Health risks linger long after acute psychological trauma ends

Researchers have long concluded that exposure to trauma can result in severe mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and PTSD. Furthermore, mental health experts have concluded that individuals who have experienced trauma during their childhood — including physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, natural disasters or divorce — are more vulnerable to develop mental health disorders.

“Kids are at a higher risk because they are still developing a sense of who they are, what their relationship is to the world and to others, their worthiness. And so a traumatic event happening in childhood can alter their development of their sense of themselves in the world,” Brown said.

In addition to the risk of mental illness, there is also growing evidence that children who are exposed to adverse experiences are at increased risk for learning difficulties and behavioral issues.

“Individuals who are highly exposed to highly traumatic experiences are more likely to do poorly in school. It lessens kids’ ability to concentrate, process information and, consequently, lessens their ability to get along with other kids,” said professor of psychology Russell Jones of Virginia Tech, who specializes in trauma research.

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