Limbic system dysfunction is what happens to a person whose brain has gone through extended periods of stress and trauma over time. The brain and body were never intended to endure the stressors our bodies and brains experience in our current day. Life stressors including money stressors, relationship stressors, work stress, political stress, etc. impact the limbic system in ways the limbic system was not set up to understand. The limbic system was designed to protect us. Its function is to recognize a threat in the environment, to turn on the fight-flight-freeze response, and then when the threat is gone or when we successfully fight-flight-freeze, that stress response shuts off and the body resumes normal life. In our current world, however, the limbic system is asked to work overtime. Since it was never designed to do this, it copes in the ways it knows how.
Let us use a fictitious situation as an example of how a person could end up acquiring limbic system dysfunction. Karen is a teacher. She has a lot of stress at work and a lot of stress at home due to her marital relationship. Her and her partner are always disagreeing and it often turns into day-long fights. When Karen was a child, she lived in an unstable home environment and was often alone at her home from a very young age. She grew to fear being alone and experiences anxiety whenever she is alone. She also experiences anxiety when going out in public, but does not understand why. Karen had several people close to her pass away in a short time frame and has not quite come to terms with the reality of the situation.
Recently, Karen was in a situation where she was in the grocery store. There was a lot of noise and people bustling around in different directions. All of a sudden, Karen’s heart began to race, she felt sick to her stomach, dizzy, and disoriented. She wanted to run away, but did not have the energy so she stood still, unable to move from the frightening sensation she was feeling and the overwhelming nature of how she felt. After a few minutes, Karen was able to leave the store and raced home where she felt exhausted and afraid.
What Karen experienced was one way the limbic system often responds to stressors and trauma over time. Due to this, her limbic system has reached a point where it has lost its ability to function normally. The amygdala is over-firing, and picking up on sound and movement as being a threat to the body. When the amygdala thinks that a situation is unsafe, it will tell the brain to set off the alarm, and the hypothalamus will release stress hormones so that the body can either fight/flight/freeze.
One really important piece of this is how a body can develop sensitivities through limbic system dysfunction. Let’s say that Karen begins to notice she has sensitivities to smells. Remember when I said that limbic system was never meant to deal with the type and amount of stress we put it through in our current world? Well, because the limbic system is designed to protect us, but because the types of stress we go through is not something the limbic system understands, the limbic system has to search for a culprit. The limbic system understands what it can see, touch, hear, feel, and smell. During one of Karen’s most stressful times, she came in contact with perfume of some kind. Because the brain and body were under stress, the amygdala/limbic system were searching for what could be the reason for the stress and detected a smell in the air. The limbic system said, “There it is! We found the culprit of the stress!” and then the limbic system creates a sensitivity to smells so that Karen can no longer go near smells because smells were the ‘cause of the stress she was going through’. The limbic system does not understand that it is actually wreaking havoc in our lives by creating a hypersensitivity to chemical smells. What it believes it is doing is protecting us from what it believes caused us copious amounts of stress in our lives.
Sensitivities are a way the limbic system attempts to continue to protect us from what it believes or what actually did harm us. Because we develop these sensitivities, most people become fearful of them, and understandably so. However, the techniques described in the DNRS DVDs (or their online program) correct this miswired neurological response and normalize the body’s over-sensitivity. It is an incredible process to experience. I can now walk through the laundry section of grocery stores, paint my nails, drive with the windows open, and do many other activities that once triggered me immensely.