Changes in the brain caused by child abuse can underpin later mental health issues


In the same way smoking has been implicated as a trigger for later physical health problems such as lung cancer, child abuse has been found in a recent study conducted at Harvard University to be the cause of a predisposition to mental health conditions such as substance abuse and addiction, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

In what has been the largest scale study to date that has used brain imaging technologies to map the direct effects of child abuse on the brain, researchers and neuroscientists have reported that young adults who were neglected or maltreated as children have very specific changes to a region of the brain known as the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is the area of the brain known to be directly involved in the processing, storing and retrieval of memory. In the 200 people aged 18 to 25 that participated in the study, there was a significant decrease in the size of the hippocampus and regions surrounding it that aids its function. It was reported that in total a quarter of the participants suffered from major depression and 7 percent had been diagnosed with PTSD, however as the severity of child abuse increased so too did the chances of being diagnosed with depression and experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder .

Mindfulness meditation has been implicated as a technique that give the practitioner the ability to redefine how they interpret their thoughts, feelings and the body sensations that arise as a result of those thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness therefore could be the obstruction that inhibits child abuse automatically becoming a predisposition to later mental health and addiction problems .

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