Oddly enough, I was reading an article yesterday about a study done on monkeys that linked anxiety and anti-social behavior with the stress of being separated from their mothers at a young age. Sound familiar? Sure does to me.
Sadly, the poor monkeys that they studied never fully recovered from the trauma.
In both humans and monkeys, stress releases the hormone cortisol which is used to mobilize energy stores and aid survival, but prolonged increased levels can lead to developmental impairment of some regions in the brain and actually results in lower levels of cortisol later even after several years of living a “normal” life. And if that isn’t bad enough, cortisol is linked to the immune system and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Adults with a history of childhood maltreatment have elevated inflammation levels, which is one of the key factors that contribute to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and dementia.
So while we can slowly work on (but seemingly never cure) the mental and emotional problems caused by early childhood trauma, science has yet to figure out how to fix the physical damage.
Does this mean our children are doomed to lives of poor health and an increased likelihood of horrible diseases? I certainly hope not. If there is one thing I tried to take away from this article, it’s that science is now aware of the physical damage in addition to the mental/emotional, which means they can find ways to repair (or at least minimize it).