Donna Jackson Nakazawa and Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal

Donna Jackson Nakazawa and Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Not quite. Far more often, the opposite is true. Over the past decade, a group of doctors and scientists has discovered that childhood trauma leads to lifelong struggles with mental and physical health. Early chronic stressors shape our biology in ways that pre-determine our adult health. In other words, your biography becomes your biology.

Award-winning science journalist and author Donna Jackson Nakazawa started investigating the relationship between childhood adversity and adult physical health after spending more than a dozen years suffering from several life-limiting autoimmune illnesses. In her search to understand chronic illness, she came across the growing body of science based on a public health research study, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. The ACE Study shows an irrefutable scientific link between many types of childhood adversity and the adult onset of physical disease and mental health disorders.

In this groundbreaking work that beautifully blends science and personal stories, Nakazawa shines a light on how the emotional trauma we suffer as children not only shapes our emotional lives as adults, it also affects our physical health, longevity, and overall wellbeing. Scientists now know on a bio-chemical level exactly how parents’ chronic fights, divorce, death in the family, being bullied or hazed, and growing up with a hypercritical, alcoholic, or mentally ill parent can leave permanent, physical “fingerprints” on our brains. These traumas can lead to life-altering adult illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia and depression. It also lays the groundwork for how we relate to others, how successful our love relationships will be and how well we will nurture and raise our own children. Donna Jackson Nakazawa shares stories from people who have recognized and overcome their adverse experiences, shows why some children are more immune to stress than others, and explains why women are at particular risk.

And she also lays out a path for healing. Childhood Disrupted explains how you can reset your biology—and help your loved ones find ways to heal. Trailblazing in its research, inspiring in its clarity, Childhood Disrupted shows how you or someone you know may have become locked in pain—and what you can do to recover.


Donna Jackson Nakazawa is an award-winning science journalist interested in exploring the intersection between neuroscience, immunology, and the deepest inner workings of the human heart. Her most recent book, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal, examines the lifelong consequences—both emotional and physical—of adverse childhood experiences, and offers readers suffering from chronic conditions a window to healing. Donna’s other works include The Autoimmune Epidemic (Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 2008, 2009), which investigates the causes of a growing environmental health crisis, and The Last Best Cure (Hudson Street Press / Penguin, 2013), which chronicles a year-long journey to test a variety of mind-body therapies in order to unlock the restorative powers of the brain. She is also the author of Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Multicultural Children (Perseus, 2003).
In addition to her work as a science journalist, Donna lectures nationwide and has keynoted numerous events, including the 2016 Johns Hopkins Conference on Trauma Informed Healing; the 2012 International Congress on Autoimmunity; the Johns Hopkins Women’s Health Conference, “A Woman’s Journey”; and the To Your Health Lecture Series, hosted by the 92nd Street Y in New York City. She has moderated panels for national health symposiums, including the American Association of Autoimmune Related Diseases (AARD) 2010 Summit, and lectured at medical schools nationwide.
Donna has appeared on The Today Show, National Public Radio, and ABC News. Her work has been highlighted on the cover of Parade, as well as in Time, USA Today Weekend, Parenting, and Psychology Today. Additionally, her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Glamour, Ladies Home Journal, and AARP Magazine. She has been a regular contributor to More and blogs for Psychology Today and Huffington Post.
She is the recipient of the 2012 AESKU award, presented to those who have made a lifetime contribution in the field of autoimmunity, and the 2010 National Health Information Award, which strives to recognize the nation’s best magazine articles in health. Donna was also a finalist for the 2016 national Books for a Better Life award.
Donna has completed writing-in-residence fellowships at the Corporation of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Public Policy from Duke University and is a graduate of the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Program.
She lives with her husband, two children, and two dogs in Stevenson, Maryland.

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