Physical Toll of Psychological Trauma

April 13, 2017

Before San Francisco-based psychotherapist Krishan Abeyatunge chose his current profession, he was helping people heal through his Bay Area practice of holistic medicine. It was during those years that he noticed an ever-increasing number of patients that would come in repeatedly for the same physical ailments or pain. His investigation to identify the culprit behind these chronic maladies led him to discover the connection between our psychological well-being and our physical health. This realization compelled him to make a career change so he could focus on exploring the core source of all our joys and sorrows – our psyche.

When we fail to work through our trauma, it manifests itself in other ways. Specifically, Krishan points out that psychological trauma and anxiety can frequently manifest as physical pain and illness. He shares an eye-opening experience he had with a former patient – a 275lbs former football player, who survived a car accident that ended his father’s life. During massage therapy, Krishan stumbled upon an old back injury the client suffered in the accident. Unaware of the injury or its history, Krishan applied pressure to the spot, evoking in his client an intense urge to cry. “Just let it out,” offered the doctor and the client did. He began to cry. When they spoke after, it became clear that the trauma the accident survivor has been carrying in that spot extended far beyond physical injuries.

Abeyatunge swears that this sort of physical manifestation of early, sustained or even acute trauma is more common than most people realize. What’s even worse, it can be self-perpetuating.

If your mind is set to that channel, then there’s plenty to look at that’s not great in the world. We live in the paradox of lots of beautiful stuff and lots of suffering. So, depending on where your channel is set to, you can notice a ton of either,” says Abeyatunge.

He notes that major research institutions like Stanford and Harvard have documented the connection between emotional/mental wellbeing and physical health. Check out this book titled Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine if you’re interested in learning more about the phenomenon.

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