We have extensive research that has been replicated over and over again that Adverse Childhood Experiences have a significant impact on the emotional and physical health of adults.
Part of what we are discovering in our youth today is how many are experiencing General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) which leads to hypervigilance, fear, panic attacks and attempts to regulate those feelings and emotions through destructive means.
One vital question is how much of GAD is due to some form of a traumatic past? Sue Morton who is a trauma survivor has struggled herself with GAD and has written an article reviewing some of the basic research on the relationship between child trauma an GAD.
Here are some quotes from her article in Psych Central:
One 2013 study, Childhood Maltreatment is Associated with Larger Left Thalamic Gray Matter investigated the relationship between GAD and childhood maltreatment by examining the brain scans of individuals with a history of GAD and trauma. As a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from childhood experiences, I was intrigued about this study.
Overreaction and dysfunction within the limbic system can perpetuate the misguided and perceived threats causing individuals to be constantly on guard or worried that something is going to happen. This hyper-sensitivity at an unconscious level can directly result in keeping the limbic system in disarray long after the threat has been removed. High levels of cortisol that are ignited by the experiences of trauma can trigger anxiety and depression, as well as a deficiency in the GABA neurotransmitters. (Hosier, Childhood Trauma Recovery, 2016) For those of you that have GAD, you are probably sitting there thinking, no kidding!
The imprints of trauma on the brain can be difficult for survivors of who are trying to move past their GAD symptoms. Healing from trauma is possible, and the symptoms of GAD can be lessened in some circumstances. “The amygdala can learn to relax; the hippocampus can resume proper memory consolidation; the nervous system can recommence its easy flow between reactive and restorative modes. The key to achieving a state of neutrality and then healing lies in helping to reprogram the body and mind” (Rosenthal, 2019).
Recognizing the cause of GAD as trauma can help to assess what is going on in the brain and can begin the reprogramming process which will provide healing and lessen the symptoms of GAD. Often we attempt treatment without recognizing the cause and how the brain is attempting to cope ineffectively. Understanding that we can intervene and regulate one’s brain from their traumatic past is a huge step to finding help and hope for those who are dealing with GAD.