Suffering childhood trauma, either psychologically or physically, can increase the risk of mental disorder development in adulthood by as much as three times
The most common experiences of childhood trauma are emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as emotional or physical neglect and bullying. However, several other factors can cause life-changing trauma.
Unfortunately, suffering one of these situations can damage the brain, which causes physical as well as psychological distress in the form of various disorders once a person reaches adulthood.
In the case of emotional abuse, the most frequent trauma is associated with anxiety, which is the most prevalent disorder in the population.
Other traumas, such as catastrophes, violent deaths, or family abuse, can also generate structural and functional changes in the brain that open the door to future mental disorders.
The risk of developing BPD is fifteen times higher if one has experienced childhood trauma
Researchers at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute analysed over 93,000 cases, exploring a direct link between suffering childhood trauma and the risk of developing a mental pathology later in life.
Published in the journal European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, the study is the first to consider the full range of existing mental disorders.
Taking fourteen reviews and meta-analyses into account, researchers discovered a relationship between childhood trauma and other pathologies, such as psychosis – which is linked to all traumas – obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder.
For cases like borderline personality disorder, suffering childhood trauma can increase a person’s likelihood of developing this condition by up to fifteen times.
Patients need an approach that not only considers physical factors but also history
Bridget Hogg, a researcher at the IMIM-Hospital del Mar, psychologist and first author of the study, said: In this sense, “It is necessary to guide the patient through their life history, to really review what has happened to them.
“Currently, we question what isn’t working, but not what has happened in their life, because this requires opening up potentially painful subjects, and it is avoided.”
The researchers also found that for people with this type of pathology who have suffered previous traumas, the course of mental disease can be worse.
“We also have to take action in the political and social spheres and invest more in prevention”
Dr. Amann calls for action, saying: “On the one hand, we must treat psychological trauma in our patients, but we also have to take action in the political and social spheres and invest more in prevention.
“For example, by educating families and setting up programmes to prevent bullying, which is a very important risk factor in terms of suffering a mental disorder, both for those who receive it and for those who perpetrate it.”