Collins is outspoken about the need for more understanding of the physiology of trauma. Among her clients she sees a pattern of extremely high anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, autoimmune disorders, depression, and disregulation. She explained that chemical disregulation as a result of trauma can lead the sufferer to seek balance through behaviors that can become self-destructive but are meant to self-soothe—behaviors such as substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, gambling, and shopping. “They give the brain a shot of dopamine for relief,” she said. “It makes perfect sense from a coping standpoint.”
The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis
Psychotherapist Julie Tenenberg, with a practice in Oakland, California, specializes in treating narcissistic trauma. “All of my patients with a narcissist parent have health problems,” she said. “Growing up in a narcissistic home places stress on the body that threatens our homeostasis—the hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal (HPA) axis,” Tenenberg explained.