PTSD and Childhood Trauma
article by Tyven Gabriner
In 2015, the Children’s’ Advocacy Centers nationwide reported over 311,000 cases of child abuse with an estimated 1,670 children who died of abuse and neglect. Children who experience physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse can be diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which could lead to a lifetime of struggle if left untreated. Abused children may grow up to be adults prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other psychiatric disorders. They are also more prone to suicide.
According to PTSD United, 70% of adults in the US have experienced a traumatic event in their life and 20% of those people go on to develop PTSD. In 2013, there were 24.4 million Americans who suffered from PTSD, which is almost equivalent to the population of Texas.
As a child grows to be an adult, past abuse may be behind them, but symptoms of PTSD may persist. This can include: depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, chemical dependency, insomnia, and eating disorders. Some people also experience a difficult time forming and maintaining relationships with people and may fall into the same or similar abusive relationship they experienced as a child. People, even after a significant amount of time has passed after the abuse, can have issues with their emotional state, developing biomedical diseases, and even have a shorter life expectancy.
In 2011, Researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco made an interesting discovery while comparing 43 adults with PTSD and a matched control group without PTSD. They noticed that the people with PTSD had shorter telomere lengths than the control group. The primary function of the protein-complex, telomere, is to protect against mutations and damage in the DNA. The short length of telomere is associated with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative diseases, and well as premature death. Additionally, the researchers found that the people who had multiple types of childhood trauma had the shortest telomere length.
There are various treatment options, ranging from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to medications such as Sertraline, and Fluoxetine. CBT is a goal-oriented hands-on approach to controlling the symptoms of PTSD such as anxiety and depression. It also helps deal with harmful behaviors and adapt them to help prevent panic attacks and anxiety.
PTSD is treatable. Taking medication and undergoing behavioral therapy can mark a turning point in regaining control of one’s life. A key factor of recovery is getting a proper diagnosis and deciding what treatment works best for you. It’s never too late to seek help.