People have known for a long time about the long-lasting effects of child abuse but it’s only recently that we began to understand just how far the emotional scarring goes. A recent study finds that a history of child abuse, neglect, and other adverse events (presumably, bullying would also fall under this category) leads to DNA changes and shortened telomeres. Telomeres are the end regions of chromosomes. Their length has been linked to longevity (longer life-span), where people with longer telomeres seem to live a longer, healthier life.
Scientists at Brown University looked at telomere length and DNA changes in 290 adults. The study participants were interviewed about their childhood experiences, as well as about their experiences with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Individuals with a history of childhood adversity were more likely to have difficulty with mental illness and were more likely to have shorter telomeres and more dramatic DNA changes. These results suggest that childhood adversity is more likely to lead to mental and physical illness and changes on a cellular level.
These changes may not be permanent, however. Studies suggest that social interaction and mindfulness might extend life-span. In fact, mindfulness has been found to increase telomere length, possibly reversing the damaging effects of stress. Mindfulness refers to paying attention to the present moment on purpose. Click here to learn more about it.
Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, and a full time geek. She uses Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and trauma at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management and Sharp Memorial Hospital. Dr. Scarlet is also a professor at Alliant International University, San Diego. If you would like to contact Dr. Scarlet, you can contact her via Twitter @shadowquill, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shadow.Scarletl, or via her website at www.superhero-therapy.com