Your past can influence your present. Doesn’t that seem logic? But what events in the past, especially in childhood are considered a trauma? And what consequences can trauma have on your future health? I’ll write about this and try to provide some tentative answers in this four part series that will be published on Wednesdays.
Note: This series speaks also about child abuse (of all kinds), please consider this if you are vulnerable to those subjects and make your decision if you will continue to read the series.
What is trauma?
A rocky childhood. A car accident. A divorce. If these are in your past, they could be affecting your present health. These are all examples of traumatic events.
From a psychological standpoint, traumatic events are incidents that make you believe that you are in danger of being injured or may lose your life (Roberts, A.) .
Traumatic events shake your world as you knew it ‘till then. Research shows that these events can trigger emotional and even physical reactions that can make you more prone to a number of different health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
Traumatic events can be anything from a sexual assault or childhood abuse to a cancer diagnosis. Child abuse is particularly likely to affect your adult life because it occurs at a time when your brain is vulnerable — and it often occurs at the hands of people who are supposed to be your protectors, says Roberts. “By abuse, we often mean things that are a lot milder than things people typically think of as abuse. It might include being hit with a hard object, like a whip, a belt, or a paddle,” says Roberts. “The behavior doesn’t necessarily need to be illegal to induce a traumatic response.”
We need to take in the perspective of the child when the trauma did occur. A child’s perception of events is as important as what actually occurred. “While a child’s life may not have actually been in danger, the child may have seen it as life-threatening,” says Dr. Kerry Ressler, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School.
People who experience traumatic events sometimes develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric condition that affects 5% to 10% of the general population. PTSD can develop after a person experiences violence or the threat of violence, including sexual violence. It may affect people who have a close relative who experienced those things as well. These traumatic events are generally incidents that are considered outside the ordinary and are exceptional in their intensity.
Another kind of trauma.
While severely traumatic events are believed to have the greatest effect on long-term health, other stressful events that don’t necessarily meet the psychological definition of trauma can still cause problems. This might include a sudden death in the family, a stressful divorce, or caring for someone with a chronic or debilitating illness, says Roberts. These milder events might lead to a mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. “Trauma pushes your ability to cope, so if you have a predisposition toward anxiety, for example, it may push you over the edge,” says Roberts.
In addition, incidents like these can also produce PTSD-like symptoms in certain people. “When people go through traumatic or complicated grief, they can experience pretty similar symptoms to those they might experience with trauma, such as intrusive thoughts.”
 Andrea Roberts, a research scientist with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Online article click here.
Illustration click here.