Monday, March 2, 2009

Early Abuse Affects Depression, Mental Health

It is no secret that children who have experienced abuse or neglect are at a high risk of developing a wide range of mental problems in life, and the range seems to cover the whole list of disorders and illnesses. Other problems include an increased likelihood of substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. While this is no longer surprising, even if it can be considered rather tragic, it has managed to raise a significant question.

It isn't unknown for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions to be influenced by biological factors. Levels of hormones in the brain, glands producing too much or too little of certain chemicals, and other factors can all cause someone to develop one of many psychological problems. The answer to the question of whether or not abuse can cause biological changes leading to mental health problems has never really been answered, let alone answered in a satisfactory manner. However, that doesn't mean researchers aren't trying.

Researchers have determined that affectionate parenting helps alter certain expressions in the genes of animals, and this allows them to dampen their psychological response to stress impulses. These buffers were also found to be passed on from generation to generation, particularly among primates. It was also found that species that were better suited to handle stress on a biological level were also more likely to care for their offspring.

There has never been any direct evidence linking this sort of mechanism to humans until recently. A study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience indicated that people who were abused or neglected during their childhood years showed a number of alterations to their genes that made them more sensitive to stress than the average person. The data helped clarify an old question of whether or not a difficult childhood could affect one's mental resiliency.

Summary : For many years, it was unknown whether or not childhood abuse could have a biological effect leading to depression and other mental problems. Recent research has revealed that abuse during childhood does cause biological changes that could lead to various disorders.