By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | March 13, 2014
Here at ETR, we’re fascinated by brain science and its link to our mission. A number of our staff have impressive expertise in neuroscience. We decided it’s time to talk it up and share our knowledge and perspectives on the field. In coming months, look for brief posts, comments on the literature, links to tools and more.
A recent paper by Terrie Moffitt and the Klaus-Grawe Think Tank (a group looking at interdisciplinary research in clinical psychology) examines the evidence that exposure to violence in childhood can lead to adverse physical consequences that affect lifelong health.
Those of us who’ve been in the field of mental health for some time remember when mind and body were seen as distinct parts of the human organism. While some clinicians might have believed that early physical or emotional trauma contributed to later disease states, there wasn’t much evidence to support that notion. Therapists who promoted this idea were considered a little bit “out there.”
No longer. The authors in this paper review evidence for a range of physical effects related to violence and chronic stress, including inflammation (which can lead to adult diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and dementia, and may predict poor mental health outcomes), telomere erosion (associated with higher risk of morbidity and mortality), epigenetic outcomes (regulation of gene expression) and more. They are clear about the limitations of current measures and describe the particular challenges of pursuing research in this area, but the evidence starts to look pretty persuasive as you read on.
The paper also describes promising interventions for children and families that might reduce the physical effects of trauma. The authors encourage future researchers to include stress-biology measures in clinical trials intended to reduce the effects of violence exposure for children.
We think this is an impressive contribution to an evolving field (most references are from 2008 and after). If you’re interested in mind-body health, take a look.