January 2, 2014 Comments Off on The Lasting Damage of Child Abuse
The Lasting Damage of Child Abuse
Scott Mendelson, M.D. 12/31/2013
The effects of childhood sexual and physical abuse last a lifetime. Abused children may grow up to be adults prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other psychiatric disorders. They are more prone to suicide. However, in recent years we have learned that abuse does more than wound self-esteem and break the spirit. It can damage the very substance of the brain and how it functions.
A major way by which childhood abuse can disrupt normal brain activity is by diminishing its capacity to handle stress. Stress is more than the worry and distress we experience when the circumstances of life push us beyond our limits. The body’s response to stress is a complex biological mechanism…..
A study published in 2009 in the prestigious journal Nature Neuroscience revealed part of the reason why adults who were abused as children have abnormal stress responses. The grim details of the study included comparisons of the brains of individuals who had committed suicide vs. those who had died natural deaths. Among those who had committed suicide were some who had suffered severe childhood abuse and others who had not. It was found that among those who had suffered abuse, there were fewer of the special cortisol receptors in the brain that allow cortisol to turn off the stress response. It was further found that the section of DNA responsible for maintaining adequate numbers of these receptors had been methylated. They were no longer in full operation….
The emotional upheavals suffered by adults who were abused as children can continue to wreak havoc on jobs and schooling. They can lead to substance abuse. They can devastate marriages. Thus, the innocent victims of child abuse continue to suffer as adults….