How Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Health

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris discusses “How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime”.

“Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.” [1]

“Compared to people with no childhood trauma, people with 4 or more [significant childhood traumas] were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer or heart disease; 7 times as likely to be alcoholics; 6 times as likely to have depression; and 12 times as likely to have attempted suicide. People exposed to 6 or more traumatic events died 20 years sooner than those who had none.

Traumatic experiences led people to engage in more risky behaviors, such as intravenous drug use and early sexual activity. But even people without a history of high-risk behaviors had poor health outcomes.”  [2]

What you can do to help combat the effects of childhood trauma and stress

“So far, research shows six major strategies for mitigating stress: sleep, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, mental health care, and healthy relationships. There is no breakthrough cure, Harris said.”  [2]

In fact, more and more, schools are recognizing how stress is affecting the lives of their students and implementing programs to help children learn to relax as a means of managing the stress of childhood trauma. [3]

Whether you are an adult survivor of childhood trauma or you are the care-giver of a child who has experienced trauma, be mindful of getting proper sleep, diet and exercise. Sports are a great outlet for adults and children alike. Also consider looking into the options available to you for a mindfulness program such as yoga, meditation, Taichi, or another martial arts discipline. And remember, these programs may be available to you free or at a reduced cost through your school, work, health insurance or spiritual center.


About Dr. Harris

Author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is a pediatrician dedicated to improving childhood and long-term wellness by assessing and addressing childhood trauma in her patients’ lives. She is passionate about sharing her understanding of the Kaiser-Permanent/CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences health study with others–asking the pediatric community to take a new look at illness and disease as often the result of childhood abuse and trauma so that they can better treat their patients and hopefully minimize the long-term adverse affects of childhood trauma.

Twitter:  @DrBurkeHarris
Facebook:  @NadineBurkeHarris

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