Some might think that psychological trauma would only have psychological repercussions, but a recent study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s annual scientific meeting shows that the connection between the mind and the body may be stronger than previously thought.
IBS is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that is characterized by stomach pains, bloating, diarrhea, and other intestinal problems. And, although it has all the characteristics of a purely physical ailment, there is currently no medically agreed upon cause for IBS.
Yuri Saito-Loftus, MD and other researchers from the Mayo Clinic surveyed 2,623 adult participants to determine their level of psychological trauma and the presence of IBS.
The types of trauma on the survey included death of a loved one, divorce, physical or mental abuse, as well as others.
The result that was most interesting to me was that childhood trauma was twice as likely to have occurred in the lives of people with IBS.
Now we have to be careful − the fact that prior trauma and current IBS symptoms co-occur (correlate) cannot be construed to mean that trauma causes IBS. But the results are intriguing.
This suggests that trauma may lead to more than just psychological symptoms. It can actually affect the body.
Those of us in mind-body medicine have believed for years that many medically unexplainable conditions, like IBS, can have their roots in psychological issues.
Patients with IBS miss more days of work, take more medications, have lower work productivity, and are hospitalized more frequently than people without IBS, all resulting in higher healthcare costs, according to a study published in the Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy. Knowing that trauma could be the real culprit behind IBS helps shed light on a condition that may affect as many as 10-15% of all Americans.
The real gem of this study is that it demonstrates how physical conditions and symptoms can be more than what they appear to be, and can sometimes be signals of a deeper psychological issue.
When we know the latest treatments of trauma we can provide the most effective healing for our patients. Check out our series on Treating Trauma to learn about the most recent findings from the top experts in the field.
Have you ever seen a patient who experienced physical symptoms that may have been connected to psychological trauma? What did you do? Please leave a comment below.
(If you’re interested in reading more about how childhood trauma affects the mind and body, check out this past post).