Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal Info

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A “courageous, compassionate, and rigorous
every-person’s guide” (Christina Bethell, PhD, Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health) that shows the link between Adverse
Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and adult illnesses such as heart disease,
autoimmune disease, and cancer—Childhood Disrupted also
explains how to cope and heal from these emotional traumas.

Your
biography becomes your biology. The emotional trauma we suffer as
children not only shapes our emotional lives as adults, but it also
affects our physical health, longevity, and overall wellbeing.
Scientists now know on a bio-chemical level exactly how parents’
chronic fights, divorce, death in the family, being bullied or hazed,
and growing up with a hypercritical, alcoholic, or mentally ill parent
can leave permanent, physical “fingerprints” on our
brains.

When children encounter sudden or chronic adversity,
stress hormones cause powerful changes in the body, altering the
body’s chemistry. The developing immune system and brain react to
this chemical barrage by permanently resetting children’s stress
response to “high,” which in turn can have a devastating
impact on their mental and physical health as they grow up.


Donna Jackson Nakazawa shares stories from people who have recognized
and overcome their adverse experiences, shows why some children are more
immune to stress than others, and explains why women are at particular
risk. “Groundbreaking” (Tara Brach, PhD, author of
Radical Acceptance) in its research, inspiring in its clarity,
Childhood Disrupted explains how you can reset your
biology—and help your loved ones find ways to heal. “A truly
important gift of understanding—illuminates the heartbreaking
costs of childhood trauma and like good medicine offers the promising
science of healing and prevention” (Jack Kornfield, author of A
Path With Heart
).

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal:

5

November 12, 2015

A Must Read For Those Who Have Suffered Childhood Trauma
If as a child you have ever suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, divorce, hunger, bullying, or lived with family members who were suicidal, imprisoned, mentally ill, from a dysfunctional family, or abused drugs, then this book is a must read. Your health depends on it. Donna Nakazawa unpacks one of the greatest discoveries in modern psychology and medicine today, the groundbreaking study on Adverse Childhood Experiences by medical doctor Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda. If you have experienced any of the 10 ACE's above, then your health is already at risk. I have personally experienced 8 out of 10 ACE's and thus identified with everything in this book. I have suffered from chronic headaches, chronic fatigue, heart disease, BPH, gynecomastia, and bilirubin, resulting from trauma. I was on Amitriptyline, Venlafaxine, Tizanidine, Lipitor, Hydrocodone, and NSAID's for years, and nothing helped until I began EMDR therapy for trauma as described in this book. The headaches and illnesses are largely gone.

Through scientific research, Nakazawa demonstrates how our genes are changed based on our childhood trauma, known as epigenetic imprinting and methylation. The result is an inflammation of the organs through cortisol and cytokines, leading to inevitable illnesses in our adulthood. The science is virtually incontrovertible, and the research is extensive. Each chapter illustrates this process with real life stories that grip the heart yet give hope. If you've suffered childhood trauma, then you will certainly identify with the research and stories here. This is a profound and enlightening book. The last three chapters give cutting-edge information on how to begin a pathway towards recovery, from personal to professional approaches. This is one of the best books I have ever read on childhood trauma (see also The Body Keeps the Score by Van Der Kolk). It is very well written and researched. I highly recommend it.
3

January 11, 2018

Good book for research, not so much for healing.
I think this is a good book for research and it thoroughly satisfied my research needs on the damage that ACE's can cause to the body, I however do not see this book as a fitting guide for survivors on how to heal. As a survivor myself, I found this book as something I had to take in stride to not become overwhelmed by the amount of negative outcomes or to begin viewing myself as a subject. There is way too much of that type of material to get through before reaching the tools offered at the end. I would recommend this for individuals on the outside looking in who want to learn more about what ACE's can lead to.
3

August 6, 2015

Covers same ground as "Last best cure" but not as good a read
I preferred this same author's earlier book "The Last Best Cure", which is in much the same vein, to this one. The first half of this book has a lot of stories about individuals who suffered childhood hardship and how that affected their adulthoods. The stories were a traumatic read, there are a lot of them, and the trauma they recount is not easy reading (i.e. a girl who saw her father murder her mother and testified against him etc). I valued the last chapter, on parenting when childhood wasn't great, and the practical treatment suggestions were useful. But her earlier book touched on the same things in a much more interesting way - less from a summary of scientific support and more from her personal story. I think stomaching one personal story and healing journey (her own) was a simpler vehicle for the message than the route she went with this one, retelling a large number of childhood stories and then talking about the science. Less personal, more traumatic and dull by turns.
3

Jan 24, 2016

I saw this book on Saturday when returning another to the library.

I hemmed and hawed. Many of you know what I mean. Do I need another book on childhood trauma? Shouldn't I be over it already? Is this one going to have something to say that I haven't seen before? Can I stand to have people know that this happened to me, will they blame me for still feeling it? Do I want to log it on goodreads? Maybe I should keep it to myself.

I borrowed it (clearly) and read it on Sunday. I know, from experience, I saw this book on Saturday when returning another to the library.

I hemmed and hawed. Many of you know what I mean. Do I need another book on childhood trauma? Shouldn't I be over it already? Is this one going to have something to say that I haven't seen before? Can I stand to have people know that this happened to me, will they blame me for still feeling it? Do I want to log it on goodreads? Maybe I should keep it to myself.

I borrowed it (clearly) and read it on Sunday. I know, from experience, what reading books like this is like for me. The longer I dragged it out the longer the reaction would take. So I crammed the whole thing into a couple of hours, skipping the stuff I already knew, and surfing the inevitable flashbacks. You aren't there. You're here. It isn't happening anymore. Breathe, breathe, breathe.

~~~~~

Let's talk about the book:

Part I is about the science of how Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) affect the mind and also the body, based on research about epigenetics, and the very clear and overwhelming statistics linking childhood trauma to seemingly unrelated adult health outcomes, such as cancer, stroke, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and so on. It's no mystery anymore to say that a childhood of deprivation or abuse can lead to depression, anxiety, addiction or rage; but the evidence of how it leads to disease and early death, too (as the book says, a person who experienced six out of the ten adverse events listed on the ACE inventory will on average lose 20 years of their lifespan), has gained much less traction.

Part II is about different evidence-based ways that people can reduce the damage that has been caused. Practices that can retrain the brain in ways to react to stress, decrease the body's negative reactions to chronic stress hormones. It is much more pat, much less satisfying, and uses far less evidence. But one thing at a time:

Part I, a brief summary:

1. Two thirds of people who take the ACE have a score of at least one. Forty per cent score two or more. 12.5% score 4 or higher. (I scored 4 or 5, as did approximately--if the statistics are to be believed--1/10 of you.)

2. The higher a person's ACE score, the more doctor's appointments they have had in the past year.

3. People with an ACE score of 4 or higher are twice as likely to develop cancer.

4. For each additional point an individual has, their chance of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disorder increases by 20% in any given year.

5. Those with ACE scores of 7 or higher who did not smoke or drink, were not overweight, not diabetic, and did not have high cholesterol, still had a 360% increased risk of heart disease compared to someone with an ACE score of 0.

6. The important thing, it turns out, is not the severity of the events per se, but their unpredictability. A moderate but unpredictable adverse event has worse health consequences than a horrible but predictable one. When you don't know when the stressor will return, your body stays on alert all the time. The stress hormones don't ever go awyay. You live your life in a state of hypervigilance from which there is no reprieve.

7. Adverse events alter the expression of genes.

Worse, these alterations, through the epigene, can become heritable.

8. Kids raised in orphanages have smaller brains than other children. Early adverse circumstances permanently alter the development, size and function of the brain.

9. Besides chronicness and unpredictability, the other important factor is whether or not children are keeping it a secret. If they can't talk about it, they will suffer more.

10. There are genetic differences, too, in sensitivity levels.

~~~~~

Reading these sections of the books was ... how to put it.

Imagine watching a horror movie. Or The Walking Dead.

You know that feeling of "is there going to be a zombie behind this door?" or "when is the next attack coming?" or "don't go in the basement!"

Your heart is pounding. Your shoulders are tense. Your forehead is furrowed. You feel the tension in your jaw, the back of your skull. Your mouth is dry. Your hands are cold. You have a knot in your stomach.

It felt like that. For me, anyway. It felt like that for about ten hours.

When I was reading, when I put the book down, when my daughter and I went to Chapters, when I browsed shelves of sci-fi and philosophy and art books. Heart pounding, dry mouth, cold hands, hard shoulders.

This would have been worth it, if Part II had offered something meaningful.

~~~~~

There were things I learned in the research section that were genuinely new and helpful. Things like:

1. Chronic stress and trauma in childhood will disrupt a person's ability to figure out if a situation is potentially dangerous or a person is potentially unsafe.

2. Chronic stress and trauma in childhood interferes with a person's ability to feel and name their feelings. The end result is that they go from underreactivity to overreactivity, often at a moment's notice; from not feeling anything when they should be, to feeling way too much, on a dime.

Well that explains a lot.

The recovery section, however, was unsatisfying.

It lists a number of well-known and popular, one might even say "trendy," methods:

1. Journaling
2. Art journaling (but only about the traumatic events)
3. Meditation
4. Tai Chi
5. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal TransformationMindsight (Yes, I've read it.)
6. Loving-kindness meditation
7. Forgiveness, someday
8. Yoga and massage
9. Nutrition. (Nutrition! Really! Eat clean to reduce your PTSD!)
10. Relationships
11. Somatic experiencing--I couldn't get through this part
12. Guided imagery
13. Neurofeedback
14. EMDR

Is there anything on this list you haven't seen already on a FaceBook meme? Possibly if you're not on FaceBook. Otherwise, you know everything that's in this section already. And if you're dealing with these issues, chances are good that you have tried most or all of these already, and they haven't worked, and that's why you read the damned book.

The book blurb and a good bit of the book's text talk about "getting back to who you would have been." That's a high promise, and her methods won't meet it. She provides no statistics or evidence on the effectiveness of these methods. Is a complete recovery likely? For how many people? How many won't respond at all? How many will respond partially? How many methods are likely required to have a significant impact on the quality of a person's life? She doesn't say.

So let me say: studies on meditation often include no mention of side effects or negative impacts, but these are known to occur for some people--thought more likely to be those suffering from PTSD, who may have flashbacks while meditating.

I looked up a couple of studies on PTSD and meditation, just for curiosity's sake. In one study, 12% of study participants improved in the control group, and 24% improved in the meditation group. To be sure the meditation significantly increased the beneficial impact, but it still left 76% of study participants with no benefit at all. Seventy-six per cent! How does this add up to a guarantee of "getting back to who you would have been"? No mention was made of whether any of those 76% might have been worse off than when they started. And meditation is one of the best studied of the methods she proposes.

Why only yoga--why not running? Are there no other physical activities that could provide similar benefits? Where's the evidence? Why does drawing only count if the drawing is related to the trauma? What about painting, photography, sewing, quilting, knitting, woodworking? What about religious practices from other traditions besides Buddhism? Etc. Too many questions, too few answers, and the answers provided with far too little evidence.

~~~~~

Here is a tree.



This tree has experienced trauma in its life. You can tell, by the burl on the trunk.

A burl is how a tree responds to certain physical stressors. You can read about the biology if you've a mind to--for now, just imagine what would happen if you tried to return the tree to "what it would have been" without the stress, and removed the burl.

YOU'D KILL THE TREE.

Similarly, for those of us who have had less than loving parents, there is no former us to get back to. There is no me before my mother. She's always been there.

A tree can still be beautiful and impressive with a good number of burls, of course. What's a little deformity between friends. Right?

Meanwhile, I've tried nine of the 14 things on the list above, plus therapy. They've all helped, but I am not who I would have been, I never will be, and I haven't "recovered" if by that you mean that I no longer have the extreme stress responses. I still lost a day to what are essentially flashbacks, from reading this book. Last week, I lost three days when an interpersonal conflict echoed what I'd had with my parents; for three days, my hands shook, my heart beat faster. Three days. I couldn't sleep.

It doesn't go away.

And whoever decided that all feelings dissipate in 90 seconds (a fact that was repeated in this book, but I've read it elsewhere too) has clearly never had a flashback. They don't last for 90 seconds. They can eat up a whole year.

Isn't that the whole point of the first section of the book?--that you can exist in a permanent state of anxiety and hypervigilance that can last pretty well forever?

~~~~~

There's a more significant criticism of Part II:

Human development is a funny thing. It only takes place in the context of some kind of relationship that involves some amount of nurturing. Children who receive no care at all, who are never held, never changed, never talked to, do not learn to talk, or walk, or feed themselves, or us the toilet, or even physically grow as they should, even if they are fed. Thus all childhood abuse that results in an adult who is capable of walking, speaking, self-feeding, and bladder control, didn't consist solely of abuse--there must have been moments, days, weeks, months, of an adult responding to the needs of the child.

That is to say, if the bar for "real abuse" is set at total and unrelenting abuse and neglect, the bar is set so low as to prevent survival, really. Abuse and neglect cannot be understood as the total absence of any care ever.

That's often how it's presented, though, in families like these. How can you be angry about x? How can you be upset about y? Don't you remember that nice thing I did for you once? But the nice thing doesn't cancel out the x, or the y. It's a favourite tactic of adult abusers too, isn't it? OK yes, I punched you in the face last week, and one time I broke your arm, but then I brought you flowers and you know I always take you to that restaurant you like.

It makes it worse for the survivor, those nice things. To bring back the Walking Dead, imagine the gang walking around in Alexandria, the zombies circling the walls, and then the zombies start throwing flowers over the gates. There's no apologies. There's no indication that they remember slaughtering and eating the survivors' loved ones. But there are these occasional gifts, these nice things, the flowers thrown over the wall; and then, later on, the demands that the gates be opened. OK yes, I killed your wife, I ate her, I ate your brother too, but then I gave you flowers. Open the gates! How can you still hold a grudge, after all this time?

The nice things end up standing out in one's memory in an aura of fear, rather than enjoyment. It becomes a mystery that begs an answer, where no answer is.

When a functional and healthy person does something hurtful or wrong, they apologize.

The lack of an apology, particularly coupled with a demand for resumption of the relationship and NO process for amends, means that the person is not safe to be around. "Nice things" notwithstanding.

This is something a child who grows up in an abusive home learns on their own, very slowly, if at all; and it is something that is not discussed in this book.

The most basic, fundamental action of healing--removing the source of hurt from one's life and keeping it as far distant as possible--is not even mentioned. Indeed, in the author's rush to assure readers that she is not one of those authors who blames parents, she goes a fair bit in the other direction, all but assuring readers that once healing is done, once you have miraculously recovered the person you would have been, you can be around your parent and the things they do will no longer hurt.

Imagine giving this advice to an abused spouse. Leave, for a while. Get counselling, meditate, do yoga. Feel better. Then go back to him. From now on, when he punches you in the face, you won't mind. If you do, it's your fault, you're "blaming him."

This is a dangerously irresponsible idea.

~~~~~

I can recommend Part I wholeheartedly to anyone interested in this subject. If you are reading "for a friend," just be aware that the preponderance of bad news and tragic anecdotes may make a difficult read. I found it triggering as hell.

I cannot recommend Part II to anyone, really. If you have never ever heard of meditation used therapeutically and are totally unaware of the health claims for yoga, and you can be satisfied with a couple of paragraphs of anecdotal data, then by all means. Otherwise, no. ...more
2

October 13, 2018

nothing new here, same old self help nonsense.
The book does outline the effects of childhood trauma as they manifest in childhood and later in life, but if you are a trauma survivor you already know this. And the "healing" the author recommends are what every self help book recommends: yoga, mindfulness,journaling, bodywork, etc... As someone trained to teach vipassana meditation, I am consistently appalled at the trend in recommending mindfulness as a panacea for nearly everything. Yes, meditation has benefits, but trauma will not be resolved through mindfulness. For some trauma survivors meditation can make things worse. The author also recommends " forgiveness". This is a sensitive topic for trauma survivors, because many have endured behaviors that are wholly unforgivable, and should remain so. If you are looking for insight into healing trauma, I highly recommend Pete Walker's CPTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.
1

October 22, 2018

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation
The thesis (and hypothesis, if you will) is that toxic home environments (i.e., the way children are raised by their parents) cause deleterious health problems later in life. No evidence was presented to support the claims (and anecdotes are not evidence, by the way). Many people are raised in toxic circumstances; if, fifty years later, someone ends up with heart disease, where is the evidence that the toxic home environment caused the heart disease, and not having eaten one too many cheeseburgers? What about all of those raised in toxic environments who DON'T end up with heart disease? What about the body's ability to heal and cure itself over time in response to changes in lifestyle? In short, correlation does not equal causation: Being raised in a horrible home may be an aggravating factor, but there's simply no evidence presented that the factor actually caused the disease. For example, I think most doctors would agree that it's lifestyle habits that cause heart disease, e.g.., smoking and eating animal products. (I doubt they'd agree that it's because fifty years ago, an angry, impatient parent lost his or her temper, thereby disrupting the child's comfortable, upper middle class lifestyle!).

Lastly, I disagreed with the message, which, is that you are victim, and that the solution to your problems is to seek therapy and to do yoga. Therapy and yoga can be therapeutic, of course, but why not a message of empowerment, to choose to take full ownership for one's own life NOW, instead of blaming circumstances on what a stressed out, impatient, or mentally ill parent did, intentionally or not, fifty years ago?
5

February 20, 2018

The clearest lens into the long lasting impact of childhood adversity
Since 2012, I have been trying to get a diagnosis for my health issues. I have subjected myself to ultra sounds, CT scans, Pet Scans, MRI’s, Colonoscopy, and Endoscopy and a small bowel follow through. My gastroenterologist was befuddled and finally suggested that there maybe a mind-body connection. He asked me to keep a diary of each time one of my health episodes flared up. It turns out I was having flashbacks to emotional neglect and physical punishment at my mother’s hand. These scenes would flood back. It was crippling. Nakazawa’s book is the BEST and most comprehensive view of the importance of the ACE studies and the ability to heal from a negative upbringing. My ACE score is a 4.

I now see options to heal and recover. The book shares a multitude of ideas. I have been receiving EMDR with my therapist. I am ever hopeful there is a path to freedom! I highly recommend this book.
5

June 14, 2017

As a Therapist, who specializes in adverse childhood experience ...
As a Therapist, who specializes in adverse childhood experience I encourage everyone of my clients to read Childhood Disrupted. Well documented, well written. Nakazawa provides the framework to understand the gravity of a Disrupted Childhood. A must read.
1

July 9, 2015

Nothing new, a rehash of other's work.
Well written, but absolutely nothing new here. Content, editing, relevance... these are all the good features of this book. However, there is nothing new that is not a rehash of someone else's work. If you've read Jack Kornfield, you've read this book. It was a major disappointment in a field that desperately needs new thought, new methods, new approaches.
3

July 14, 2015

Factual discrepancies raise doubts
The ACES study, although out for a number of years, is an important part of the health conversation. And factual and contextual accuracy are linchpins of good science writing. This is where this book stumbles.

Ms. Nakazawa states in the book, "Facing difficult circumstances in childhood increases six-fold your chances of having myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome) as an adult." However the study cited does not prove this. Why? Fatigue that is chronic is a symptom of dozens of diseases. And a symptom is not a disease. Nor are chronic fatigue syndrome and myalgic encephalomyelitis the same disease by research definition. Comparing apples and oranges but publicly calling them all round fruit is somewhat disingenuous.

As well, Ms. Nakazawa's book editor Pam Weintraub addressed this specific study and issue in her Psychology Today blog on January 13, 2009. It was titled, Chronic fatigue syndrome & child abuse: Disordered patients or disordered research? On March 5, 2011 psychologist and researcher Dr. Leonard Jason discussed the issue in the Wall Street Journal under LIFE: An Illness That's Hard To Live With—Or Define. The day before, Defining an Illness Is Fodder for Debate by science writer David Tuller was published in the New York Times.

It seems unlikely that this information was unavailable to Ms. Nakazawa during her year of research. It is unfortunate that this example calls into question other research results cited in the book, because the connection between the immune system and disease is an important one.
5

Aug 05, 2015

There were so many "ah-ha!" moments in it for me personally, that I'm sure my objectivity is a little clouded. I wish I'd had access to this sort of information as a young adult, and especially before marrying and then becoming a "mom". But I am also happy to now have the information to finish dealing with personal issues that I've probably always realized - at some level - derived from my upbringing, not to mention how my own parents (and THEIR parents) were raised. As I began reading, I was There were so many "ah-ha!" moments in it for me personally, that I'm sure my objectivity is a little clouded. I wish I'd had access to this sort of information as a young adult, and especially before marrying and then becoming a "mom". But I am also happy to now have the information to finish dealing with personal issues that I've probably always realized - at some level - derived from my upbringing, not to mention how my own parents (and THEIR parents) were raised. As I began reading, I was visiting with one of my brothers, and we had some really good discussions about "the good ole days".

There are two generally encouraging concepts I gleaned from my reading. (1) If you had early childhood adverse experiences, you're not alone - about 2/3 of American adults have endured ACEs of some number and type. (2) There are ways adults can successfully deal with the fallout of those experiences, and the author describes many. I will definitely be working with some of those.

All in all, this is an awesome, and well-documented read. As a teacher, it will be invaluable working with my students. ...more
5

August 6, 2017

Better than Expected!!
This was a life changer for me. This is a great summary of what is happening in this topic right now. Have read many books on this topic, but this one seems to deliver. Note.. read at the pace you feel comfortable. Some content may bring up some raw emotions.
4

July 16, 2017

Worthwhile Read
This book explained some of my personal issues. After taking the quiz, I found explanations for some of my own adult conditions/illnesses. In fact, some of these began in childhood. I appreciated the explanations. However, the book is overwritten and overly long. She uses great individual examples, but by the time she brought them back in later chapters, I had forgotten the particulars. A worthwhile read for understanding how childhood trauma affects us adults.
2

Jul 07, 2016

She might be a mad genius, bringing in the lay reader with high levels of sensationalism only to help the reader understand the complex nature of how environmental factors modify the necessary neurochemicals, hormones, and gene expression for optimal health throughout the lifespan. However, it seems grossly irresponsible to completely neglect the difference between correlation and causation. This author is filling the reader's head with a bunch of nonsense that isn't even close to being She might be a mad genius, bringing in the lay reader with high levels of sensationalism only to help the reader understand the complex nature of how environmental factors modify the necessary neurochemicals, hormones, and gene expression for optimal health throughout the lifespan. However, it seems grossly irresponsible to completely neglect the difference between correlation and causation. This author is filling the reader's head with a bunch of nonsense that isn't even close to being considered solid science. Some of her arguments are truly terrible. She does include some of the best science/studies related to her subject. There is no question about that. It is just the way she puts it together that really leaves the educated reader to wonder if she herself knows the difference between correlation and causation. At times, there is not even a correlation shown by any study for some of the claims she makes.

Her best work was toward the middle of the book where she began to demonstrate the more dynamic nature of the effects of environment (maltreatment) and biology (health). Thankfully, she did a really nice job discussing the "sensitivity gene" (serotonin allele variation) as well as the extremely important effects of perception of stress on the body's response to it. It was for this reason that I changed my mind about giving this book one star and ended up giving it 2.

She ended part 3 by saying, "We can repair and regrow the underdeveloped neural connections." Such a pollyanna take on neuroregeneration that occurs in the hippocampus and migrates outwardly on microglia to the more distal regions of the brain or the connections made in various regions where neuron "wire together and fire together". I keep asking myself 2 questions: "Why is she saying this?!" and "Why am I still reading this?"

Part 4 covers how to heal. The section begins by stating that so little is known about developmental trauma that it was not included in the DSM. But a little fact like that is certainly not going to stop someone who presents assumptions over facts. Thus the author simply waves that away and purports to be some type of authority who can help people heal. Maybe she is not a journalist but rather a guru or even medical medium? (maybe it's not worth 2 stars after all. It seems likely that as I reflect on this book, I will feel compelled to bump it down to one star.)

She does have helpful suggestions about using mindfulness and meditation. These are excellent, and scientifically proven, methods to help promote the process of *general* neruoregeneration (not nearly how she portrayed it). Being associated with CBT, mindfulness helps individuals become more functional. Most of the other suggestions were not supported by evidence. Some parenting suggestions were supported by science but it simply wasn't enough to pull this book out of the quagmire.

Even with the inclusion of really good science, this book is still filled with" just so stories" that are not even remotely supported by the data. This field is in its infancy. It's a worthwhile subject to study. In fact I am personally obsessed with it. There is much we can learn, but do yourself a favor and learn from a scientists or a better educated and more skeptical journalist.
...more
5

Dec 10, 2016

Stupendous. If you're childhood was fucked up. And now you are. Here's why and how not to be.
3

July 9, 2018

sobering info we ALL need to know...~3/4 "how biography becomes biology", ~1/4 "how you can heal"
I'm not going to lie: this book was profoundly depressing to me. My subjective take on it, is that it's about 3/4 "how your biography becomes your biology", and about 1/4 "how you can heal." It's packed with information, but it's really depressing information. And, although the author never says this, reading between the lines, my impression is that few people actually "heal."

Okay, that's sort of the end of the book review, but here's some more info I hope will help others.

I came to this book after a profoundly upsetting, unsettling flashback (my first, ever -- as far as I know) to a traumatic event occurred while reviewing the ACE study in a continuing ed seminar. Like a fool, though it was not presented in the seminar, during a scheduled break I Googled the ACE study and took it. I kept stumbling over one question. First, I thought, No, that never happened to me. Then I remembered, Oh, yeah, there was that one minor incident. Then I suddenly was slammed with visual memories of a far more traumatic, violent event that I had stored in my memory as voluntary and consensual -- for 32 years. I barely made it through the rest of the seminar and fell apart in my car afterward. If I had not already been in therapy, I would have had to start.

The "how you can heal" part is the real stumbling block in this book. I've spent more time than not in therapy in my adult life, and take my meds daily, even when they cause side effects, because I always try to tell myself,
gaining weight/sweating like a pig from anticholinergic effects/etc is better than eyeing bridges longingly or thinking about how many medications you have at home that -- if taken all together, and all at once, like, entire bottles of meds down your throat -- will kill you. Yet despite my compliance with meds and therapy, I still have severe depression.

And I recently learned I have complex PTSD, or C-PTSD; for decades I thought I "just" had chronic severe relapsimg/remitting major depressive disorder. I'm on three AD meds. (They'll never I've taken 2-3 different drugs from every class of antidepressant over the past 30 years. As my doctor put it, "we are at the end of the road." It's TMS or an adjunct antipsychotic medication, now. Antipsychotic medication side effects make the side effects from my ADs look like a cake walk.

I tried EMDR, and it *did* work (and there is scientific research backing it up). But the biggest problem with EMDR is that you have to *remember* the thing you want the EMDR to defuse, in very great detail, *while* receiving the EMDR... and while doing it, you may remember or uncover other related traumatic events.

Who actually wants to go through that?? If you have a high ACE score, you're just going to have MORE of these things to deal with. And it's extremely painful and difficult to voluntarily recall the horribleness during the EMDR, it's almost as bad as people tell me exposure therapy is (it sort of is exposure therapy, except instead of exposing yourself to the real thing, you must recall it in great detail -- using all your senses and memories, however vague or crystal clear). It is exhausting, literally -- I came home from my second EMDR session and fell into bed, physically drained. And the experience during the first part of it was horrible. My body shook and shivered, and I couldn't make it stop (not that you're supposed to, but that's a pretty typical reaction for many people: to stop or try to suppress trembling with fear).

The irony is that more than a decade ago, I had been searching for an EMDR therapist in my area and could not find any. Yet my current therapist of over a year (referred from the work EAP program I contacted when I just could barely drag myself out of bed to go to work), is EMDR trained. Huh, lucky coincidence, I thought.

So when he proposed trying EMDR, the first time I purposely chose a relatively non-threatening (to me) traumatic event (seeing something traumatic in childhood) for my first EMDR session, 1) because I didn't really believe it would work, 2) because I didn't like the idea of reliving something REALLY horrific and traumatic that happened to me, and putting myself through all that, if it wasn't going to work, so I thought I'd start with a "light" traumatic event, if there can be such a thing.

That being said... the second time I did EMDR, 2 mornings later, for the first time in 15+ years, I woke with no stiffness, no pain, and no range of motion restrictions anywhere in my body -- my constant, chronic fibromyalgia tension and stiffness was completely gone. I almost cried tears of joy, but I was too HAPPY to do so. For the first time since I can EVER remember, I bounced out of bed, glad to be alive.

Unfortunately that relaxed, not-stiff, not-tense physical state did not last more than half the day (I have a very stressful job). But the possibility of regaining it with another EMDR session is *almost* enough to get me to do EMDR and face those terrible traumatic events that still need processing (or re-processing...).

I have tried the mindfulness meditation. I've done the CBT/DBT exercises -- distress tolerance, thought challenging, "radical acceptance" -- and I continue to do them, but even doing them on a daily basis has never done as much as that second EMDR session.

So, wrt "How You Can Heal" -- everyone should start where they feel is right for them... but I think you'll get a lot more out of EMDR than many of the exercises from manualized approaches like CBT/DBT. CBT/DBT posit that you can cognitively restructure thoughts and feelings, catch yourself making those negative automatic thoughts, and change them.

They never tell you how soon CBT/DBT will work, or how long it will take to really have an effect, or that you will have to commit to basically doing these CBT/DBT techniques forever, for the rest of your life (at which point, I'm like, how is this different from taking medication every day for the rest of my life? at least taking meds take way less time). And maybe you can eventually rid yourself of your negative automatic thoughts -- if you did CBT every day, for years or decades on end. 20 years ago I had done a CBT group for social anxiety (the irony was not lost on me, as there were half the people at the end that we started with in the beginning) and found that, without constant, daily, religious and assiduous performance of the CBT techniques, I would slip back into my typical shyness around and avoidance of groups of new people.

If I had to choose, if some weary soul like mine asked me if there is any option other than daily CBT hypervigilance of one's thoughts (and really, how different is that to daily hypervigilance of one's surroundings? IDK)... I would have to say, give EMDR a shot, but within a context of psychotherapy. Worked for me every time so far (twice, with a lot of preparation on the front end, and some post-processing on the back end).

I just have to get the nerve up to delve back into some horrific memories, and my fear and trepidation about what *else* will come up while recalling those in detail during EMDR. But I guess that is what happens when you dissociate: you "forget", but it's still really all there. Like a snake lying in wait.
5

May 1, 2018

So important!
This book changed my life, I talk about it all the time. I struggle with chronic illness and it helped me to see my illness was a natural byproduct of my upbringing, which helped me get rid of some of my shame. Besides this, the information is fascinating, and heartbreaking, but so important for everyone to understand how critical our formative years are and that we need to make sure children are better protected and cared for while they are still young.
2

July 12, 2017

Recommendations for healing include Tai Chi, Qigong, Mindsight ...
Recommendations for healing include Tai Chi, Qigong, Mindsight, Trauma Release Exercises, Bodywork (Massage Rho, Core Energetic Massage, Therapeutic Touch), Somatic Experiencing, Neurofeedback, and EMDR.

The Author follows many of the recommendations with personal anecdote.

These are huge red flags. There is little-to-no quality scientific evidence that any of these address mental health / medical issues.

This leads me to question the information in the proceeding chapters.
4

June 27, 2017

Damages explained
A very well-written, insightful book on the tremendous impact negative parenting can have years after raising. Nakazawa uses documented, scientific studies to explore the long term impact of negative childhood experiences. Wish I had read it decades ago.
5

Jun 13, 2015

Learn how your reactions to childhood events (which we carry around in the our cells) contribute to our disease creation. Yes, our biography impacts our biology. Truly. This is the second Donna Jackson Nakazawa book I’ve read and once again her writing is compassionate and easy to understand. She shows us how we have the ability and power to heal ourselves. She provides many resources to help us in healing our biological wounds and gave me renewed confidence as I search for health care resources Learn how your reactions to childhood events (which we carry around in the our cells) contribute to our disease creation. Yes, our biography impacts our biology. Truly. This is the second Donna Jackson Nakazawa book I’ve read and once again her writing is compassionate and easy to understand. She shows us how we have the ability and power to heal ourselves. She provides many resources to help us in healing our biological wounds and gave me renewed confidence as I search for health care resources to partner with me to overcome my autoimmune disease. ...more
5

October 19, 2016

This book is a groundbreaking and an important read that everyone should read. The ACE study creates connection and understanding between childhood experience to both simple and complex health problems in adulthood. The author goes into great medical detail creating a clear visual understanding, th...Full Review
3

June 30, 2017

Interesting insights and well-researched though I wanted to see more of the ACE link to adult chronic adult illness.
Interesting insights and well-researched book, though I really wanted to see more of the ACE link to adult chronic adult illness.
3

December 23, 2017

Childhood trauma and how it affects our brain and biology, and how we can reverse the effects this early disturbance may cause
Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal looks at childhood trauma and how it affects our brain and biology, and how we can reverse the effects this early disturbance may cause.

Nakazawa shares several people’s stories, in conjunction with scientific data, to illustrate how traumatic childhood events affect us physically and how it plays a role in our physical and mental health as adults. She is careful to point out, several times, that adult illnesses are not fully the result of a bad childhood, but may play a bigger role in our health than we think.

Nakazawa never dives too deep into the anatomy of the brain and only briefly touches on epigenetics - I was hoping for more science intertwined with the psychology – but it was still an interesting read.
5

Jun 13, 2015

I learned so much from this book. As I face my 50s and live with a few chronic illnesses, it's been important to understand all kinds of possible causes. The cause of childhood stress is one I wouldn't know about were it not for Donna's books. Beyond the cause or contributing factors information, this book covers solutions. And, of course, putting solutions in place is an important part of healing. Highly recommend this for anyone who lives with chronic illness.
5

Jul 06, 2015

HIGHLY recommended for anyone who has a family history of mental illness, addiction, abuse, incarceration, molestation, suicide, and persons with autoimmune diseases. Also recommended for anyone who grew up in a house full of crazy (however you define it for yourself).

Especially crucial reading for anyone interested in the fields of trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), public health, and the intersectionality of those fields.

No one thing explains everything, but this book explains A LOT! HIGHLY recommended for anyone who has a family history of mental illness, addiction, abuse, incarceration, molestation, suicide, and persons with autoimmune diseases. Also recommended for anyone who grew up in a house full of crazy (however you define it for yourself).

Especially crucial reading for anyone interested in the fields of trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), public health, and the intersectionality of those fields.

No one thing explains everything, but this book explains A LOT! Plenty of studies, with sources, for you to investigate and seek out on your own. ...more

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