People who have been emotionally and/or physically abused during childhood are known to have a higher risk of developing psychological problems, addictions, and poor interpersonal skills.
As a result, these people struggle both professionally in their careers and personally in their relationships. Adverse childhood experiences include neglect, abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual), familial violence, parental separation or divorce.
A lack of a loving, supportive environment during childhood causes chronic stress which also leads to a disturbance of the normal hormonal balance of the child. This may lead to changes in the body over many years, and manifest later during adulthood as a physical illness.
"Traditionally, the health care system has blamed factors such as a poor diet, drug use, or a sedentary lifestyle as the root cause of conditions such as a raised blood pressure, blood sugar or heart disease. However, studies have shown that the likelihood of developing diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, is nearly doubled in people who have faced adverse conditions during childhood," said Dr (Maj) Manish Mannan Head of Department, Pediatrics & Neonatology, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram.
Anxiety and Stress Could Lead to a Weak Heart
"Due to the unparalleled competition we have put our children into; it is not surprising to find them in perpetual state of stress or anxiety. Isn't it the responsibility of the parents to look out for the warning signs? But it is missed due to lack of knowledge," he said.
Adverse circumstances can be defined as a moment in a child's life which can be too taxing for him/her to handle. This includes peer pressure, pressure to perform well, bully by classmates or seniors. Children supposedly keep quiet about these things.
This can cause a reactionary stress or overeating which can lead to clogged arteries in adulthood. The signs to watch out for reflect in depression, anxiety and stress which can turn chronic if care is not administration.
The exact pathways through which chronic stress affects the blood pressure and the heart are not yet known but the current evidence suggests that a major role is played by both the psychological and biological reactions to adverse conditions.
Research studies indicate that long-term stress disturbs the normal functioning of the body by causing changes in the immune, metabolic, nervous and endocrine systems. Studies have shown that the stiffness of the central arteries is increased in individuals under chronic stress, and this is thought to accelerate the development of heart diseases.
It is also common knowledge that depression, anxiety and mood disorders due to chronic stress often leads to an unhealthy lifestyles, which is another contributory factor to the genesis of cardiovascular and metabolic illnesses. As is self evident from the above discussion, chronic childhood stress reduces both the quality of life and the lifespan
"We want to shield our children from all the ordeals in life. But this isn't possible. What is really under our control is the ability to establish a healthy communication between you and your child," Manish added.
"At first, the child might not be willing to talk about the trauma he/she faced. Parents have to ease into the conversation. Childhood trauma stays and even though it might be miniscule for you, it might not be the case for your child. This is especially true for children who have suffered violence of any kind.
Parents should encourage their children to attend remedial psychotherapy sessions because mental trauma is deep seated and can cause various health ailments."
Children need to be tended with utmost care. Parents and care givers need to understand that anything they say or do to them has a long-term influence on their lives. General education about better parenting behavior should be increased through awareness programs, escially for single parents. This will lead to a happier family environment for children.
Efforts should be made to build positive social relationships to minimize stress reactions, thus lowering the risks of disease. Good parenting, a healthy diet and lifestyle, provisioning of a safe environment for children by the society, and a positive learning environment are essential for healthy mental and physical development of all children.