Although they are constantly in danger, children who live in dangerous, neglectful, or abusive homes nevertheless have to study and develop. This is possible for kids because they learn to live with the constant anxiety they feel, but it has lasting effects on their maturation. Stress has a profound effect on the growing brain. The first six years of life are when the human brain develops the greatest, with 75% of its overall growth occurring at this time (Eliot, 2000).
Constantly being on edge and ready to fight or flee may take a toll on a person's health over time. Consistently elevated levels of sympathetic arousal inhibit parasympathetic nervous system activity. Therefore, Complex Trauma and Child Development: Chapter 1. 15 This discord may lead to gastrointestinal issues and erectile dysfunction. The "feeling" of stress is not necessarily an indicator of excessive stress. Many pressures have a direct impact on the body, and their presence may only be noticed via the emergence of obvious physical symptoms in the victim.
Some of the most prevalent symptoms seen by those who have experienced trauma are problems of the autonomic nervous system, such as headaches, IBS, and hypertension. In addition, persistent stress reactions may lead to immune system suppression and an increased risk of developing conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and allergies (Van der Kolk et al., 1996). The physiological and psychological responses of the body to traumatic events are altered. As such, trauma has both psychological and physiological consequences.
The magnitude and complexity of these shifts may seem intimidating, yet they are really just a small piece of the whole. When a child who has been neglected or abused is feeling anxious or distressed, they may not get any reassurance from their caregivers. Instead, survivors of abuse typically adopt what might seem like excessive coping methods as a means of dealing with their overwhelming dysregulated emotions and chronic stress.
Self-harm is a common coping mechanism among survivors of abuse.
Self-harm (which may be invasive and entail cutting), suicide, eating disorders, and addictive behavior are all examples of neurobiological efforts to deal with the trauma. These represent several methods of modulating or controlling a dysfunctional neural system. A person who has experienced trauma and is feeling emotionally dead or numb may resort to self-injury or suicide thoughts in order to stimulate the release of adrenaline and endorphins. Numbness may be achieved by self-starvation or overeating for those who feel too much. Addiction-inducing behaviors may therefore be adjusted to produce either numbing or greater arousal, or both (Fisher, 2003).
Traumatized individuals are preoccupied with immediate safety and are unable to think about the long-term repercussions of their coping mechanisms. Whatever it takes, they'll take to avoid suffering. Because the agony and tension are so intense, they learn to dissociate from their bodies.
Greater morbidity and death from all causes, including accidents and murder, come from years of accumulated stress and the severe adaptations acquired to manage these chronic states (e.g., self-harm, drug misuse) (Vaccaro & Lavick, 2008).