SAD, OVERWHELMED? IS IT PTSD OR WHAT?
In South Africa, there is a debate about PTSD. Some say 25% of the population have it. Now a thing called Developmental Trauma increases the chances of developing PTSD. It relates to what happened before the age of 18. It likely came out of our relations with our key caregivers or authority figures.
For example, a soldier that goes to war, and comes back with PTSD has had a trauma response to a discrete event. It’s often a single event, like an assault. But that soldier may have escaped unscathed without the precursor Developmental Trauma.
What is Developmental Trauma? People look back in their childhood and say, “Well, I wasn’t hospitalized. There was nothing that really happened.” But they might not realize they had emotional neglect. And emotional neglect is something — it’s not what happened, it’s what didn’t happen. That’s Developmental Trauma.
Developmental trauma was the subject of a Center for Disease Control study in the ’90s.
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study surveyed childhood abuse and neglect. And how household challenges affected later-life health and well-being.
Over 17 thousand adults got asked: Did your parents separate or divorce? Did you experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse? Did you experience physical or emotional neglect? Was there mental illness in the family? Was there substance abuse? Wow, townships here I come!
67% said yes. And probably that’s low. People don’t know how you should have been brought up.
Now listen to this:
A high level of ACEs, Adverse Childhood Events (Developmental Trauma) greatly increases your risk for seven out of the top 10 causes of death.
If you had just four ACEs, you have a 400% chance of developing things like depression in adulthood.
And an over 400% chance of developing Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Problems that are becoming more and more prevalent.
And a six-fold increased risk of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, and those kinds of illnesses.
Just two ACEs gives a 100% increase risk of autoimmunity in adulthood.
And also if you had eight ACEs, you have three times the risk of lung cancer, and three and a half times risk of heart disease. The top two killers in the west.
Everyone should know about this data. It confirms that you cannot ignore your emotional well being and your upbringing.
So childhood is when we are the most imprintable. So that’s when things get set up. It sets up our stress responses in adulthood,
Six ACEs and you have a 20-year reduction in lifespan. That was the ACEs study.
Fortunately, we now have solutions to Developmental Trauma and PTSD.
Resilience and access to resources help. Children can learn to use resilience to re-build themselves after trauma.
Resilient folk believe that adverse experiences do not define who they are. They also can try to reframe traumatic past events in a way that is constructive. SA psychiatrist Norm Rosenthal wrote a best seller about the “Gift of Adversity.” You can find strength in your struggle. You can overcome the challenges and adversity faced in childhood.
Resiliency can come from having a caring adult in a child’s life.
It can also flow out of meaningful moments such as academic achievement. Getting praise from teachers or mentors is a wonderful thing.
In adulthood, take a step back to rest and recuperate yourself when you are beginning to feel burned out.
Check out Transcendental Meditation
Wikipedia suggests the practice of mindfulness or prayer or meditation helps. Transcendental Meditation (TM) has the best evidence base.
With these strategies, children can begin to heal after experiencing adverse childhood experiences. Recent research suggests TM gives PTSD relief – freedom from symptoms within a month.
I based much of this article on a video by Niki Gratrix. She says: “When first looking at the A.C.E. study and the different correlations that come with having 4 or more traumas, it is easy to feel defeated.”
But here is a light at the end of the tunnel. You CAN heal the past.