Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Interim Pastor
Rev. Millie Myren, Support Minister
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection January 31, 2016
Trauma & Stress
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
On Thursday, January 14, I attended an all-day workshop on PTSD, Trauma and Anxiety Disorders. In order to keep my Illinois state professional counselor license (LPC), I need 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
I’d like to bring to us some insights from that workshop. The presenter began by noting that for every one soldier who gets PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), ten children get PTSD. Many children in our society are badly beaten which accounts for much of the trauma. One in four children get beaten so badly that they have marks left over from the beatings.
Frankly, it’s a disgrace that we as a society do not adequately address the criminal problem of parental beatings of children. War starts - for too many of us - at home. Children who were beaten and bullied, for instance, have a significantly greater chance of being unemployed as adults as well as becoming incarcerated.
90 people die of gunshots every day in our country. The presenter made it clear that many of these deaths are directly attributed to unhealed childhood traumas. People suffering from PTSD can become like abused dogs - growling and biting anyone nearby.
Children who are beaten grow up with a dangerous mix of rage and sadness. Children who are beaten and bullied are much more prone to serious psychological issues as they try to cope with life. Adult abuse of children is rampant in our country but it is rarely acknowledged.
Often parents who were themselves abused and beaten as children do to the same to their children. Everyone who physically hurts someone else was physically hurt as a child. Without healing intervention and psychological insight, the vicious cycle continues unabated.
PTSD in children often looks identical to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). But they are not the same nor is the treatment the same. Trauma should be considered before diagnosing a child as ADHD. Children who suffer trauma always have problems with attention and brain development.
The presenter suggested that most psychological issues are rooted in childhood traumas. He also suggested that many of us are suffering from some sort of complex trauma disorder which often reveals itself as chronic stress.
The incidence of depression, for instance, has tripled in the past 20 years. It is likely that one’s brain chemistry gets disrupted because of trauma and the stress reaction to trauma. As the workshop noted: “Many studies have shown the thought-producing frontal lobes (of the brain) to be both underactive and atrophic and the negative emotion-producing amygdala to be overactive and enlarged in chronic stress, anxiety disorders, and trauma disorders.”
PTSD sufferers find it very hard returning to normal physiological and psychological baselines. Trauma fuels high stress levels and activates an almost continual release of stress hormones.
Many, if not most, serious adult health issues arise out of childhood trauma. The overproduction of the stress hormone, cortisol, alters both brain structure and function as well as the normal development of the brain.
The workshop spent some time focusing on the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, known simply as the ACE Study. This major study of 17,000 people revealed how many illnesses have their origin in childhood traumas.
It is very easy to take the ACE test. It takes about 2 minutes. So Google it and take the test! If one gets a score of 4 or more - that person is twice as likely to die of heart disease as someone who scores only 1 on the ACE Test. If someone has a score of 6 or more - that person will likely die 20 years prematurely.
Childhood traumas seem to underlie much of our country’s physical and psychological sickness! Underneath most anxiety disorders is a trauma, often forgotten. Anxiety disorders are a cry from the brain: “Heal me!”
To help heal trauma and PTSD - one must start with the body. Different strategies to calm the body - such as exercise, healthy diet, meditation/prayer, massage, adequate sleep, and strong social support systems help the body heal. I pray we might be a congregation that helps heal our wider community through our compassion, our care, and our understanding. Jesus “sent them (the disciples) out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” (Luke 9:2)