How Are Abuse And Trauma Related To Mental Health
Trauma can happen after you experience an event or events that hurt you physically or emotionally. Trauma can have lasting effects on your mental, physical, and emotional health.1 Experiencing abuse or other trauma puts people at risk of developing mental health conditions, such as:
Abuse may have happened during childhood or as an adult. It can be emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual. Trauma can include dangerous, frightening, or extremely stressful situations or events, such as sexual assault, war, an accident or natural disaster, the sudden or violent death of a close loved one, or a serious physical health problem.
The long-term effects of abuse or trauma can include:2
- Severe anxiety, stress, or fear
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
Learn more about abuse and trauma and their effects on your health in our Relationships and Safety section.
How Childhood Trauma Affects Us As Adults
Childhood. The very word draws up images of innocence, joy, optimism and wonder. Childhood is a time of security being protected and loved. Having stability in knowing you are protected by your family allows you to form solid and safe relationships later in life. This is the ideal definition and experience of childhood. However, the reality of many children experiences and the effect on the rest of their lives is in stark contrast to this idealized expectation.
Childhood trauma can take many forms
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Having a severe illness requiring surgery and hospitalization
- Witnessing domestic violence
- Experiencing intense bullying
- Even extreme situations like refugee trauma and experiencing a large-scale natural disaster.
We, as adults, are often unable to process these life events. Imagine the scale and scope through a childs eyes, trying to process the nuances of these experiences. And trying to understand their role in their occurrence. Children do not filter information through the prism of education, socialization, and life experience as we do. Often times, they blame themselves because they have no other point of reference of why these events occur.
Childhood Abuse Resulting In Mental Health Conditions
One of the biggest predictors of adult onset mental health disorders is whether someone had experienced trauma in childhood. Children who experience physical or sexual abuse, neglect, sudden loss of a loved one, or domestic abuse can be carry permanent psychological scars from these devastating events or situations. Children simply do not have the coping skills or emotional resilience to overcome certain traumatic circumstances, which becomes apparent in adulthood.
The symptoms and signs of childhood trauma in adults can manifest in a variety of ways, such as a mental health disorder, interpersonal problems, or general instability. Low self-esteem, neediness, trust issues, social problems, passivity, or overly controlling natures are some of the common traits seen in adults who had experienced trauma as children. Often, however, it isnt until the adult is in therapy that the connection is made between their current issues and their history of childhood trauma.
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Biological Systems Implicated In The Association Between Childhood Trauma And Bd
It is beyond the scope of this article to review all the relevant biological systems that could play a role in mediating the impact of childhood trauma on the risk of developing BD or a more severe form of the disorder. Some of them could be much more central in BD.
A first mechanism linking childhood trauma to BD susceptibility relies on neuroplasticity mechanisms, in particular BDNF, which is a neurotrophic imperative for the growth and differentiation of neurons during brain development and the maintenance of neurons in adult life. A reduction of BDNF serum or mRNA levels has been observed after exposure to traumatic events in BD. Second, independently of psychiatric diagnoses, childhood trauma induces long-term modifications in inflammation processes . This should be studied in patients with BD who show CRP abnormalities , and various cytokines such as Interleukin -2 receptor, tumor necrosis factor-, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor type 1, IL-6, and IL-4 . Interestingly, some authors have proposed a potential interaction between an elevated BDNF and pro-inflammatory cytokine levels after trauma , with an increase in BDNF levels being a possible attempt to neutralize the negative effects of CT on the brain.
Eating As An Addiction
Modern psychology considers both emotional eating and binge eating as addictive behaviors. Much like illicit drugs, a person who emotionally or binge eats gets a high from the experience from increased dopamine levels. Like illicit substances, a person who binge eats will want more or feel like it is never enough. This is called a process addiction: it is marked by a compulsive behavior that eventually becomes a health threat because it leads to obesity and all of its associated health risks.
Emotional eating and stress eating may not be officially designated disorders in the DSM 5, but they both have links to binge eating disorder and trauma. Both can evolve from low self-esteem and cycles of shame, guilt, and overeating. When emotional and binge eating disrupt daily functioning and life quality, it can become Binge Eating Disorder
Read Also: Dsm 5 Borderline Personality Disorder
The Lasting Effects And Trauma Of Sexual Abuse
Experiencing sexual abuse creates a feeling of powerlessness in the child and leaves the child with the perception of having little control over what happens. Girls are more likely to exhibit internalizing behaviors, such as depression and disordered eating . Externalizing behaviors such as delinquency and heavy drinking are more likely exhibited by boys. Being used as an object to satisfy the needs of the perpetrator can lead to feelings of de-valuation and worthlessness and lead to lifelong difficulty with intimate relationships.
According to World Health Organization , 33 percent of women with a history of sexual abuse show signs of a psychiatric disorder. They are also more likely to be psychiatrically hospitalized and have more extensive utilization of health care services. The most painful effects of abuse come from the betrayal of trust by the perpetrator and other adults who failed to protect the child in the first place or did not support the child upon disclosure. Many children believe the abuse is their fault, and some learn to hate themselves.
Childhood sexual abuse not only robs children of their childhood, but can have long term effects that seep into adulthood. These include:
- Self-injurious behaviors such as cutting
- Increased likelihood of being re-victimized as an adult
Perspectives And Research Gaps
Childhood traumatic events are potential risk factors, both for developing BD and presenting a more severe disorder over time. This association is probably not specific to BD, with childhood trauma predisposing to transnosographic indicators of severity, such as suicide attempts or substance misuse. At a dimensional level, childhood trauma may lead to abnormalities in affect regulation, impulse control and cognitive functioning that could reduce the ability to cope with later environmental risk factors . This leads to the absolute recommendation that clinicians should assess childhood trauma, ideally for every patient with BD, but at least for those with a more severe, unstable or relapsing course.
At last, a large gap is present between clinical observation on the role of childhood trauma in BD, and the quasi-absence of treatment guidelines for this population. Psychosocial interventions and their preferential targets are not yet, and the implication of childhood trauma in treatment resistance is totally absent in the literature. Clinicians and researchers should therefore gather to foster this reflection that would contribute to more personalized care plans for those exposed to trauma. Given the importance of trauma in prognosis and course in patients with BD, we should not only content ourselves with simply extrapolating the PTSD literature in terms of management, but should also provide evidence-based trauma interventions in BD.
Childhood Trauma And Severity Of The Clinical Expression Of Bd
There are consistent indications that childhood traumatic events are associated with various severe clinical characteristics of BD, including an earlier onset of the illness , a rapid cycling course , psychotic features , a higher number of lifetime mood episodes , and suicide ideation and attempts . However, the quality of these studies has been reported to vary , thus reducing the potential relevance of the findings. Indeed, in a review of 18 studies performed by Daruy-Filho and colleagues , several limitations have been highlighted, including a lack of use of a structured clinical interview for diagnosis, a lack of use of a standardized trauma assessment, a low sample size and insufficient measures of current mood state as a potential confound in trauma assessment . These potential biases are taken into account by a recent large study of patients with BD , thereby confirming childhood trauma as being associated with more severe clinical features in BD, including an earlier age of onset, an increased risk of at least one lifetime suicide attempt, rapid cycling, an increased number of mood episodes and substance misuse .
Three results appear consistently replicated across studies in BD: the association between childhood trauma and an earlier age at onset the increased risk for suicide attempts and comorbid substance misuse. Daruy-Filho et al. underscored this fact, and since then further replications regarding these three clinical characteristics have been published.
How Can Being In The Military Affect My Mental Health
If you were or are in the military, you may have experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event. You may have been on missions that exposed you to traumatic combat-related experiences, such as incoming fire, explosive devices, or dead bodies. Other military experiences, like military sexual trauma, can also affect mental health.
About 1 in 4 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder , depression, and anxiety.3 Left untreated, mental health issues can cause long-term problems for you, your family, and your community. Reach out to someone for help if youre experiencing the signs of a mental health condition.
Hallmarks Of Avoidant Personality Disorder
The American Psychological Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual advises at least four of these criteria need to be present to indicate avoidant personality disorder:
At work, avoiding people and interpersonal contact due to a fear of rejection.
Not pursuing a relationship with someone unless youre sure they like you.
Obsessing about whether people like you.
Perceiving yourself as inadequate or socially inferior.
Clamming up when around people because they might ridicule what you say.
Being hypersensitive to criticism.
Not taking risks or trying anything new because of potential embarrassment.
must begin by early adulthood and be persistent in order to be classified as avoidant personality disorder.
Silence In Sexual Abuse
Many children do not disclose the sexual abuse to anyone. If the abuser is someone the child trusts and looks up to, the child especially has difficulty viewing that person in a negative way and, instead, is likely to blame his or herself. The child may be fearful of the abuser threatening to harm the child or family if anyone finds out.
Younger children may take a long time to understand what happened to them and do not have the language to describe it. Often, children will keep abuse a secret because they don’t think anyone will believe them, they feel embarrassed, or they are afraid to get themselves, or others, in trouble. Boys, in particular, are less likely to disclose being abused. When sexual abuse occurs within the family, the child may fear the anger or shame of other family members, or be afraid the family will break up if the secret is told.
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What Constitutes As Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is defined as any sexual act with a child performed by an adult. At the extreme it includes sexual intercourse, but all offenses that involve sexually touching a child, as well as non-touching offenses and sexual exploitation, are just as harmful. This may include activities that do not necessarily include physical contact, such as:
- Indecent exposure
Child sexual abuse often begins with befriending the child to gain the child’s trust, inappropriate sexual talk, and exposure to pornographic material to lower the child’s inhibition as a part of a grooming process. This all escalates to more serious forms of abuse, such as inappropriate touching over time. Sexual abuse may be committed by a person under the age of 18 when that person is either significantly older than the victim, or when the perpetrator is in a position of power or control over another child, such as a babysitter or camp counselor.
Ailments Coming About Because Of Trauma
The majority of the examination identified with childhood trauma and persistent illness hazard has zeroed in on childhood trauma, says Dr. Ressler. Childhood trauma is a danger factor for nearly everything, from grown-up discouragement to PTSD and most mental issues, just as a large group of clinical issues, including cardiovascular issues, for example, coronary episode and stroke, disease, and corpulence.
These impacts probably reflect two variables:
Conduct changes coming about because of childhood trauma. Individuals who are experiencing horrible recollections may attempt to get away from them by taking part in dangerous practices like drinking, smoking, drug use, or in any event, indulging for solace. Those would all be able to be utilized as a way of dealing with stress, a method of managing enthusiastic dysregulation that happens when somebody has been damaged, says Roberts. These propensities, thus, lead to medical issues.
Ongoing pressure can expand aggravation in the body, and irritation has been related to a wide scope of sickness, including cardiovascular infection and immune system illnesses, says Roberts. Childhood trauma upsets the incendiary framework. This can prompt long haul variations in this framework and persistent medical conditions set off by steady irritation. Regularly, the more trauma youve encountered, the more terrible your wellbeing is.
The Effect Of Childhood Trauma On Neuropsychological Functioning And Cognitive Development
Cross-sectional studies examining maltreatment trauma in childhood have shown lower IQs and deficits in language and academic achievement in maltreated children compared to children who have not been exposed to maltreatment . The link between early trauma and IQ has been demonstrated through a twin study, where after controlling for the effect of shared heritability, domestic violence was associated with lower IQ in exposed versus non-exposed children . Exposure to trauma in childhood has also been associated with executive deficits .
Longitudinal prospective studies involving adolescents and adults exposed to maltreatment in childhood agree with the cross-sectional studies and have demonstrated lower IQ scores and deficits in reading ability . The research on the effects of early trauma on cognitive function indicates that early trauma is associated with adverse cognitive development and that this is likely reflected in adverse brain development.
What Trauma Means For Individuals
Similarly, as each individual is extraordinary and each individuals responses are one of a kind in like manner, each horrible experience and response is likewise special. A few groups adapt to childhood trauma in better, more beneficial ways than others.
One individual may encounter numerous horrendous encounters or have persistently awful adolescence, yet she arises as a sound and balanced grown-up then again, trauma can truly harm someone else regardless of whether the experience gentle in correlation. Childhood trauma is abstract: if somebody accepts he is at serious risk, the circumstance is horrendous.
The Effect Of Childhood Trauma On Brain Development
An early, unexpected, trauma, maternal deprivation, increases the death of both neurons and glia cells in cerebral and cerebellar cortexes in infant rats . Increased exposure to cumulative life stress was associated with poorer spatial working memory performance and decreased volumes of white and gray matter in the prefrontal cortex of non-maltreated youth . Pediatric imaging studies demonstrated that both cerebral and cerebellar volumes are smaller in abused and neglected youth compared to non-maltreated youth . In one research study, maltreated subjects with PTSD had 7.0 % smaller intracranial and 8.0% smaller cerebral volumes than non-maltreated children . The total midsagital area of corpus callosum, the major interconnection between the two hemispheres that facilitates intercortical communication, was smaller in maltreated children . Smaller cerebral volumes were significantly associated with earlier onset of PTSD trauma and negatively associated with duration of abuse . PTSD symptoms of intrusive thoughts, avoidance, hyperarousal and dissociation correlated negatively with intracranial volume and total corpus callosum measures . another study showed smaller brain and cerebral volumes and attenuation of frontal lobe asymmetry in children with maltreatment-related PTSD or subthreshold PTSD compared with archival non-maltreated controls .
Childhood Trauma And Emotional Trauma
When people hear the word trauma, they often think of abuse. Although childhood abuse plays a pivotal role in many cases, the causes of childhood trauma range from life-changing car accidents to the death of a loved one.
Emotional or psychological trauma is when your psyche is damaged following an extremely frightening or distressing event. These events can alter a childs ability to cope and function. Although the majority of severe traumatic experiences involve a life-threatening situation, any situation that makes a child feel scared, overwhelmed, or alone can be traumatic even when there is no physical harm.
The link between trauma and a childs emotional response is important. Many children who experience trauma later have a difficult time expressing themselves or healthily managing their emotions. Stress reactions are often internalized, contributing to symptoms of depression and anxiety. When these feelings and symptoms are not addressed, they typically resurface as an adult, impairing ones ability to maintain stable relationships, hold a job, or simply enjoy life.