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.
The HPA axis regulates stress and many body processes, including digestion, immune response, emotion, and energy storage and release. Tenenberg listed common problems she sees among her clients: autoimmune disorders, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, leaky gut, cardiovascular issues, irritable bowel, and insomnia. “Often they are illnesses that traditional M.D.s don’t pick up or acknowledge,” she pointed out. “That invalidation can reactivate trauma.”