. DNA contains the genetic code for life, and if errors enter the code, then damage can compound. If the DNA in the mitochondria has breaks in the strands of DNA, then more hydroxyl radicals are created, which causes more breaks in the DNA, which leads to more hydroxyl radicals, and a vicious spiral is created. The hydroxyl radicals also attack DNA in the nucleus, causing breaks there as well. If your DNA has breaks or parts of it are cut out, then those flaws are passed on to the next generation. One of the results is that the cell dies early. And when your cells die early, you die early.
All that is just from the effects of adrenaline. But the body does more than release adrenaline to rev you up in the fight or flight response. Remember, your brain is extremely interested in keeping you alive, and has a second system in place to make sure that you either fight and kill the threat, or sprint away from it. The second system is activated in the hypothalamus, if it keeps on getting the message that danger is nearby. This system is the HPA axis, because the Hypothalamus signals the Pituitary gland, which signals the Adrenal glands. If the adrenal glands get the message that danger is still around (there is a swarm of bees, not just a single bee) then it releases cortisol.
Nearly every cell in the body has receptors for cortisol, showing how important it is, and how the whole body is involved in the fight or flight response. Cortisol mobilizes glucose into the bloodstream, giving the body energy for a longer period of time to either fight or flee. In order to keep the glucose in the blood so that it is available for your muscles, cortisol inhibits insulin from storing the glucose into cells. Cortisol also narrows the arteries, which increases blood pressure and forces the heart to pump faster. It reduces inflammation in the body as well. All of these effects help your body in the short term to cope with danger. Thanks to cortisol, your muscles have more energy available to them, your heart speeds up (which brings more oxygen and glucose to your muscles), and you are more able to cope with injury.
But there is a dark side as well. Experiments show that cortisol creates reactive nitrogen species inside cells.4 Like their nasty cousins (reactive oxygen species), they go on to damage DNA. No wonder that people with high levels of cortisol show more breakage in their DNA.5 6 And when people have high levels of cortisol in their blood for long periods of time, due to chronic stress, there is a cascade of negative effects.7 Cortisol suppresses the immune system, making people more susceptible to infections. Cortisol results in weight gain in three different pathways, including storing fat in the belly, overeating, and craving junk foods. Because cortisol puts glucose in the bloodstream, and stops insulin from taking it out, the cells become insulin resistant. This may lead to Type II diabetes. Cortisol also elevates blood pressure, which results in hypertension. And when you mix obesity, diabetes, and hypertension together, that is a good recipe for cardiovascular disease.
If this sounds familiar, it is because they are the conditions the American Heart Association was telling us are the greatest health burden in the US. Now we can see why the AHA is worried about kids’ experiencing trauma and abuse in childhood. Because when a stepmother slaps an 8 year old’s face, the kid goes into fight or flight mode. Adrenaline and cortisol gush into his bloodstream. And if she criticizes him repeatedly, the stress hormones fill his blood time and again. His DNA breaks down faster than his body can repair it, glucose is in his bloodstream for too long, and his blood pressure is too high.
Growing Up Does Not Heal You
The child is not healed of this destructive pattern simply by growing up and moving away. Terrifying events (such as being molested by a swimming coach) are imprinted on the amygdala in the brain as soon as they happen. Because the event was so frightening and dangerous, the brain constantly scans the environment, looking for any signals of danger. When it sees, hears, or smells anything that is associated with the original trauma, it triggers off the fight or flight response, in order to mobilize the person to get away from the danger.
This alters the brain of the child, so that the regions involved in fear, anxiety, and impulsive responses produce too many connections between the brain cells.8 This can change the stress system so that it responds at lower thresholds to events that might not be stressful to others. And if it is activated, it can take a lot longer for the traumatized child to calm down than a child without any psychological injuries. Therefore, the stress response system activates more frequently and for longer periods than is necessary, like revving a car engine for hours every day.
Now we see why getting older and moving away does not heal the child. Because their brain is over-wired for fear, anxiety, and other negative emotions. And leaving home does not rewrite damaged DNA. Psychological injuries produce a huge web of destructive effects. People freak out over small things, and cannot calm down. The mistakes in their DNA get passed on as their cells divide, a ticking time bomb of disease. The person carries shame, guilt, anger and more from the abuse. They believe they cannot reach out for help, because of the neglect.
The Wrong Bandaids Make Invisible Wounds Worse
When people carry a lot of emotional pain from their invisible wounds, they try to numb it out. And this is the second way that psychological injuries are a massive factor in 7 of the 10 leading causes of early death.9 Because junk food can be an anaesthetic to emotional pain. Smoking calms jittery nerves. Alcohol and drugs distract and dull painful memories. Anywhere you look, people with psychological injuries are abusing substances to try and soothe themselves. People with 4 or more traumas as a kid are 40% more likely to be overweight or obese than those with no traumas.10 They are 3 times more likely to smoke,11 and nearly 6 times more likely to have problems with alcohol,12 or use illicit drugs.13 The impact is so big that childhood traumas are estimated to account for one half to two third of serious problems with drug use.
And if people did not get consistent love in childhood, they will look in the wrong places to try and fill the void. Those with 4 or more traumas are 4 times more likely to start sexual activity earlier than their peers, and become pregnant as a teenager, than those with no traumas. They are 4 times more likely to have more than 50 sexual partners, and 6 times more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases. They are three times as likely to marry an alcoholic.
Stepping back, we see that psychological injuries have three major pathways by which they shape our lifespan. First, repeatedly going into fight or flight damages our DNA, and affects our body from the toxic and chronic stress. Second, people cope with the pain through abusing substances. And the dangers of excessive food, smoking, alcohol, and illicit drugs to our health are well known. Finally, people often seek out comfort through relationships, even if they are unhealthy. Teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and the stress of living with a substance-abusing spouse seriously corrode a person’s well-being.
Three Paths to Early Death
You can see where this is going. If a person has broken DNA because of the overly frequent releases of adrenaline and cortisol, and they cope with their psychological injuries by smoking, their risk of cancer skyrockets. If they have 4 or more childhood traumas, they are 2.5 times more likely to develop cancer, compared to people who are emotionally not injured.14 This is not just a statistic, this is the story of my family. My mother lost her mother when she was a little girl. She grew up in Holland during the Second World War, and had 4 psychological injuries from those experiences. Her risk of cancer was 250% higher as a result, and it showed up. Even though she did not smoke, cancer took her life in her early 50’s.
Cancer is not the only possible outcome for people with 4 or more childhood traumas. They are 3 times more likely to develop heart disease.15 This actually dwarfs the influence of genetics — a team from Harvard found that those with the highest genetic risk of heart disease were 65% more likely to develop it,16 but those at the highest psychological risk were 310% more likely to have it. The story continues: 4 or more childhood traumas triples the risk of developing diabetes, it has a 6 fold increase in risk of stroke, a person is 3.5 times more likely to develop cardio-obstructive pulmonary disease, and 2.5 times more likely to have liver/digestive disease.
The most dramatic example is suicide. Having no childhood traumas gives a 1% risk of attempting suicide by middle age. One trauma doubles the risk, two traumas doubles it again, on and on until the people with 7 or more traumas are 36 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who have none.17 Thirty-six times more likely!
The data is overwhelming. Seven of the 10 causes of early death are hugely influenced by psychological injuries, and the influence is far greater than genetics. The mix of broken DNA, chronic stress on the body, dysfunctional ways of coping with pain by abusing substances, and rotten relationships rip years, even decades off people’s lives.18
Doctors Do Not Know Why People Die Early
And yet our health care system completely ignores this mountain of research. The doctors do not even know about it. I have met many fine family physicians who have never heard of these scientific findings. As I chat with them over lunch, or as we cycle together, they are astonished by the data. Although they are well-trained to diagnose what is diabetes and what is liver disease, they have no idea that psychological injuries are such a big cause of them. I have met professors at the top universities in the world, and have good friends who taught at Harvard. They work very long hours to research cancer and heart disease, and have never seen the science linking psychological injuries to these fatal conditions. They don’t know that this link is much stronger than the genetic one. Think about it: Just by reading this article, you now know more on this topic than many doctors and professors in your city.
This is just one of many reasons why our sophisticated healthcare system ignores the single largest cause of early death. Since the physicians do not know about the role of psychological injuries, they cannot assess for them. And if they cannot assess them, they cannot treat them. And if they cannot treat the problem, then it will just carry on, year after year, causing more unnecessary suffering. The role of psychological injuries in 7 of the 10 leading causes of early death is not being addressed and treated and solved in the current system.
Those Who Know, Are Paid to Shut Up
Oddly enough, the professionals in the system who know the most about psychological injuries and their role in terrible diseases and early death have no interest in telling their physician colleagues about them. Doing this would actually be against their financial interest — they would lose a lot of money. Consider this fact: the 273 speakers at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in 2008 had signed 1371 consulting or promotional contracts for one or another drug company.19 On average, 5 different drug companies were paying each speaker. And as I discussed in a previous article (which you can read here), the drug companies strongly want to promote the idea of ‘chemical imbalances’ as causing mental health problems. Once someone accepts the idea, they then believe they have to take pills to correct the imbalance. Which is very profitable for the drug companies.
And every psychiatrist who accepts money from the drug companies understands that they have to promote the interests of the drug companies. They signed a promotional contract, and they could get sued if they do not fulfill it. They better talk up chemical imbalances and pills. It would be quite uncomfortable if they were to describe the research on how psychological injuries (whether childhood trauma, highly stressful life events, toxic bosses, or trauma in adulthood) are the single largest cause of both physical and mental health problems. Some family doctor at the back of the room might raise their hand and say, “If sexual abuse has such a terrible impact on health, shouldn’t we assess for it, and use psychotherapy first? The pills might numb the pain for a while, but if people stop taking them they relapse because the pain is still there. Therapy can address and help heal the sexual abuse, and has no negative side effects.”
The psychiatrist is suddenly in an awkward spot. If they agree with the doctor, then they have just undercut the market for pills, and promoted psychotherapy, and no drug company will give them a consulting contract again. And these are very lucrative. Even though psychiatrists are 5% of MD’s in the US, they are 55% of the best paid consultants to the drug companies.20 That is a lot of cash — top psychiatrists have made millions in consulting to drug companies.21
Clearly, many psychiatrists are not going to change anytime soon. As long as they accept the dollars, the psychiatrists will sing the song that Big Pharma writes for them. They will not be pushing to reorganize the health care system around assessing and treating psychological injuries, they will be fulfilling their promotional contracts with the makers of pills. Which is a pity. Because understanding how emotional wounds shape our bodies, and cause so many illnesses, and coming up with highly effective ways to treat them, is arguably the single most important contribution to improving physical and mental health in the 21st century.
But you do not have to wait for others. You may have been a bit on edge for the last few paragraphs, because you recognized that you have psychological injuries. Your anxiety may have jumped when you read how they contribute to so many fatal conditions. However, there actually is good news. Because injuries are very different from imbalances. Injuries can be healed. Imbalances cannot, you just have to take something for the rest of your life to correct it. There is a major difference between a broken hip and Type I diabetes. You may need surgery, casting, and physiotherapy for your broken hip, but you will eventually be walking on your way. With Type I diabetes, you will constantly be correcting the imbalance of insulin.
How to Heal Your Invisible Injuries
And the best way to heal a psychological injury is with psychotherapy. That is because therapy is the opposite dynamic to what caused the injury in the first place. In therapy, the client feels heard, understood, and respected by the therapist. Years earlier, the client felt overwhelmed and degraded by their abuser. In therapy, the client talks about their goals, and the therapist helps them to achieve those goals. Long ago, what the child wanted was totally ignored by the perpetrator, who was focused only on their evil desires. In therapy, the counselor uses an approach that fits well with the client and that they buy into. In the past, the abuser did exactly what they wanted, regardless of what the child wanted. In therapy, the client feels very safe. In the past, the child felt fear and uncertainty. And as the client experiences respect from the therapist as they work toward their goal, moving at a pace and in a direction that feels right to them, the psychological injury starts to heal. The support and encouragement nurtures a sense of worth, safety, and calm in the client that was not there before.
Healing in Every Cell of Your Body
And the healing can be very deep indeed. Psychologists in Germany worked with a group of refugees from the Middle East.22 These people had fled wars in Syria, and seen family members shot and their homes burned. They had experienced terrible trauma. In fact, when the researchers measured their DNA, they found that the refugees had as many breaks in their DNA as people who had been exposed to an atomic bomb blast. Their nightmares were terrifying, the flashbacks were intense, and although many of them took psychiatric pills, those did not solve the problem. Half of the group of refugees waited for treatment, while the psychologists treated the other half for their post-traumatic stress disorder. The people who had to wait for treatment had no change, either in their symptoms of PTSD or their DNA. However, the refugees who received psychotherapy for their PTSD not only had their symptoms vanish, but their DNA was as healthy as people who had never been exposed to a trauma at all!
The positive impact of therapy on physical health shows up in dozens of studies. When kids or adults respond well to psychotherapy, their DNA changes.23 24 These occur even if the people have serious problems with suicidal impulses, emotional instability and distorted thinking. Therapy results in improved functioning of the immune system and less diarrhea, nausea, and chronic pain among people treated for PTSD.25 It also reduces inflammation, as a variety of markers of inflammation (C-Reactive protein, Inter-leukin 6, tumor necrosis factor alpha) are lower after therapy than before.26 Therapy can even facilitate growth in a person’s brain. Although people with PTSD had less gray matter than those without PTSD, after therapy, the amount of gray matter was equal between the two groups.27 In other studies, people with PTSD had a smaller hippocampus in their brain than those without PTSD.28 After therapy, the hippocampus of traumatized people grew to be the same size as the control group.29
Therapy can be helpful even when people develop a major illness. If people develop coronary heart disease, therapy is associated with a 21% reduction in cardiac mortality, across dozens of studies.30 It also improves depression, anxiety and stress levels. There even is a positive impact of therapy on cancer. People who receive therapy (in addition to usual cancer treatment) survive significantly longer than those who do not.31 The effect exists for people with cancers that are less aggressive and developed, and who are single.
These findings give real hope for anyone, no matter how bad their psychological injuries. DNA that is damaged as badly as in an atomic bomb blast can be repaired and rewritten as a result of therapy. The immune system functions better, inflammation and chronic pain is reduced, and the brain can even grow to the same size as people who have never been traumatized. If people do develop heart disease or cancer, psychological interventions can help them survive longer.
But the hope is for those who seek out therapy, not pills. Psychoactive pills have a different effect on people’s health. Antidepressants, and especially antipsychotics, can cause major weight gain. This increases the risk of diabetes from 30% to 258%, respectively.32 33 This is just one of 20 types of adverse effects, ranging from gastrointestinal problems to increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures, to sexual dysfunction, to cardiovascular problems and more.34 The pills can trigger suicidal thinking in young people, and have a black-box warning from the FDA to that effect. They also increase the risk of suicide attempts or completion in adults by 2.5 times.35 That is not the only fatal risk. Antidepressants increase the risk of early death by 33%, while antipsychotics increase the risk of sudden cardiac death by 226%.36 37 Whether it is increased risk of diabetes, fractures, cardiovascular problems, suicidal acts or early death, pills can result in a shorter lifespan, not a longer one.
Now we see how the Psychological Injury model can help save your life. It says that the single biggest factor in 7 of the 10 causes of early death is emotional wounds. (They also are the biggest cause of mental health problems, which you can read about here.) And even though the physicians do not know about this cause, and therefore cannot assess for these emotional injuries and then treat them, you now have this knowledge and power. You can use this truth to guide your changes to a longer and more robust life.
The Most Important Document for Your Health
The next step for you is assessment. The current approaches miss the mark. Hospitals use machines to look at broken bones or malformed flesh, psychiatrists ask about clusters of symptoms you have had in the last few weeks — neither approach systematically looks at the emotional wounds you have experienced in the past. (Why psychiatrists do not ask these questions is a huge topic for another time.) The PI model says that a new approach to assessing people is needed, which is to map out all their psychological injuries. Only then can a professional understand what happened to a person, how they coped with it, and how they wound up in this particular place in life. You can access this new approach for free by going to psychologicalinjuryindex.com and downloading it. When you fill it out, you will notice that it asks about 4 major areas: childhood trauma, toxic boss, highly stressful life events, and trauma in adulthood. Each area is relevant and has a major impact on your health. For example, working in an environment that you strongly feel is unfair increases your risk of heart attack by 55%.38 Or having a trauma in adulthood and developing PTSD is strongly associated with suicidality. It may be challenging to fill in the Psychological Injury Index (PII), as emotions may rise up, or you may have thoughts that you should be over these experiences. I encourage you to press on, as your life is worth it.
Once it is filled in, the PII is the single most important document in your healthcare plan. Because for the very first time, you have a map of the factors that are most likely to trigger 7 of the 10 leading causes of early death for you. Nobody else has this map. Your doctor does not have it, heck, they likely do not even know what you now know about the link between psychological injuries and fatal diseases. It would be very good if they knew (feel free to share this article with them, it has dozens of research articles supporting it). However, you do not have to wait for your physician. Because you can shape the path of your life yourself, by acting on the results of the Psychological Injury Index.
Finding the Best Healing for Your Invisible Wounds
With assessment in hand, you can start your treatment. The third major tenet of the PI model is that psychotherapy is the optimal approach for healing psychological injuries, because it creates the opposite dynamic to that which caused the wound. But seeking out the best therapy can be tricky. There is a bewildering variety of approaches, and it can leave your head spinning. The key truth to keep in mind when seeking out therapy is that the single biggest factor that influences whether clients improve is their sense of teamwork with their therapist. It is not so much about the technique used (ACT, EMDR, CBT), it is far more about the therapeutic alliance you experience with your psychologist or counsellor. The sense of teamwork is crucial, for people heal people. For that reason, try out two or three therapists to evaluate with whom you have the best sense of connection. And since the sense of teamwork is so central, seek out therapists who measure it in each session. The process of measuring helps to create a culture of feedback and dialogue about your work together, and whether it is on track or not. If you were being treated for high blood pressure, you would want your physician to measure your blood pressure each time you met her, to see if the interventions are working. Multiple research studies show that measuring if clients are making progress in therapy, and their sense of teamwork with the therapist in each session, can double or even triple the effectiveness of therapy.39 40 41 42 These are major improvements in the quality of therapy, and are crucial to the PI model.
Although clients improve faster when the therapist measures outcomes and alliance, it is well worth staying in therapy even if the immediate pain has diminished. Deep psychological injuries take a long time to heal, and affect people in many different ways. I have repeatedly had the experience where clients disclose sexual abuse only after a year or more of therapy, because it has taken so long for them to build sufficient trust to discuss this very painful event. Even after disclosure, beliefs that they deserved the sexual abuse, or are filthy and worthless, can take many months of steady effort to undo. It also is a real journey to change the dysfunctional patterns of coping with emotional wounds. Reaching for a phone to talk to a sponsor in AA when angry or lonely instead of reaching for a bottle of vodka usually does not happen immediately and permanently. It is a challenge to learn to navigate one’s pain, instead of numbing it out with a substance. But it is a very worthwhile one.
You and your loved ones now have a new future. Whether the psychological injury was early in your life or recent, whether your boss bullied you, or your business partner stole from you, whatever the nature of your emotional wound, a healthy new future is possible. Torn DNA can be woven together again, blood pressure can drop, gray matter in the brain can grow, and you can greatly reduce the risk of 7 of the 10 leading causes of early death. Download the Psychological Injury Index, fill it in, and seek out a therapist you connect with, who measures outcomes and alliance in therapy. And as you are heard and respected, as the counselor helps you achieve your goals, or the psychologist uses an approach that works for you, the emotional injuries heal, and your body does as well. The Psychological Injury model shows a path that can save your life, and with all you have been through, you deserve a long and robust future.
- Suglia SF, Koenen KC, Boynton-Jarrett R, Chan PS, Clark CJ, Danese A, Faith MS, Goldstein BI, Hayman LL, Isasi CR, Pratt CA, Slopen N, Sumner JA, Turer A, Turer CB, Zachariah JP; (2018) Childhood and Adolescent Adversity and Cardiometabolic Outcomes: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. Jan 30;137(5):e15-e28. ↩
- https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response ↩
- Jenkins FJ, Van Houten B, Bovbjerg DH. (2014) Effects on DNA Damage and/or Repair Processes as Biological Mechanisms Linking Psychological Stress to Cancer Risk. J Appl Biobehav Res. Feb 1;19(1):3-23. ↩
- Flaherty RL, Owen M, Fagan-Murphy A, Intabli H, Healy D, Patel A, Allen MC, Patel BA, Flint MS. (2017) Glucocorticoids induce production of reactive oxygen species/reactive nitrogen species and DNA damage through an iNOS mediated pathway in breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res. Mar 24;19(1):35. ↩
- Joergensen A, Broedbaek K, Weimann A, Semba RD, Ferrucci L, Joergensen MB, Poulsen HE. (2011) Association between urinary excretion of cortisol and markers of oxidatively damaged DNA and RNA in humans. PLoS One. 6(6):e20795. ↩
- Aschbacher K, O’Donovan A, Wolkowitz OM, Dhabhar FS, Su Y, Epel E. (2013) Good stress, bad stress and oxidative stress: insights from anticipatory cortisol reactivity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. Sep;38(9):1698-708. ↩
- https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml ↩
- National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2005/2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper No. 3. Updated Edition. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu. ↩
- Stats Canada https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/11896-eng.htm ↩
- Hughes K, Bellis MA, Hardcastle KA, Sethi D, Butchart A, Mikton C, Jones L, Dunne MP. (2017) The effect of multiple adverse childhood experiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. Aug;2(8):e356-e366. ↩
- Anda RF, Croft JB, Felitti VJ, Nordenberg D, Giles WH, Williamson DF, Giovino GA. (1999) Adverse childhood experiences and smoking during adolescence and adulthood. JAMA. Nov 3;282(17):1652-8. ↩
- Dube SR, Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Edwards VJ, Croft JB. (2002) Adverse childhood experiences and personal alcohol abuse as an adult. Addict Behav. Sep-Oct;27(5):713-25. ↩
- Dube SR, Felitti VJ, Dong M, Chapman DP, Giles WH, Anda RF. (2003) Childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: the adverse childhood experiences study. Pediatrics. Mar;111(3):564-72. ↩
- Bellis, M.A., Hughes, K., Leckenby, N., Hardcastle, K.A., Perkins, C., Lowey. H. (2014). Measuring mortality and the burden of adult disease associated with adverse childhood experiences in England: a national survey. Journal of Public Health, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 445–454 ↩
- Bellis, M.A., Hughes, K., et al. (2014). ↩
- https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-genetics-of-heart-disease-an-update ↩
- Dube SR, Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Chapman DP, Williamson DF, Giles WH. (2001) Childhood abuse, household dysfunction, and the risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span: findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. JAMA. Dec 26;286(24):3089-96. ↩
- Brown DW, Anda RF, Tiemeier H, Felitti VJ, Edwards VJ, Croft JB, Giles WH. (2009) Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of premature mortality. Am J Prev Med. Nov;37(5):389-96. ↩
- https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/06/harvard-history-professor-traces-the-rise-of-psychiatric-drugs/ ↩
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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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