Mental Health and Child Abuse

Simple science confirms mental health is important for humans to acknowledge.

Child abuse has lasting effects on individuals' mental health.
Child abuse has lasting effects on individuals’ mental health.

The brain is as much a part of the physical human body as a leg, and thus damage can be done to it in the same way that damage can be done to any other part of the body. In the same way that being run over by a truck can break someone’s leg, child abuse can hurt different parts of the brain.

When a child experiences abuse or neglect, the trauma can actually reshape the brain by influencing the amygdala, “the part of the brain that regulates emotions, particularly fear and anxiety.” The effects of this reshaping “can profoundly influence victims’ physical and mental health, their ability to control emotions and impulses, their achievement in school, and the relationships they form as children and as adults” (source).

Long-terms effects of child abuse and neglect may include:

  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain
  • Changes to the brain’s stress response system
  • Poor peer relations
  • Difficulty at work
  • Aggression
  • Alcoholism
  • Early sexual activity

For these and other reasons, child abuse has been called “the tobacco industry of mental health,” because it primes the brain for future mental illnesses, leaving “victims more vulnerable to depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder” (source).