Child Sexual Abuse Can Cause Severe Reactions to Mild or Moderate Stress

When a child consistently encounters trauma, they will anticipate this to always be a part of their lives.

When a child victim experiences their tormentor’s constant interchanging behavior of violence and calm, it creates a belief in the victim that they don’t have control over anything.

This experience is carried into adulthood and the reason why so many survivors of child sexual abuse become so easily stressed. Any change in daily routines, or even a sudden but small problem, can drive a previous victim to have an excessive physiological response to the situation. The person then reacts inappropriately to the event.

Researchers have found that child abuse can alter the child’s DNA and can change the way the victim’s genes react to stress. 1

Research done on the brains of abused children, and on healthy non-abused children, consistently shows that the affects of child abuse are evident. Children with a history of trauma have brains that are wired differently from non-victims.

Abuse victims show a larger amount of activity in their brain because of the fight or flight system that is recurrently triggered by an unresolved past. The heightened state of alertness causes chemicals in the brain to rise and remain elevated.

When a child has been traumatized their subconscious mind is in a constant state of fear. 2 Adrenaline, as well as other chemicals in the brain, will fluctuate and the child continuously prepares for another attack, and this does not stop in adulthood.

The adult survivor of extreme trauma and abuse, goes through the same preparedness as they did when they were a child –especially when memories are breaking through. Studies show that external circumstances alter brain chemistry in adult women who were physically or sexually abused as children. 3

People who were abused in childhood can have a consistent elevated heart rate, as well as higher levels of cortisol and ACTH, which is a hormone that responds to stress. ACTH was found to be six times higher in women who have been abused. 4

To the adult survivor of child abuse, seemingly benign stresses can be a reminder that at any moment, a dreadful change can happen in their lives. Fear, along with a lack of trust, will kick into high gear. The survivor says, “I could be hurt,” “Someone I love could be hurt,” “the good can be taken away,” “I can die,” “What’s going to happen next?” “I have no control,” or “Why me?”

If people in the medical industry truly searched for the root cause of why chemicals in the brain modify, they would find that external influences frequently cause brain chemicals and hormones to change. Altered brain chemistry doesn’t always mean there was sexual abuse, but undoubtedly an emotional disruption in the person’s life existed, most commonly in childhood.

A person cannot react differently to current stress without healing the original root trauma, and this is not possible without penetrating the subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind has an incredible ability to heal, not only itself and the body, but to also repair our damaged cells.

Those who argue against therapy that concentrates on past experiences (especially trauma in childhood), don’t understand that if the past is unresolved then it will not let the person continue their present life in peace. Telling a previously abused person that they need to change their reaction to stressful situations, or to stop behaving negatively towards certain people… is like trying to get a computer to stop reacting to bad programming.

Like the brain of the survivor, a computer doesn’t know any other way to perform. Any damaging information must be removed. The subconscious mind works the same way, it needs reprogramming. The conscious mind cannot fix itself. Healing must take place in the unconscious. The conscious mind is like the keyboard, the subconscious is the hard-drive. You can type whatever you want onto the keyboard but if the hard-drive has been programmed not to recognize what is being typed, then the computer will not respond.

_____________________________________________________________McGill 1. University and Douglas Institute, Childhood Trauma has life-long effect on genes and the brain, Feb 22, 2009

2. The Biology of Soul Murder, Fear can harm a child’s brain. Is it reversible?, Shannon Brownlee, US News.com, The Biology of Child  Maltreatment: How abuse and neglect of children leave their mark on the brain, June 2005 Harvard Mental Health Letter.

3. Child Abuse Causes Lasting Health Effects, Washington, United Press International via Comtex

4. Christine Heim, PhD; D. Jeffrey Newport, MD; Stacey Heit, MD; Yolanda P. Graham, MD; Molly Wilcox, BA; Robert Bonsall, PhD; Andrew H. Miller, MD; Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, PhD. Other source: Childhood Abuse and Adult Stress A Study Links Trauma, Depression and Response to Anxiety, Erica Goode, The New York Times, August 2, 2000

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One Response to Child Sexual Abuse Can Cause Severe Reactions to Mild or Moderate Stress

  1. userjan1 says:

    Love this article! So true.

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