October 13, 2019

Chronic Childhood Abuse Likely to Trigger Adult PTSD

post traumatic stressWhen the topic of PTSD comes up, many people tend to focus on military veterans who have returned from overseas deployments with symptoms generally associated with stress disorder:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • poor sleeping patterns
  • anger control issues
  • sensitivity to visual or auditory stimuli
  • flashbacks associated with visual or auditory stimuli
  • poor concentration
  • social isolation

Social Security disability attorneys do see increasing numbers of PTSD cases arising from military service but this is not the only source of this type of claim.

PTSD can and does arise from emotional and physical trauma arising from childhood physical and sexual abuse.  Time Magazine notes that:

Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much the way smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.Interestingly, researchers have noted physiological changes in the brains of adults who were mistreated as children.

Time’s article continues:

The aftermath of that trauma could be seen in their brain scans, whether or not the young adults had developed diagnosable disorders. Regardless of their mental health status, formerly maltreated youth showed reductions in volume of about 6% on average in two parts of the hippocampus, and 4% reductions in regions called the subiculum and presubiculum, compared with people who had not been abused.

Psychology Today identifies a number of factors that may determine whether an abused child will develop PTSD.  These include:

  • the degree of perceived personal threat at the time of the abuse
  • the developmental state of the child (younger children may be at less risk for PTSD)
  • the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator
  • the level of support the victim has in his day-to-day life
  • whether the victim feels guilt about the abuse
  • the adult’s innate resliance

Further, the damage to brain tissue may be caused by high levels of stress hormone triggered by long term exposure to childhood abuse.  Adults continue to suffer the aftereffects of abuse long after being physically separated from the people and place where the abuse happened.

If you are a survivor of child abuse and you suffer from depression, anxiety and associated mental health conditions, make sure that your lawyer becomes aware of your long term history so that he can ask the right questions of your treating psychologist or psychiatrist and more accurately represent your interests in court


Jonathan Ginsberg represents disabled men and women in SSI and SSDI claims filed with the Social Security Administration.

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