Children who are maltreated in any way — physically, sexually or emotionally — are more likely to inflict self injury to their body later in life.
And it’s important to note, if your child has suffered any of these types of traumas — even if they are not depressed or suicidal — this study still applies.
Researchers found that children who were maltreated but had no suicidal ideation were still over three times more likely to harm themselves as peers who were not abused, a new study published Nov 28, 2017 in Lancet Psychiatry finds.
So be kind to yourself if you are an adult who was abused in childhood, because there is a reason you are more likely to engage in self harming behaviors as an adult.
And even though this is hard to talk about, it’s important, because it’s also preventable with the right support.
- This huge study compiled data on 71 different studies on childhood abuse
- Researchers looked at data on over 19,000 patients
- Children who had an incidence of childhood abuse were 3.4 times more likely to commit self harm, even without any suicidal thoughts or feelings.
- All types of maltreatment were found to be significantly associated with self harm, with emotional abuse having the highest rates of self harm. This is important to note, because generally emotional abuse is typically thought to have less impact than sexual or physical abuse… but this study found that self harm was actually highest in patients who experienced emotional abuse as children.
- The risk of other, non-self-harm behaviors was increased as well, including subsequent PTSD, personality dysfunction and dissociation disorders after maltreatment during childhood.
- And sadly, age did not decrease the likelihood of self harm, meaning that adults are just as likely to inflict self injury as teens are, suggesting that maltreatment has long term effects that persist long after the trauma occurs.
We already know that the effects of trauma persists well into adulthood, as I’ve recently blogged to you about the long term effects of bullying.
Published in JAMA Psychiatry in Feb, 2016, researchers conducted the largest study ever to look at the painful, lasting ramifications of childhood bullying.
Looking at over 60,0000 children born from Jan to December in 1981, researchers identified over 5,000 children who had been bullied or exposed to bullying and then followed them into adulthood, through 2009.
What did they find?
Being subjected to bullying — even just witnessing bullying! — significantly raised the risk of depression, anxiety and even psychosis in adulthood.
Simply witnessing bullying doubled the rates of psychiatric diagnosis in adulthood, including depression, anxiety disorders, and psychosis. And being personally bullied or bullying others almost *tripled* the rate of psychiatric disorders diagnosed in adulthood.
In 2012 I blogged about a medical study that shows that physical punishment (in the form of spanking) causes a steep rise in psychiatric disorders… and this newer study shows that bullying behaviors — even ones where the child is never touched… just WITNESSING intimidating behaviors — is creating lasting psychological damage.
Child abuse happens in all races, all socioeconomic levels, all countries. Estimates are that about 40 MILLIONS children EVERY SINGLE YEAR are abused world wide.
These studies serve to show it’s absolutely not just a concern over the child’s immediate safety and well being, but it is also a concern for long term health outcomes that reach well into adulthood.
Long term health consequences are not limited to physical health disorders such as adrenal fatigue, obesity, heart disease and cancer, but dramatically increase the incidence of psychiatric disorders in our adult population… including anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicide, addiction, PTSD and more.
…inducing chemical changes in the way DNA is methylated and the way genes are expressed, activated or silenced.
This alters the way a cell functions and the way that organs and the body as a whole functions, causing poor health outcomes later in life.
Published in the May 14, 2013 in the Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, researchers show that childhood maltreatment causes different patterns of DNA methylation and genetic expression, causing a change in a child’s epigenetic profile.
There are some traumas that we just can’t shield a child from.
Like birth trauma.
It doesn’t have to be overt, intentional abuse, like bullying at school or emotional abuse by a coach or something more obvious like that.
Even just stress during the birthing process has been associated with long lasting behavioral changes that persist into adulthood.
As I’ve already blogged about, a study (published in JAMA Psychiatry Oct 5, 2016) revealed that the more stressful the birth is on the baby, the higher the risk that baby has for developing Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) decades later.
Children who were born prematurely and children who experienced stress during delivery both had statistically significant increases in the rates of developing OCD during adolescence and young adulthood.
Stressful birth circumstances included: maternal smoking during pregnancy, cesarean section delivery, preterm birth, low APGAR scores, unusually low or high birth weight, breech presentation at labor and more.
Researchers looked at a 2.4 million population of births from 1973 to 1996 and followed these children through 2013. They found that more stress during pregnancy and delivery, the higher the rate of OCD. For example, when mothers smoked 10 cigarettes or more during pregnancy, the child had a 27% higher risk of OCD later in life. Low APGAR scores increased the risk of OCD by 50%. Breech babies had a 35% higher risk of OCD. Cesarean deliveries had a 17% higher risk of subsequent OCD.
So the bottom line here is, even birth stress is felt and absorbed by the infant, and increases their risk of psychiatric diagnosis later in life.
The infant endures stress during delivery, and the greater the stress, the more likely it is that the child experiences the stress as a traumatic event. OCD is simply an attempt to regain control of a situation in which the infant was very out of control.
As an adult, attempting to control the environment around you by performing repetitive behaviors and managing intrusive, stressful thoughts is simply a way to try to regain control after an intense experience where, as an infant you were traumatized by being out of control in a very scary situation.
Holding on to birth stress and trying to relieve it years later through OCD thought patterns and behaviors is yet another way that proves to me that our body holds on to stress on a cellular level, and affects us through adulthood.
So what can we do?
You know I never provide any form of upsetting medical literature without giving you positive, holistic tools to effect real change.
So today, here are several life changing things you absolutely can do with your child right now to help mitigate the effects of trauma and support their health for the rest of their life:
1. Boost your child’s resiliency by being affectionate to your children during childhood.
Parents who are affectionate during childhood support long term well being in their children, well into adulthood…
…mitigating some of the damage of childhood trauma.
According to research conducted by Darcai Narvaez at the University of Notre Dame, adults who reported that they received physical affection from their parents and felt supported by their parents, as well as did things as a family both inside and outside of the home, had lower rates of depression, lower rates of anxiety, less stress in social situations and a greater ability for empathetic behavior.
2. Let your child adopt a pet
I strongly suggest if at all possible, you allow your child to have a favorite pet during childhood.
Having pets has not only been found to cut asthma rates in half (as published on November 2, 2015 in JAMA Pediatrics) but it gives them many psychological benefits such as:
- giving children a very healthy exposure to unconditional love
- providing stability and continuity during times of unavoidable stress in the child’s life (such as during a move to a new home, entering a new school, or a change in the family dynamics such as a death or divorce)
- providing a framework to talk about holistic and important topics such as death (as inevitably pets have a shorter life span than humans and often the death of a pet is a very healthy introduction to speaking about death before it pertains to a human family member such as the loss of a grandparent) and reproduction (my kids saw many a baby being born by their guinea pigs, rabbits, and chickens, even hand bottle fed baby birds and helped house train all their puppies!)
Loving and caring for a special pet is a priceless, priceless gift during childhood.
3. Providing lots of exposure to positive, uplifting connections with others
As I blog about here, a positive mood is actually contagious in children and children who spend time around others who are uplifting have HALF the risk of depression as a teen!
If you are concerned about your child’s mind-frame, encourage them to get connecting:
- play sports
- join clubs
- connect with safe, positive friends
- connect with safe, positive family members
- connect with their community
- and connect with therapists or other supportive mental health professionals if necessary…
…because medical studies prove that being around others with a good mood helps not only in the short term (transforming the energy of that interaction) but is protective over time to help decrease both incidence and prevalence of depression.
4. Get parenting support for yourself
Parenting can be physically exhausting, emotionally draining as you pour your heart and soul into your child.
And even then, if under the very best of conditions parenting is an exhausting, overwhelming journey… what do you do if your child is faced with a trauma?
A life threatening illness?
A diagnosis you never expected?
A divorce you never planned on?
A traumatic death in the family?
A move that uprooted your child from everything they had ever previously known?
Or what if you have your own medical illness, mental health crisis…
…or are just stretched very thin between parenting and taking care of aging parents?
What if all of the above apply, all at the same time, and more?
Oh my goodness there are so many intense scenarios that can happen during childhood, and all you want to do is protect your child from the strain of it all, but where do you start?
You absolutely CAN mitigate the trauma that life might have had in store for your beloved child, you just need some support.
Please let me help.
I am running my heart centered parenting class from a deep, centered, experienced place within my own soul that knows you can get through this, that there are always new ideas that you can work with, that things change and shift over time and that if all you do is absolutely love your child, then you are doing enough.
I have navigated my own two children through terrible traumas that were completely unexpected and resulted in a complete shattering of their childhood.
I have been down on the floor exhausted, praying and crying and not knowing what to do next.
But I have also continued to persevere, not allowing life circumstances to change the heart of how I want to parent, and you can and will too.
Not only a parent, I am also teacher, now on my 16th year of homeschooling both of my children.
Not only a parent and a teacher, but a physician… with extensive holistic knowledge on how to support my children’s innate health best. I approach medical issues with a holistic mind first, but recognize the value of traditional medicine when needed. Navigating the conventional world of medicine, full of conventional treatments like antibiotic, Rx mediations, vaccines, you name it… I have the medical experience to separate what is helpful from what is harmful for our children’s long term health.
Not only a parent, a teacher and a physician, but a single parent as well. Oh yes. I’ve done all of this on my own — all while running a successful business — right in the middle of the most exhausting years of parenting. I get it. I’m not just saying parenting is overwhelming, I am living the overwhelm right there with you.
Not only a parent, a teacher, a physician, a single parent, but also a court appointed advocate.
Our trauma was so traumatizing that I felt exceptionally motivated to turn around and start protecting not only my own children but also others in the legal system who might need help. So I completed Guardian Ad Litem training to become a court appointed professional child advocate for children caught in the legal system.
As a Guardian Ad Litem who is also a physician, I am in a unique position to not only advocate for what it the best interest of a child, but what is in that child’s best *mental and physical health* as well, even when they have complicated medical issues that must be addressed.
What does all this mean?
This means I have a huge tool kit to support you with.
I want to share all of my experience as a homeschooling mama, as a single mother, as a holistic physician, and as a court appointed child advocate (GAL) with you.
I want to give you ideas, solutions, encouragement, and support.
Join me in this very private, very personal, very honest, very sincere, very vulnerable, very supportive parenting class where we take two weeks to go over my top 10 pillars of boosting your child’s innate sense of health and self esteem and power… to impact their health for the better for a lifetime.
In these two weeks I will send you daily uplifting articles, exercises, suggestions, videos, and more sent directly to you and we will have weekly live Q&A phone calls where I will answer every single parenting question — health related or not — you could ever ask me.
This course is a welcoming, loving space… and is perfect for any parent… mother or father, single or married, parenting babies, toddlers, preteens, teens… those with specific health issues or just wanting to boost their child’s wellness… in crisis or in times of peace… conventional minded or alternative minded… all are welcome, all are wanted… all are here to join together in ensuring the best for your beautiful precious one-of-a-kind child.
Class runs from Feb 5th to Feb 16th, 2018.
Sign up now to reserve your spot.