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The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Trauma

TheDeepestWellbookTwo-thirds of Americans are exposed to extreme stress in childhood, things like divorce, a death in the family or a caregiver’s substance abuse. And this early adversity, if experienced in high enough doses, “literally gets under our skin, changing people in ways that can endure in their bodies for decades,” writes Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, the founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, in her new book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity.

“It can tip a child’s developmental trajectory and affect physiology. It can trigger chronic inflammation and hormonal changes that can last a lifetime. It can alter the way DNA is read and how cells replicate, and it can dramatically increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes — even Alzheimer’s.”

In short, early stress can shorten your life.

That’s why, as a clinician, Burke Harris asks parents and guardians of new patients to fill out a short, confidential questionnaire. She wants to understand just how much stress these children have experienced.

Are this child’s parents or guardians separated or divorced?

Is anyone in the home depressed or mentally ill?

Has the child seen or heard household members hurt or threaten each other?

Has a household member sworn at, insulted, humiliated, or put down the child?

The list goes on, including exposure to sexual abuse, drug or alcohol addiction in the house, neighborhood violence, food insecurity and housing instability.

Excerpted from an interview with Dr. Burke Harris about the impact this exposure can have on children and what can be done about it. Read the full article, “What Do Asthma, Heart Disease And Cancer Have In Common? Maybe Childhood Trauma,” on NPR.

Listen to the podcast here:

Source: NPR Ed |What Do Asthma, Heart Disease And Cancer Have In Common? Maybe Childhood Trauma, https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/01/23/578280721/what-do-asthma-heart-disease-and-cancer-have-in-common-maybe-childhood-trauma | © 2018 NPR

To schedule an evaluation or to get advice about your child’s challenges, call or email a CHC Care Coordinator at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org

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