How Childhood Trauma leads to Mental Health Challenges in Adulthood
In every life, a little rain must fall, as the old saying goes. But some of us get more rain than others, and some of us get the majority of rain in our childhoods. What effect does childhood trauma have on children and how does it shape their adulthood?
According to The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, one of the largest pieces of research into the link between childhood trauma and adulthood well-being, trauma in our early years can lead to mental health challenges in our later years including addiction, depression, and even a shorter lifespan.
Childhood Brain Development and Adulthood Challenges
Why is it that something that happens to us in childhood should have such a profound impact on our later life? Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have clearly shown us that fear-based childhoods disrupt healthy neurodevelopment. This, in turn, alters normal brain structure and function.
As children, when we are faced with chronic trauma, our brains and bodies are flushed with stress hormones. In a sense, we become addicted to the chemicals our bodies produce as part of the “fight or flight” response. In adulthood, we often mimic this chemical response with alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs.
Childhood Stress Can Alter our DNA
In other studies, such as the one conducted at Cambridge University in the U.K., it was found that the environment can have profound and lasting effects on our DNA. For example, childhood trauma has the ability to actually change the structure of DNA, altering how those specific genes work. In many cases, childhood trauma leads to DNA changes that lead to reduced resistance to stress in adulthood. This may result in depression, anxiety, and even an increased risk of suicide.
There is Hope
If you’ve suffered trauma in your past and you believe it is negatively affecting your life as an adult, there is help available. While you can’t go into the past and change the events, you can absolutely learn some very powerful tools and coping mechanisms that will help you deal with current stress in healthy ways, alleviating anxiety and depression.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me. I have worked with many adults who were the victims of childhood trauma and abuse who are now thriving and living a life of joy and purpose.