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Posted Thursday August, 6th 2020

Can Childhood Trauma Make the Body and Brain Age Faster?

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A long-standing body of research shows that adverse childhood experiences such as child abuse, trauma, sexual assault, and chronic poverty can negatively affect people well into adulthood. Adult experiences that have been associated with adverse childhood experiences include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociative symptoms and other psychiatric disorders, plus physical illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

A recent study found evidence that children who experience abuse and violence age faster, biologically, than children with no such history.

Scientists have known that the wear and tear of stress, and the way we handle it, can make the mind and body "older" or "younger." Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elizabeth Blackburn and health psychologist Elissa Epel researched the psychological factors that may damage our telomeres—the protective tips that reside at the end of chromosomes. When telomeres become too short, they stop dividing, and cells grow old. In addition to shortening, however, the scientists discovered that telomeres also lengthen, which slows down the aging process. Some of the factors that may determine the aging of the telomeres and prevent premature aging at the cellular level are a healthy diet, genetics, how you respond to stress, ample sleep, and regular exercise. But in addition to these factors, the scientists identified five toxic thought patterns that might also lead to shorter telomeres and premature aging: pessimism, cynical hostility, rumination, thought suppression, and mind straying.

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