Biology of Trauma® Podcast
With Dr. Aimie Apigian MD, MS, MPH
Episode 71
Understanding the Trauma Connection Between Attachment, Autoimmunity, and Fatigue To Find Our Way Out
"I call this the biology of trauma and how you can actually see, based on the health conditions that you have, 'Hey, whether I like it or not, whether I understand it or not, I have these patterns'.

That's actually how I found my patterns. I had no idea that I had attachment insecurities. I had no idea that I had stored trauma."
~ Dr. Aimie Apigian

Understanding the Trauma Connection Between Attachment, Autoimmunity, and Fatigue To Find Our Way Out

Whether you have autoimmunity, don’t even know if you have autoimmunity, or are a practitioner who helps people with their health or trauma, this episode is for you.  

I see so many more people with autoimmunity and fatigue and unaware of the deep connection with attachment.  

Therapists and trauma practitioners are telling me of the increase in clients with autoimmunity.  

I want to share these insights with you so that you understand what to do about the trauma connection with autoimmunity.  It is one of the manifestations of the Biology of Trauma® lens, so it is important to understand this connection between attachment autoimmunity and fatigue. 

We all know that autoimmunity is connected with Adverse Childhood Experiences, so our early life stress and trauma. Yet it goes deeper than that.  

In this episode, we’re answering the one question:  What is the common connection between attachment, autoimmunity, and fatigue?  


The Nervous System: Your Body’s Command Center

First, let’s understand the vital role of the nervous system in our survival. 

It’s like the command center of our body. It helps to regulate different trauma responses and maintains equilibrium – the parasympathetic state. 

In this calm, regulated state, our bodies feel grounded, connected, and secure. 

This is ideal for optimal health and vitality. When faced with perceived threats, our bodies activate the “fight-or-flight” stress response, the sympathetic state.


The Freeze Response: When the Body Shuts Down

This state occurs when our bodies perceive a situation as “too much,” triggering a complete shutdown. 

In the freeze response, our bodies conserve energy. This leads to feelings of heaviness, fatigue, and a desire to disengage or “go numb.”

The temporary relief from overwhelming emotions is only: temporary. Really, the freeze response comes at a significant cost to our overall well-being.

The Root Causes: Chronic Stress, Trauma, and Attachment Insecurity

The strong pull towards the freeze response often stems from things like stored trauma and overwhelm. As well as stored trauma from over time, particularly from adverse early life experiences.

What are adverse early life experiences? The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study shows a strong association between conditions like autoimmune disorders, and chronic fatigue. 

This can develop when an infant’s need for co-regulation is not adequately met. These could be things like not having their nervous system soothed by a caregiver, for example. 

This can occur due to various reasons. Premature birth, parental busyness, or specific parenting practices are to name a few. These parenting practices may inadvertently dysregulate the child’s nervous system.

When an infant’s co-regulation needs are repeatedly unmet, it can lead to a strong pull toward the freeze response as a survival mechanism. 

These patterns become deeply ingrained in the nervous system through repeated activation. This will persist into adulthood and contribute to both physical and emotional challenges.


The Biology of Stored Trauma: How the Freeze Response Manifests

There can be profound biological consequences to being in this freeze response. Since this response is rooted in feelings of shame, unworthiness, and a desire to hide or disconnect, it’s easy to think it’s just in our heads. 

In autoimmune conditions, the body begins attacking its own tissues. It perceives itself as a problem that needs to be eliminated.

This internal attack mirrors the emotional experience of the freeze response. Where the individual feels an intense need to stay small and hidden. They will avoid drawing attention to perceived flaws or “problems” within themselves. 

Chronic fatigue, on the other hand, results from the body’s depletion of resources. As it cycles between overwhelm and collapse into the freeze response, then repeats. 

This constant dysregulation exhausts our body’s ability to bounce back. This leads to a persistent state of exhaustion and lack of vitality. Being chronically fatigued can prevent us from taking action or building the resiliency we need to work to heal from this stored trauma. 


Further Impacts: Relationships and Joy for Life

Choosing not to address the underlying patterns like the freeze response can even have consequences beyond physical manifestations. 

Individuals often experience an impact on their interpersonal relationships as well. As they unconsciously push others away or struggle to fully engage and connect. They may not even know why they do this! 

Not only can the above impact anyone struggling with this cycle, but the numbing effects of the freeze response alone can also rob individuals of their ability to experience joy, happiness, and a zest for life. 

As one individual shared with me, “I have lived an apologetic life, not feeling I belong here,” when talking about disconnection and lack of belonging. Both are feelings that can accompany these deeply rooted patterns.


The Path to Rewiring: Consistent, Gentle Pressure

While the freeze response and its associated challenges may seem daunting, there is hope for rewiring this pattern. In doing so, we can reclaim a life of vitality, connection, and joy. The key lies in consistently and gently applying pressure to reshape our nervous system’s default responses.

Through targeted somatic (body-based) practices and exercises, individuals can begin to build a greater “window of tolerance”. That is the capacity to handle stress without slipping into dysregulation or overwhelm. 

By consistently engaging in these practices, even for short periods each day, the nervous system gradually learns new pathways. Then our system can break free from the patterns and cycle of the freeze response and the chronic fatigue that comes along with it.

My Foundational Journey is a great place to start to build some resiliency here. Allowing those to explore, safely, how your biology reacts to stress. 

This consistent, gentle pressure, coupled with the support of a community, can facilitate profound shifts in the nervous system. Allowing individuals to rewire their relationship with their freeze response. 

This allows them to cultivate a deep sense of safety and belonging.


The Journey to Healing: Reclaiming Aliveness, Safety and Connection

Embarking on the journey to rewire the nervous system and heal the wounds of insecure attachment is not an easy path. But it is a profoundly transformative one.

As individuals explore their stress responses and break out of the freeze, they often experience a renewed sense of life. Vitality, joy, and connection – not just with others, but also with themselves.

The ability to fully inhabit our bodies is a precious gift. To feel grounded and present, and experience the full range of emotions without shutting down or numbing out is something that everyone should get to experience. 

It’s something everyone deserves to experience. 

It is in our innate human capacity to grow into resilience and deep, authentic connection.

How do we go about starting on this journey of healing? By understanding the intricate links between attachment, autoimmunity, and fatigue. And by taking proactive steps to rewire the nervous system!

A journey that not only addresses physical symptoms but also unlocks the potential for a life lived fully. With a deep sense of belonging and a zest for all that life has to offer.

You deserve this. 

As always, to your best health and your best self, 

~ Dr. Aimie

Here’s what you will learn:

  • The specific branch of our nervous system that determines our freeze response
  • How the freeze response can be likened to a bird landing on a branch 
  • The triggers for our freeze response 
  • How our own biology can be a reason for easily going into a freeze response 
  • How the polyvagal theory helps us understand our response to threats 
  • How to recognize when you’re experiencing a freeze response 
  • How this response is related to early life and attachment
  • The relationship between attachment, autoimmunity, and fatigue

Helpful Links:

  • Guides mentioned by Me

Essential Sequence Guide – A guide where you can get a handle on the physiology and the difference between stresses. With this, you can understand my essential sequence for addressing stored trauma in the body.

What It Feels Like To Be In the Freeze Survival Response – Hope For Repair and Rewiring – This is a video of me explaining my own experience through this cycle. This way you can see which specific elements you recognize. Then you can become the expert in your own nervous system and freeze response.  

  • Related Supplements

Cellular Energy Support – We need to help our cells come out of a chronic freeze response. They need both safety and energy to do this. By focusing on cellular energy support, we are addressing all aspects of how trauma has affected us. This helps us shift to safety, energy, and health.  

Comment Etiquette:

I want to hear from you!  I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode and let’s make them constructive! A few requests: Please refrain from including URLs and using yours or someone else’s business name to steer clear of spam.  Please do use your personal name or initials. 

Let’s have a constructive, positive and productive discussion!

Drop your thoughts below about the episode! I want to hear from you.

2 Responses

  1. Dorsal vagus nerve affects the stomach for me since early childhood as I was not wanting to eat and used food to sooth my stomach as was molested through early life with the caregiver assigned to get me to preschool and kindergarten. I was on alert from 5 to 10 realizing he was not a decent person. I used my legs to get away and kept my leg in movement on first a tricycle and then the bicycle. I was aware of this need but when I had a stroke I no longer could get away in my body as an adult and my dorsal vagus is in daily worry that I cannot get away. Just a year ago, a man in our building called my name and I was instantly terrified and fell on the floor in terror. Now the Abuse was when I was 5 on and this occurred and I was in my early 70s that triggered that fear response. It was so bad the fall I broke my finger and lost a nail and bled profusely. Mine is not a theory, but I lived it from age 5 to 10 and now the body fear was palatable. My dorsal was activated. The other part of that nerve affects the digestion, so now I have digestion problems with just the idea that our country is in danger and really need to monitory the fears of our country. We have people in out politics that are dangerous to women and that I believe is affecting my clients without their understanding. Even teenagers now is being assigned a health issue that I believe has nothing to do with that disease but her life has been turned upside down. by recent things that have occurred and it is too much for her coping mechanism. Knot is in my stomach is there often at my age 77. The war had lead to the tree branch is there terrifying many of us especially since many of my client and my self who lived through Vietnam, a totally separate but related freeze response as well as in my case, both and also the sexual abuse of a sick grown man from my early childhood. I worked through this but the recent things that our country is facing is facing increased fear. Yes, I getexhausted every day and my rem or deep sleep helps when I can get to sleep. This problems in our world has been going on since 2016 and only grew with each year hence. My military are glad to have someone to let out their history of fears that increased since the wars have surfaced across our world. I pace out every night and sometimes sleep but have no memory of that sleep, frozen in fear at end of day as a carry over from the day.

  2. 🤗I must be at a place in my learning journey wherein the extra information unites with that already heard or known & opens the door to a more comfortable space.
    Thankyou for all shared

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