Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)

Published on 5 February 2023 at 14:14


Many years ago, when I worked in the British National Health Service, I would sometimes encounter patients who had suffered severe and repeated abuse trauma in childhood. What I noticed was that in addition to their understandable psychological difficulties, such as chronic developmental PTSD etc., they often had many and diverse physical health problems. Some displayed multiple chemical and environmental sensitivities and allergy type responses. Some had autoimmune conditions. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue were common, as were IBS and GI problems. My psychotherapeutic efforts at the time, including the use of EMDR, did not seem to improve these physical problems.

At the time, I did not how to understand the link between these different types and levels of phenomena. Now I recognise that such people are probably suffering from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, a relatively recently recognised condition involving Mast Cells, which are a form of white blood cell involved in the immune system. Sometimes these Mast Cells become overactive, resulting in widespread inflammation and symptoms that can occur in almost every system of the body and brain.

Those who write about MCAS usually draw attention to the range of triggers for this condition, and the importance of identifying these. However, they mostly do not recognise the role of trauma. The knowledge from energy psychology provides important insights. We realise that the body-mind-energy system does not distinguish between physical and mental-emotional injury – it all registers as injury and danger. This is why physical trauma and stress, toxins, viruses and parasites and pathogens entering the body (such as Covid, flu, Epstein-Barr, Lyme), as well as emotional pain, can all be triggers for MCAS. When people have been subject to extensive abuse trauma from caregivers, resulting in pervasive feelings of betrayal, their system may come to register almost the entire world as toxic – and will maintain a constant state of high alert. It may also be that this condition can result from severe and extensive birth trauma or early medical trauma. Whatever overwhelms the coping capacities of the mind-body-energy system (which is one definition of trauma) has the potential to trigger MCAS.

Once MCAS is established, it can result in increasing sensitivity to many triggers, whether chemical, biological, or emotional. The spiralling positive feedback will result in a worsening condition, with physical reactions to stress and all manner of environmental, nutritional, and interpersonal stimuli.

Here are some of the common symptoms that can be a feature of MCAS:

  • Multiple food, drug, chemical, and environmental sensitivities; allergy responses – sometimes severe
  • Chronic fatigue and generally feeling unwell
  • Fibromyalgia and general pain in bones and joints. There can be a link with hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Skin irritations of various kinds
  • Heart inflammation – racing heart, palpitations, feeling faint, POTS (when not clearly linked to other diagnosed heart disease)
  • Feeling dizzy and faint
  • Gastro-intestinal problems of various kinds
  • Effects on the brain: brain fog; cognitive difficulties; headaches and migraine; depression; anxiety; insomnia
  • Eye inflammation
  • Disturbances in the reproductive system, in both men and women
  • Autoimmune disorders of various kinds
  • Many serious illnesses may be expressions of, or exacerbated by, MCAS

Of course, other factors may cause or contribute to any of these conditions. However, one of the reasons that MCAS is not readily recognised by doctors is because modern medicine is divided into specialties, so that the dots are not connected to discern an underlying pathology that affects multiple systems.

There is another phenomenon known to energy psychologists who have studied Callahan techniques. This is that certain stimuli can function as ‘energy toxins’, creating reversals in the subtle energy system. Unlike the psychological reversals that are motivated (by fear, guilt, identity, or secondary gain), this kind of systemic reversal in the whole system is a direct response to the toxic stimulus, which causes confusion and switching of signals – so that good registers as bad and bad registers as good. The system becomes ‘perverted’, with a reversal of the body morality. It seems likely that this confusion of the immune system, no longer able to discern accurately what is good and what is bad, may play a part in MCAS. An energy system that is in reverse will register this entire world as toxic. [Note that this may correspond to what Freud described as the ‘actual neuroses’, a biological state, which he contrasted with the unconsciously motivated ‘psychoneuroses of defence’].

States of severe suicidal depression always (in my experience) register as energetically reversed. It is an energetic state that has turned against life. The person no longer experiences the world as nurturing or as supportive of his or her life. Such a state of depression often follows a period of significant trauma, stress, or emotional pain that has left the person feeling devastated or deeply undermined. The multiple stress hormones, triggered by the Mast Cells, create an energetically toxic internal environment, throwing the whole system into reverse. Clinical depression is thus a severe psychosomatic illness.

I am currently exploring whether and how energy psychotherapy methods, including Blue Diamond Healing, can help alleviate MCAS.

Phil Mollon PhD

Clinical Psychologist, Psychoanalyst & Energy Psychotherapist