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    Impact of Childhood on Mental Health

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    Childhood, just the word gives some the feeling of joy and nostalgia while others get the memories of past trauma and treachery. The way you were brought up and raised will affect you all the way through your life, it can change how you perceive the world and the way your brain is physically assembled. How and why can a glimpse in your life affect you for the of it?

    One’s youth can be affected in more than one, the abuse could be from a neglect, negative communication in a verbal sense or it could be a physical, for instance, sexual abuse which is often more serious. All of these are causes of growing up with a parent who struggles with mental illness or substance dependence; However, all the abuse no matter form or size share the aspect of changing a person mindset and perception of life and others.

    Increase In Mortality

    The CDC and Kaiser Permanente discovered that growing up in an abusive household dramatically increased the risk for seven out of ten of the leading causes of death in the United States. Development of the brain, immune system, hormonal system and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed can be affected by constant exposure to trauma. In the worst cases, a person’s risk of heart disease and lung cancer and they can lose 20 years of their life.

    One of the likely causes of the extreme decrease in life expectancy is correlated to the higher chance of substance disorders due to the increase of stress. According to E.C.U.the leading cause of substance abuse is stress.

    However, when the E.C.U. released the findings there were holes in the information, the smoking, and substance abuse did not reach the high numbers of all the children who experienced high levels of constant trauma ; Subsequently, extensive tests were done on the brain of the traumatized and they revealed that the largest part of the life change was due to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is the body’s stress response systems that determine your flight or fight response.

    ‘Imagine you’re walking in the forest, and you see a bear, immediately your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary which sends a signal to your adrenal gland that says release stress hormones adrenaline cortisol and so your heart starts to pound your pupils dilate your airways open up and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. It is wonderful if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear but the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night and this system is activated over and over and over again and it goes from being adaptive or life-saving to maladaptive or health damaging.’ is the way that Nadine Burke Harris explains how


    Kaiser and Dr.Bob and the CDC and together they asked seventeen, and a half thousand adults about their history of exposure to what they called adverse childhood experiences or aces, those include physical emotional, sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, parental mental illness, substance dependence, incarceration, parental separation, divorce or domestic violence, for every yes, you would get one ACE. One ACE is incredibly common with around 67 percent of the population having it and around 12.6 percent having four or more ACEs.

    How Common Are Extreme Traumas

    Studies from the NCB have shown that 48 percent of all children under the age of 18 have had a traumatizing experience. No doubt that some provoked more neurological change than others but no matter how small they all can have some effect. So 48 of future citizens of our world, from politicians to doctors have a neurologically different brain. We might think that they are just crazy or mean but they are just fighting the brain cell hole left by past trauma.

    Of those, studies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008) states that around 80,000 people reported being sexually harassed as a child in 2006 all in the United States alone. This statistic reveals that there are millions of people who are scared by the past and millions who have a completely different mindset and view on the world.

    Largest Victims

    Developing brains and bodies of children are the most affected to this constant extreme trauma. It affects areas like the nucleus accumbens, the pleasure and reward center of the brain that is implicated in substance dependence which is more sensitive during youth. It inhibits the prefrontal cortex, which is necessary for impulse control and executive function, a critical area for learning. And on MRI scans, we see measurable differences in the amygdala, the brain’s fear response center. So there are real neurologic reasons why folks exposed to high doses of adversity are more likely to engage in high-risk behavior, and that’s important to know.

    A traumatizing childhood affects men and woman differently according to Stanford University School of Medicine and the Early Life Stress and Pediatric Anxiety Program. The insula is a region buried deep within the cerebral cortex that plays a key role in interoceptive processing (how much or how little consideration one pays to tactile data inside the body) emotion regulation, and self-awareness. Despite, a subject to trauma might not always experience PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), according to Sidran Institute of Traumatic Stress Education and Advocacy only 20 percent of trauma patients have PTSD. Women are 36 percent more likely to get PTSD than men which likely because women have a more sensitive amygdala and hippocampus which are areas often affected by PTSD.

    Mental Disorders

    A traumatizing childhood is a large cause of several mental disorders, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, psychological, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mood disorder, personality disorder, eating disorder, mixed anxiety-depressive disorder, alcoholism, borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, emotional and behavioral disorders, schizoaffective disorder, sleep disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoia, mental distress, pervasive developmental disorder, narcissism, sociopathy.

    However, the main connection to all the disorder is how the victims can’t trust anyone while growing up. A person who grows up in a household with no shoulder to lean is doomed for a life of misery. The core behavior of an individual is how a person will act when they grow older, so if a child has no one to trust they will likely never lean on someone when they get older making them believe it is them against the world.

    The CDC found a dose-response relationship between ACEs and health outcomes the higher your ACE score the worse your health outcomes. For a person with an ACE score higher than 4, their relative risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was two and a half times that of someone with an ACE score of zero. Additionally, for hepatitis, it was also two and a half times, fro depression it was 4 and a half suicidality it was 12 times. A person with an ACE score of more than 7 had triple the lifetime risk of lung cancer and three and a half times the risk of ischemic heart disease the number one killer in the United States of America.

    Side effects

    Although trauma can be the cause of several mental disorders, it does not always lead to one, but even if your saneness isn’t damaged it can still have tremendous side effects. Some of the aftereffects can be cured or at least managed, but some will haunt a victim for decades.

    Many could say that their experience with a trauma was a nightmare, and it has caused many nightmares. The nervous system has taken a major shock, and even in our sleeping hours, the brain continues to process the event. Most of the time the nightmares aren’t docs the exact trauma experience, but have themes in common with it, for example, danger, dread, or being chased. Not surprisingly, these nightmares can contribute to the poor sleep that’s common after a trauma.

    Sometimes we avoid people, places, or things related to our trauma because they trigger the painful memory. For example, we might avoid TV shows that remind us of the event. Other times we might avoid things because they feel dangerous, like a section of the city where we were assaulted. It’s common to want to avoid being in crowds after a trauma, even if the traumatic event wasn’t caused directly by another person (such as an earthquake).

    When we’ve been attacked by another person, it can be hard to know whom we can trust especially if we were caught off guard. We might start to suspect everyone, feeling like ‘if that person could hurt me, why not this person?’ Not uncommonly we may wall ourselves off from others to protect ourselves.

    When your nervous system is highly attuned for danger, it’s going to be set to detect any possible threat, which probably means you’ll have a lot of false alarms. You might see your assailant walking toward you, and realize as your heart pounds out of your chest that it’s just your friendly neighbor. You might be startled by a movement out of the corner of your eye, and then realize it’s your reflection.


    Childhood, just the word gives some the feeling of joy and nostalgia while others get the memories of past trauma and treachery.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Impact of Childhood on Mental Health. (2021, Aug 20). Retrieved from

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