The Polyvagal Theory
The autonomic nervous system is traditionally described as consisting of two antagonistic and balanced branches, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic system. The sympathetic system or the “fight or flight” arousal system kicks into gear when we perceive threats. When that happens your blood pressure increases, your muscles tense, your heart beats faster, and digestion slows down.
The parasympathetic system has been thought to be responsible for “rest-and-digest”. Say it is a nice, sunny day and you decide to relax and take in the nice weather in a comfortable chair. In that situation your “rest and digest” response should cause your blood pressure to decrease, pulse rate to slow, and digestion to start.
Something else, however, is happening in this video.
In the video the possum immobilizes and looks dead, but it’s not engaging in a voluntary behavior, or a ‘fight or flight’ or ‘rest and digest’ response.
It is using a defense mechanism called immobilization which causes a drastic slowing of the metabolic system. The observation of this ancient and primitive system, which is frequently used by reptiles and other primitive animals, helped prompt Dr. Stephen Porges to develop “The Polyvagal Theory” for humans.
Three (Not Two) Autonomic Nervous Systems
The Polyvagal Theory splits the autonomic nervous system into three hierarchical systems.
Oldest System – The oldest system is mediated by unmyelinated vagus nerves that originate in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve and extend to the viscera below the diaphragm. In humans this system serves two purposes: In a “threat” context, this system is characterized by immobilization, fainting, and dissociating. If you’ve ever walked into a room and suddenly been immobilized with fear, your body had probably invoked the unmyelinated vagal defense system. This is the primitive defensive mechanism frequently observed in reptiles and small rodents and in the opossum in the video.
However, when humans are in “safe” contexts, the system works to support the subdiaphragmatic organs (the gut) that promote health, growth, and restoration via the classic “rest and digest” mechanisms.
Next Oldest System – The next oldest system, the familiar sympathetic-adrenal nervous system, actively inhibits the older vagal unmyelinated nerve defense system. When triggered this system also stops digestion and mobilizes energy resources resulting in hypervigilance, increased blood pressure, and tension in the muscles for the “fight or flight” response.
Newest System – The most recently evolved autonomic system is unique to mammals. The myelinated vagus system originates in the Nucleus Ambiguus and is linked to the adrenal system, the heart, and muscles of the face. Usually, the myelinated vagus system calms us and actively inhibits the sympathetic-adrenal system and reduces inflammation while processing our moment-to-moment cardiovascular and metabolic needs.
Putting the Brakes On
Dr. Porges says that we are unconsciously always checking to see whether or not we are in a “safe” social environment.
The myelinated vagus system inhibits the high states of arousal associated with the sympathetic nervous system via something called “the vagal brake“. The vagal brake can be thought of as the pacemaker of our heart. Our normal heart rate would be quite high were it not for the myelinated vagus nerve to inhibit it.
Imagine that one foot is pushing the accelerator pedal almost to the floor of your car and the other foot is on the brake of your car. You modulate the system by simply letting your foot up off the brake or pushing it down a bit. It is as though our autonomic system is always primed to take off and the vagal brake is modulating this.
The vagal brake supports the metabolic requirements for mobilization and communication by instantaneously modulating our heart rate while rapidly engaging and disengaging with objects and other individuals within our social environment. This allows us to adjust to the metabolic demands of our moment-to-moment social environment without engaging the sympathetic-adrenal (fight or flight) system.
Dr. Porges says that our system is unconsciously always checking to see whether or not we are in a “safe” social environment. In fact, Dr. Porges names this whole process “The Social Engagement System“. When we are in a “safe” environment the myelinated vagal system has a calming effect on the autonomic system.
The Polyvagal Theory says that our bodies attempt to use these systems in a hierarchal manner. When stress is not present, the most recently evolved system, the myelinated vagus, actively orchestrates our moment-to-moment autonomic functions so long as we are functioning in a “safe” environment. This dynamic interaction is reflected in our heart rate variability, which is considered a key indicator of autonomic system health.
We are unconsciously always appraising our social environment by listening and visually scanning the body movements and especially the faces of people within a given social context. Our nervous systems are also continuously subconsciously monitoring our physiological environment. (This subconscious process has been termed ‘neuroperception’.)
When our social and physiological environments are appraised as being safe, the defensive limbic structures (the sympathetic-adrenal and unmyelinated vagal systems) are inhibited, and calm visceral states emerge. When a “threat” is first perceived, the myelinated vagus system withdraws the vagal brake and the sympathetic adrenal system instantaneously dominates. Dr. Porges does not like to think of this as an on/off system, but rather as a dynamic interaction. On rare occasions in humans, a life threat is encountered which engages the primitive unmyelinated vagus system, and the result is a system shutdown (think immobilization with dissociation or fainting).
When the Brakes Fail!
Dr. Porges’s Polyvagal Theory is much more elegant and complex than portrayed here. On a gross scale it ties together physiology and psychology (psychophysiology). It is upon the basis of this mostly unconscious “safe or threat” evaluation that humans engage socially. Those of us who, for whatever reason, cannot feel “safe” within our social or physiological environments are actively engaging the sympathetic-adrenal system or even the primitive unmyelinated vagus system, and if we live on a long-term basis with these systems engaged, we suffer the consequences.
While most of Dr. Porges’s research and theory covers the physiology of psychological disorders, he does have a few comments about physical disorder.
The inability to distinguish a “safe” environment from a “threat” environment causes these more primitive “threat” systems to be constantly engaged without our consciously knowing it. There can be many causes of this inability to recognize a “safe” environment. It can be due to very early childhood experiences or trauma or, in some cases, physiological disorders.
Dr. Porges also believes these “threat” states are inherently pain-inducing. The sensory fibers associated with the unmyelinated vagus nerve modulate pain when operating within a “safe” environment, but if a “threat” environment is present, then the pain modulation does not occur and the pain signals are amplified.
The Polyvagal Theory presents a different way to view the autonomic functions of humans. I encourage you to read further as the theory extends into many areas of human development and behavior. The Polyvagal Theory extends into the areas of mother-child bonding, PTSD and trauma, vagal tone, heart rate variability, meditation, music therapy, autism, and personality disorders.
- Dr. Porges website
- An engaging podcast with Dr. Porges (About five minutes into the podcast)
- The Book
I often look like the Possum in the video. This explains everything! Thanks Cort!
Thanks – thanks must go to Tim Vaughn who came up with the topic and wrote the blog. Marco and Tim and others are coming up with some really interesting slants to ME/CFS/FM.
This really should be labeled: ANS Activation from PTSD or Other Psychological Trauma/Stress.
I don’t see how it’s relevant for those who weren’t abused as children, in a war or otherwise severely “stressed”.
It’s a rather unsatisfying way to look at ANS activation IMO. I wonder how many celiacs were accused of having “stress” and “trauma” in their lives before they found out their bodies reacted to gluten? Or would Dr Porges suggest that “stress” and “trauma” causes one’s body to become sensitive to gluten? Certainly “stress” and “trauma” could result in those with undiagnosed celiac disease if one is told that it is just due to an inability to recognize a “safe” environment.
I agree. And what about all those who WERE abused as children, in wars, and/or otherwise “stressed” who DO NOT get me/cfs?
This appears to be more of the pretzel logic employed by psychobabblers.
Reminds me of Freud (the Fraud) who diagnosed a 15 year-old girl with stomach pain as being hysterical. When she died of stomach cancer, he claimed her hysteria caused the cancer.
The intent of this blog is to expose people to Dr. Porges is Polyvagal theory of how the autonomic system works. Nothing I’ve ever read or heard him say even mentions ME/CFS.
Then why is it included in the title?
My original title was “a brief introduction to the polyvagel theory”. Cort chose the title without my review…editorial privileges. Cort likes flashy provocative titles and images and it IS his website. I am thankful to occasionally participate in it with a blog.
This is like an epithany for me! Due to trauma in very early infancy I hav always felt “unsafe” suffered from panic all my life.. then this illness which seems to be bringing the 4 walls in closer and closer as I am mostly housebound with it
Thanks Cort this could be useful but we need you to go further than posting this article in isolation. Anyone who has suffered from ME for many years may see relevance in this article but will tell you flat out that removal of all stressors does NOT cure this disease (nor does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Graded Exercise Therapy). Perhaps you can connect Dr. Porges and Simmaron Research (read this: http://simmaronresearch.com/2013/12/one-theory-explain-vagus-nerve-infection-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/ ) so they can collaborate and possibly determine the real truth about this terrible disease instead of circling back to psychological causes as the above article suggests? As you know, the body of evidence indicating bio-markers continues to grow.
The intent of this blog is to expose people to Dr. Porges is Polyvagal theory of how the autonomic system works. Nothing I’ve ever read or heard him say even mentions ME/CFS. I was fascinated by that Simmaron research report Cort did on herpes infections of the vagal nerve. I started thinking about it that vagal nerve is infected and going haywire the catastrophic consequences it can have for the whole rest the body both physiologically and psychologically.
Very interesting Tim.
I’ve never come across this polyvagal concept before but from the little reading I’ve been able to do it does makes some sense from an evolutionary perspective.
It seems that some of the concepts are now well established while other aspects are still debatable.
Vagal tone and heart rate variability are now (as we’ve seen in many recent blogs) established physiological measures with implications for stress responsiveness/adaptability and long term health.
On the other hand I do struggle with the notion that social interactions would have such a fundamental impact on the autonomic nervous system and a direct and profound impact on health.
OK – pop psychology would suggest that those with a large and supportive social network ‘tend’ to be healthier but how then to explain the positive benefits in terms of stress resilience and physical health of practices such as yoga and meditation where advanced practice involves stillness and isolation?
On the other hand, somewhat in favour of the notion is the following paper that suggests that administration of Oxytocin (the empathy neurohormone) increases heart rate variability :
Its a bit of a circular argument though. Does low Oxytocin affect health as well as ensuring that certain individuals engage in less social activity or does social engagement increase Oxytocin?
What I did find interesting was the impact that the unconscious monitoring of bodily sensations (nociception) via the vagal nerve has on the perception of ‘danger’.
Sensations of pain, fatigue etc could just as easily be the bottom up driver for an enhanced fight or flight or ‘freeze’ response rather than assumptions of some childhood ‘trauma’ having ‘primed’ us to react in this way.
Not ruling it out but there are alternative explanations.
Thanks for the blog. There may be some potential ‘tools’ to be found here even if you don’t buy into the whole theory.
The emphasis on social interactions doesn’t resonate with me. This is more interesting to me a potential cause for the kind of immobolized state I sometimes enter into. It’s not that I can’t move; it’s more like the brakes been put on.
This “Sensations of pain, fatigue etc could just as easily be the bottom up driver for an enhanced fight or flight or ‘freeze’ response rather than assumptions of some childhood ‘trauma’ having ‘primed’ us to react in this way.” resonates more with me.
I recommend you read further into his research and theories. He covers Oxytocin and mother child bonding, etc. His research is around the area of human behavior and psychology and is sound research. The autonomic system is just so incredibly complex, but I thought it would be good to expose people to theories of how it works.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that Sensations of pain, fatigue etc could just as easily be the bottom up driver for an enhanced fight or flight or ‘freeze’ response rather than assumptions of some childhood ‘trauma’ having ‘primed’ us to react in this way. A good example would be Corts previous post on the theory of herpes infection of the vagal nerve. Got an infection of the vagal nerve? Man that could just mess with all sorts of functions of your body, including your ability to adapt to stress.
This article brought it all together for me – I related to it completely – abuse as a child, depression, ME, succession and progression of auto-immune disorders, painful lack of mobility, never feeling rested, symptoms like a just boiled kettle ready to explode again at the slightest touch. Still living with this at nearly 70, still doing what work I can (academic), can’t rest. Don’seem to be ‘celiac’.
This is certainly not the cause for ME. If this was true many people who are in a safe environment would be free from symptoms and that is not the case. But the system is broken not due to mental stress or abuse etc… there is something else going on and docters must find it. Only spinal fluid and biopsy can reveal the real cause.
I don’t know what this theory says about ’cause’; to me it simply lays out a state that’s present. I assume many things could cause it. Infection would be a big one, obviously.
Actually, I believe that safe environments are not safe anymore according to this theory. They’re not perceived that way.
hi cort i found this very interesting. i find wires are continually crossed these days and what was a normal situation can be misjudged and vice versa on potentially dangerous ones a bit like post traumatic stress disorder. the real problem is finding the offswitch.your articles are always helpful but its interesting how only some resonate as valid for me. this is one of them. many thanks ann
Glad to hear that Ann. Thanks for Tim Vaughn for introducing this subject. My wires are crossed as well in that little things bother me; I don’t know why but they do. Little things that had no impact before, that I never considered cross me up – they don’t destroy me – they simply tug at me again and again. It’s strange.
I came across a quote on a fibromygalgia page where the author referred to all the really little things that had an impact and I would say a physiological impact that really resonated with me.
I find his rather interesting. I am intrigue by this theory and I can see it’s relatability. However, the part which I always think is left out is; many people have real physical illness, neuro-autoimmune antibodies for example.
I work with many people who are diagnosed with functional neurological disorder, and many have become symptomatic after physical injury and have no suppressed psychological trauma. I can see how this theory may partially apply.
What are your thoughts about this response kicking in when there is real underlying medical illness which is then ignored? This theory then kicks in when the body is trying to give signals and tell you it is unwell and a patient then goes to the doctor to be ignored and sometimes actually mistreated. There is a specific trauma recognized by those who have been misdiagnosed and how they are medically traumatized by their denial of care experience. From that point whenever the patient enters into any medical situation instead the feeling of reassurance they will receive adequate safe care it is actually trauma and fear they will not be believed. I wonder if this concept is being picked up subconsciously before the patient even realizes it?
The intent of this blog was definitely not to deny the reality of physical illness (I can’t imagine Cort ever allowing something like that onto this site). It was simply to introduce this theory of how the autonomic system works.
You mentioned denial of care triggering this sort of response. I just had that happen. With the new changes with Obamacare, Medicare has changed dramatically and I’ve had the potential denile of service expressed to me on treatments I found to be extremely important. That automatically triggered these responses, including I can remember being disassociated and not able Carry on a conversation. Actually, now that I think of that I think the interface with medical doctors is one area where I experience it a lot. Shows the value of having a good relationship with a medical practitioner.
Sorry Tim I didn’t mean the lack of physical illness recognized to be critical. I meant to just bring it more into the discussion. In general, the conversations I have in this arena typically have an either / or focus. I think when it is not clearly acknowledged as an equal contributor it is often lost in translation as a side note. Often I think this has more to do with whichever profession is studying or citing the work. Again, I don’t mean this critical but more thought provoking.
So much is lost in translation too. Obviously, this theory is meant to include all threat and does encompass the physiological aspect. But because the focus is a ‘safe social environment” the mind takes center stage with the emotion of fear.
Often times those with a physical illness as the “unsafe” catalyst do not want to acknowledge they too, very likely, have a social/emotional connection now to this process, even though may not in the beginning.
Then there are those who do only have a social/emotional response. It has been in my experience doctors only focus on the social/emotional connection leaving out the possible underlying physical illness and in turn do not recognize they and their denial of care is in fact the social/ emotional connection.
* Side Note: I spent 5 years being very physically ill and told I had a psychosomatic illness, until finally being diagnosed by a hematologist with a neuro-vascular disorder. I had to be on deaths door before a doctor would help me. My neurologist referred me to a psychologist after I emailed him to tell him I was having chest pain and coughing up blood. (Most of my symptoms were neurological which was why I was under his care, but this is just bad medical practice)
We can conclude that the autonomic nervous system is chronically activated and responding abnormally to different types of stimuli, why? This is the central question for me. This explains all symptoms. The only thing I can not rule out whether it is a necessary and compensatory response. For example in (diabetic) acidosis you get the same stress response of the autonomic nervous system.
I wonder if it’s possible for it to have an Opposite Reaction, as in another version of the activation of this theory, that also sets off a sudden OI/POTS reaction that halts the
Proper Working of the ANS after a Sudden SHOCK, such as a Head-on car accident that could also trigger this ?
I have heard that any Major Shock to the system on any level can also Trigger the
OI/POTS that for me not only caused the Low Blood Pressure, but also lack of control
of Body Temperature regulation.
I ONLY actually FELT like the opossum immediately AFTER the Head-On car accident,
and the symptoms then came on later… Interesting to ponder. But I have constantly
said I felt like I had one foot on the gas and another on the brake. Hmmmm……
I wonder if any one has bother to ask him if that also would FIT into his theory ?
Thanks for this article.
“There can be many causes of this inability to recognize a “safe” environment. It can be due to very early childhood experiences or trauma or, in some cases, physiological disorders.”
The question for ME would seem to be what are the possible physiological disorders?
Fantastic information! Thank you Cort and Tim Vaughn. I have had CFS for 12 years and have subsequently picked up Fibromyalgia, celiac disease, IBS, and other unpleasant conditions. I was diagnosed with PTSD in my 30’s (now mid 50’s) due to childhood trauma. I can relate to this article in every way. Since the onset of CFS when I attempt to meditate I become aware of a constant panic type feeling that I have great difficulty calming down and can only soothe this feeling slightly. I also have non-epiliptic seizures that last for 1 to 2 hours when I am exactly like the possum. I am totally aware but cannot move or speak for the duration of the seizure.
None of the several doctors, including several neurologists, have been able to explain these seizures or provide any relief from them.
I believe that Dr Porges is really on to something true here. As is always the case with CFS, what is true for me and probably many others with CFS is not true for a lot of others with this disease.
Thanks for this information, it has soothed my soul reading an explanation that makes sense of my particular condition.
You’re welcome. I urge you to read about his theories and greater depth. His writing is not a easy read, but worth the effort if you’re an intellectually curious person. I find his research/writing about autistic children and mother-child bonds pretty fascinating.
I guess the big question is, once your autonomic system is out of control or not properly operating, how do you measure it back into proper running order?
I think the value to this article is the use of the word “immobilized”. It took me years to really find a good word for how I feel much of the time. There were years of different stages of that where all I could do was sit and stare; and that is after months of not even being able to do that. This was after some of the worst bedbound stages of illness after a second relapse many years ago – both started with stomach flus.
I used to say I felt “paralyzed” because I couldn’t think of a better word, until a neurologist poked me with a pin and said I wasn’t paralyzed. Then I realized that the word was immobilized.
Could it be that the body becomes so sick post infection with ME that this very primal autonomic response is basically what is keeping people alive while everything else goes haywire? That is what is intriguing to me. So it is a protective mechanism?
I think as other systems of the brain and spinal cord break down in ME, that this is probably where many of us have been left.
So in terms of body functions and feeling unsafe, I can’t imagine a louder alarm for unsafety than when the body and brain become so sick. (as they do in ME/CFS)
One of Dr. Porges’s main points is that this reptilian/primitive freeze state is very dangerous for mammals (Unless they’re hibernating). Reptiles and other associated animals can do it because they have different physiology than mammals. Mammals need very high amounts of oxygen etc. to survive and cannot just simply shut down, except for very short periods of time. If we get into this this disassociated or paralyzed or immobilize state, our physiology becomes dramatically different. Check out some more of Dr. Porges’s writings and see if they make any sense to you.
At least it’s a start if any of us of experience this can recognize and identify it when it occurs. That’s the first step towards resolving it. I’m personally interested in looking at heart rate variability analysis techniques. Maybe somebody will pipe Who has some experience with that. I know there’s some information out there that meditation has been documented to increase heart rate variability, which, as Marcos has pointed out, is associated with autonomic system health.
This article resonated with me; thank you and Cort for providing it!
I’m in “fuzzy brain” state today so I’m not sure if this heart rate variability information fits what you are looking for. The link is for an article on the HeartMath website regarding their work/perspective on HRV:
That’s what I’m thinking Valerie. I’m thinking maybe the other ways to respond to ‘stress’ poop out and maybe we’re left with this very primitive response. My little ‘freezes’; maybe they’re like little panic attacks, I don’t know, but often it seems like one part of my body has the breaks on, while my mind is saying ‘Go’.
I was able to recognize this but unable to change it with the techniques I had access to while so ill. Five years of gentle, prone yoga, meditation and study of the techniques did not help. When the body is sick and the nervous system is so highly affected, along with everything else,I doubt that these things will help at those times to really make big changes, until there is a better state of health.
I am sure it is very unhealthy to be pushed to that state of immobilization but I do not think in ME/CFS it has anything to do with the mind-state in my observations and experience or of feeling unsafe in our environments (for many). I do think it is a way to stay alive (like hibernation) for people with this type of illness, because the alternative is probably not great for the body. Dr. Cheney talks a lot about the body shutting down for self-preservation in ME/CFS.
I think you elucidated the most important point for me when you wrote…….. “The inability to distinguish a “safe” environment from a “threat” environment causes these more primitive “threat” systems to be constantly engaged without our consciously knowing it. There can be many causes of this inability to recognize a “safe” environment.”
In thinking about how a maladjusted stress response might be playing an important role in CFS/ME Ive come to feel that our modern environment is presenting us with a level of complexity far greater than what our earlier “hunter gatherer” ancestors experienced, with the result that we are being exposed to far more complex and nuanced sources of “threat” than we were previously exposed to in earlier times. A ‘threat’ can be just about any stimuli from the perspective of our nervous system, and can include dozens if not hundreds of various stimuli in our lives, combining with subtle and dizzying complexity to ‘stimulate’ our HPA axis. Just the simple fact that we have so much more social media stimuli that is constantly vying for our senses, the mass of information coming at us from the media/internet complex, advertising etc. Want to do some research on PubMed? You’ve got 30 MILLION papers to choose from. Not something my primitive ancestors’ HPA had to ‘respond’ to. I could give a thousand examples of things that our systems could perceive as a ‘stress’ in the modern day world that our ancestors did not encounter, from chlorine and fluoride in my drinking water, to artificial lights, artificial foods, pesticides, and so on. Our social relations are also increasingly complicated, as are our individual social histories. From dysfunctional families to unloving environments, to the increasing complexity of the professional working environment. Thousands of factors may be coming together in an individuals life to create a unique climate/ a personal ‘stressor’ fingerprint to which their HPA Axis is responding and the truth is that we don’t even have a rudimentary understanding of this interaction between the increasingly complex environment we live in and how it is ‘affecting’ us. The subject is so complex that I think its foolish for anyone to dismiss the idea that a maladjusted stress response might be playing a role in our illness.
I couldn’t find a possum video???
Great information. Clicks in to place for me.
The more my health unravels the more this information ‘fits’. So complex. And my final trigger was fairly easy to pinpoint – chemical exposure.
People must remember that those with the genetic features, then the other triggers end up with CFS. Thank heavens all abuse victims don’t suffer this, PTSD is enough though.
The trauma, mother child bond, these things previously managed seem to rise up the lower down the physical body function gets. And it stays that way. Stressing you when it didn’t previously.
Howard Bloom who recovered from CFS talks about exactly this stress response, relating his own experience to reading about a dog fight, causing him to have a major setback (3 months unable to talk) due to a stress sytem that is dysfunctional. Who knows why its dysfunctional, but CFS messes with everything. Which cells and how many affected accounts for the enormous varaiance in symtoms and severity.
In my opinion.
Thanks for the comments. As to the missing possum video, what sort of device are you using to view the webpage? That might help sort out the issue.
Nice article Tim!
There will always be some resistance to these ideas, because any psychological aspects or social aspects can seem offensive.
However, the reasons behind the dysfunction can obviously vary amongst individuals and various contributing factors add up to push the system into this imbalanced state.
So whilst childhood trauma is much higher in the ME/CFS/Fibro population, you don’t have to have this to develop and experience the illness, BUT IT HELPS!
I am hoping that more and more people come to see this neurological dysfunction as the root mechanism behind ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia so that the focus shifts from treating secondary problems to the heart of the matter. Whilst the treatment approach may still be quite different, I believe that it is this distinction in understanding that leads to recovery in many of us.
We need to overcome the stigma associated with the discussion around the nervous system and the mind/body/mind connection. Funny, when we speak about Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, nobody hollers “But it’s not all in the mind”! It’s time we treat this illness as what it is; A Real Neurological Illness that leads to multiple secondary dysfunctions.
That’s my view, even if it is not so politically correct! 🙂
Thanks for writing this article!
Thank you Dan.
You speak with clarity and understanding.
As I’ve said before, I really took this post in order to give a chance for people to explore how the autonomic system works from a different perspective. I can understand some peoples knee-jerk reactions to this post, because I have certainly encountered a extraordinarily large number of “medical” charlatans proposing psychological based cures, which is such an insult to a sick person.
My posting is just the tip of the iceberg of Dr. Porges his theories. His theories are well worth trudging through (he’s not the finest writer in the world) for anyone interested in human behavior and development.
The autonomic system seems to be such a mystery. Dr. Porges seems to be a rare researcher who is trying to take a all-encompassing look at the autonomic system and its effects on human behavior. Too bad we don’t have more researchers looking at the autonomic system from a overall point of view on the physiological illness side also.
The ANS is triggered both physiologically and psychologically. Hence the opportunity for treatments based from both angles.
My recovery and virtually every recovery I have come across included psychological strategies as part of a multi-lateral appoach. I have also seen people recover based on purely psychological approaches.
So perhaps consider those “charlatans” with an open mind. The ANS is where the body and mind meet – hence the opportunity for the body/mind/body connection as a healing tool.
There is much research on this, but researchers are reluctant to put up their hand and publically make the link between the ANS and the illness for the very reason you mention – it opens the door to psychological as well as physiological treatments – & they are wary of the wrath of some parts of the ME/CFS/Fibro community. It’s safer to be policially correct and skirt around the issue.
Dan, I don’t understand a couple things from your comments: “So whilst childhood trauma is much higher in the ME/CFS/Fibro population…” Where do you get these statistics? I personally have not met anyone with childhood trauma who has ME or CFS and I have had it a long time and researched it quite intensely. I do know there are some people but not “higher” numbers than other illnesses. I do not think those stats are holding up to recent stats. Perhaps you could provide the studies for that, who did them, and from where. That would be appreciated.
Also what do you mean by saying: “When we speak about Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, nobody hollers ‘But it’s not all in the mind.”
I do not understand the relationship or relevance to ME/CFS at this time. Those are well-recognized and legitimized neurological diseases and I have never heard a lot about the mind/body connection in either of those illnesses. Have you? Perhaps more studies for me to learn from. I don’t see the relevance to M.E./CFS which does not have recognition, medical legitimacy in most fields, specialties to care for them, funding or treatment as the others you mention do.
Nor are they psychologized instead of being treated as a whole as ME/CFS can be. What are you meaning there?
Lastly, I don’t think many people negate the power of mind/body nor of emotional impact in illness states, nor in ME/CFS, but what are you saying when you say: “I am hoping that more and more people come to see this neurological dysfunction as the root mechanism behind ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia so that the focus shifts from treating secondary problems to the heart of the matter”.
What is this neurological dysfunction and what is the heart of the matter then?
I also don’t think these are knee-jerk reactions but real discussions on what we experience and observe in the illness state of ME/CFS.
All good learning.
All of these neurological and immune dysfunction diseases can be triggered by mercury toxicity and other toxins in geneticallly susceptible children and adults because they don’t have strong methylation and detoxification pathways. The bioburden builds up in those who don’t excrete well, and leads to escalating problems. I’ve met people all over the country who have recovered in whole or part from CFIDS, FMS, Graves, Lupus ME, MCS, MS, Parkinsons and all the A diseases: allergies, autoimmune, ADD/ADHD, Autism, ALS, Alzheimers, etc.
Sorry for the late respone, I only just saw this!
Stats on childhood trauma – just google it. If you have a strong view this is not the case, you may not find anything that convinces you otherwise, but I have come across this many many times. Also based on my understanding, it makes perfect sense!
Here is the google search result, the 5th result is a study, but there are many more of course, :
It’s my view that ME/CFS/Fibro are driven by neurological dysfunction, although of course there are numerous other physical dysfunctions also that result from this. To get a better idea of what I am speaking about, you can see my blog here:
Hope that helps. Thanks for your comment
PS – I can’t find the possom video either.
Valerie, what sort of device for using to read the blog? We’re trying to track down why some people can’t see the video. I cannot see the video either! I am using an iPad.
I am on a laptop and normally do not have a problem with getting the videos. I wonder if we need to switch servers ie google chrome. I found sometimes that helps. I will try that.
Fascinating. May be overly complex. Here’s what I believe after finally getting worse, heading off a cliff, and receiving the gift of a new approach to end all my chronic diseases and mystery conditions: mercury poisoning (or other toxins) of those with genetic susceptibilities.
Mercury binds tightly to electrons in non-excretors, and makes them malfunction. So causes the disease processes in various levels of the autonomic response system.
As someone who suffers from RA from long haulers COVID, and headed for an FM diagnosis, my therapist recommended this article. I am undergoing Poly Vagal Therapy for trauma bonding and cPTSD for almost 54 years of abuse by a covert Narcissistic Personality Disordered mother. I read and understand the disparity of the comments made here, but I see clearly why it was recommended. I am becoming that possum. I am becoming more immobilized by increasing pain, but that childhood far into adulthood trauma is also present. People are the treatment for that trauma as my natural response now is not to trust anyone. This is another perspective for me on both physical and emotional pain as I know one is definitely affecting the other in my case to some extent. Thank you.