Abused Children Suffer From Own Form of PTSD
Recent studies from the National Academy of Sciences show that children who were abused develop a very specific form of PTSD. The disorder developed by children has a distinct biological marker different from that found in adults who developed PTSD due to traumas experienced as adults.
Looking at the blood from nearly 170 test subjects who had up to seven traumatic events in their lives (from rape to gun violence), researchers found that just under 110 had no PTSD symptoms at all. Nearly half of those who had signs of PTSD had childhood traumas in their lives.
Researchers found that test subjects who experienced childhood traumas showed epigenetic changes: chemical differences that don’t mutate the DNA itself but affect how actively and efficiently the genes are made into proteins. By either silencing or activating genes, epigenetic changes can influence everything from brain development and functioning to the risk for certain diseases. Some of these changes can last a lifetime and some can even be passed on to the next generation.
Interestingly, children who were treated poorly and later develop depression are less likely to respond positively to antidepressants. Research is under way to develop a drug that can reverse epigenetic changes.
PTSD in children is caused mostly (65 percent of cases) through neglect. Actual physical abuse accounts for around 20 percent of PTSD cases in children while sexual abuse occurs in about 10 percent. Mental abuse is prevalent in about 7 percent of the PTSD sufferers. Between 14 and 43 percent of children experience one or more traumas, and 3 to 15 percent of girls and 1 to 6 percent of boys will develop PTSD from those traumas.