Emotional Concussions; Real Damage Like a Car Wreck

by Patrick Nemechek, D.O. on September 27, 2014

Concussion PhotoIs it possible for an emotional event to have the same impact on our brain as a car wreck? Yes, it is an “emotional concussion”.

You have probably heard of “dying of a broken heart”. This is when grandma dies and then grandpa (who was healthy) dies shortly afterwards of sudden heart failure.

This event is caused by a very real disruption in the Autonomic Nervous System, the mechanism where the brain controls the variable heart rate and blood pressure.

The Autonomic Nervous System (“autonomics”) is the communications network the brain uses to talks to the organs and regulatory systems. It is where the mind and the body actually connect.

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When the autonomics work correctly, we don’t realize they exist. Primitive humans, for example, had no idea how much to eat, sleep, or drink. Their autonomics protected and directed them to fulfill core survival needs.   Hunger, metabolism, and the immune system were in balance; they survived and quickly recovered from accidents and infections.

We are no longer like these tough and resilient primitive humans. Our modern autonomics are increasingly vulnerable to emotional bruising. In fact, on a sophisticated spectral analysis machine an emotional injury to the nervous system can have the same test pattern as a car wreck injury.

Understanding that an emotional injury can produce real physical harm is where traditional medicine collides with modern science and advanced technology.

We’ve known for a long time that obvious emotional traumas, like the death of a loved one or molestation, can cause the autonomics to dysfunction. I’ve found that short term or smaller emotional events, like bullying or bankruptcy, may also take a life-altering toll on the autonomics.

The common symptoms of autonomic dysfunction are fatigue, poor concentration, anxiety, headaches, and a slowing of the intestinal tract (heartburn, constipation, food intolerances).   The mechanics of the dysfunction are why some people feel dizzy or lightheaded upon standing up out of bed in the morning.

The sympathetic branch of the autonomics control our basic “fight or flight” brain commands. If it is disrupted we feel anxious, dizzy, tired, or crave salt or sugar. Sympathetic imbalance makes the heart palpitate or race, makes a tingling or burning sensations in the arms/feet/hands, and causes stiff neck pains or headaches so severe that they are misdiagnosed as migraines. It gives us adrenaline rushes which cause insomnia, impairs our inability to focus (ADD), and triggers unexplained anxiety or depression.

The parasympathetic branch of the autonomics control our “rest and digest” brain commands. If it is disrupted it affects our intestinal tract (heartburn or constipation), immune system (autoimmune disorders) and produces chronic pain syndromes (fibromyalgia).

Parasympathetic imbalance gives us sleep apnea, “restless legs”, morning nausea, night sweats/hot flashes, and power surge sensations when we should be at rest. It makes us feel exhausted in the morning despite an uneventful or uninterrupted night’s sleep.

So why is my medical explanation of common nervous system disruption so important to your health?   Fixing the damage to the autonomics allows your body and your brain to function normally again. Once repaired you will properly regulate your blood pressure, hormones, sleep and hunger cycles. Once again your bodies’ natural defense systems will be able to protect and defend you.

Left untreated the stress on your body becomes stress on your cells, which is where our bodies break and how modern diseases begin.

If your health changed after an emotional event that did not dissipate after 6 to 8 months, you might have suffered an emotional concussion. Just like physical concussions, full recovery might require specific (non-psychiatric) medical treatment. Testing the autonomics to pinpoint mechanical nervous system dysfunction is the first step towards reversing and repairing your symptoms.

Call my office at 623-208-4226 to learn more about autonomic dysfunction.

© Copyright 2014. Dr. Patrick M. and Jean R. Nemechek. All rights reserved.


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