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Dr Anna M L Smith

Tel: 077175 70805

Childhood Trauma – Why It Matters?

20 June 2024
Childhood Trauma – Why It Matters?

I had the privilege this week of flying to Belfast to attend the Action Trauma Conference.

My story started with difficulties in my family home and personal loss when my sister died after a 7 year battle with anorexia nervosa when I was 19 and in my first year at medical school, so I have a special interest in trauma.

What is Trauma?

As Gabor Mate states “Trauma is not what happens to you, but what happens inside of you as a result of what happened to you”.

There may be overt childhood trauma such as adverse child events: death of a parent, mental illness or addiction in a caregiver, divorce, parent in jail, sexual or physical abuse to name a few, but there are also covert traumatic events such as bullying or not getting our basic childhood needs met for physical and emotional health.

Our core needs as humans are for clear boundaries, safety, connection and love and if we do not receive these as children we suffer.

Trauma matters because of the developmental, physical and emotional changes that happen to us because of trauma.

Sadly, there is very little training for doctors, teachers and lawyers – all who regularly meet people who have been affected by trauma.

As Desmond Tutu said, “We must stop just pulling people out of the river, we must go upstream and find out why they are falling in”.

Trauma can change the development of the brain and change the brain connectivity increasing the likelihood of ADHD and mental health problems.

Trauma overwhelms our capacity to cope, and so we can become chaotic or rigid, both these nervous system states affect our relationships and increase the likelihood of anxiety, depression and addiction.

Trauma can also affect the nervous system, inflammation in the body and affect gene expression increasing the chances of cancer and autoimmune conditions.

Trauma can lead to chronic conditions such as chronic pain and fatigue.

There is hope of recovery, as we can learn to recover from trauma. We can learn to regulate our nervous systems, express our emotions, have self-compassion and improve lifestyle factors of how we eat, move, relax and sleep.

I heard speakers such as Gabor Mate (he wrote: The Myth of Normal), Dan Siegel (he wrote: Aware) Deb Dana (the Polyvagal Theory) and Richard Schwartz (Internal Family Systems)- it was quite incredible to see them and hear them live! It felt both incredible and emotional!

Book a free discovery call with me to find out more...

By: Dr Anna Smith