Effects of Trauma and Abuse on the Human Brain

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The brain is still in its early stages during childhood, making it easier for it to adjust to the current surroundings. As a result, trauma and abuse have a long-term impact on an individual's mental health. Childhood trauma can take various forms, from neglect to physical abuse to seeing violence at home or in the community. "Exposure to trauma results in a loss of essential capacities for self-regulation and interpersonal relatedness. As a result, children who have experienced complex trauma have lifelong issues that put them at risk for further trauma exposure and cumulative impairment" (Cook et al., 2005).  I have always believed that there is a connection between the environment one was brought up in and whom they grow to become in future. A look at previous research made me realize that it was not simply a social phenomenon but rather one that had a significant impact on the brain’s functioning. “Traumatized individuals become increasingly responsive to relatively minor stimuli as a result of decreased frontal lobe functioning and increased limbic system sensitivity” (Streeck-Fischer and van der Kolk, 2000). This makes empathic towards persons who have been abused in some way. Most of the reactions that we perceive as hostile or antisocial are as a result of adaptive responses to threat earlier on in their lives. The most common adaptations to traumatic events are “fight or flight response” and dissociative response. This information is important since you need to understand the cause of one’s action in order to help them. The knowledge gained from the two journal articles will help me be more considerate when dealing with people especially those with a history of traumatic events.


Cook, A., Spinazzola, J., Ford, J., Lanktree, C., Blaustein, M., Cloitre, M., Kolk, B. van der. (2017). Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents. Psychiatric Annals, 35(5), 390–398. https://doi.org/10.3928/00485713-20050501-05

Streeck-Fischer, A., & van der Kolk, B. A. (2000). Down will come baby, cradle and all: diagnostic and therapeutic implications of chronic trauma on child development. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(6), 903–918. https://doi.org/10.1080/000486700265

April 26, 2023

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