What happens in childhood can stay with an adult for the rest of their lives. This applies whether a childhood was filled with good and positive things or if it was full of adversity and traumatic events. When an adult has experienced both childhood adversity and traumatic events in adulthood, the impact is significant.
A recent release in Science Daily examined a report in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry which stated that individuals who experience childhood adversity and traumatic events as an adult are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than those only exposed to one of these types of incidents. Adults with a certain genetic mutation also experienced further increases.
While 40 percent to 70 percent of Americans have experienced traumatic events, only about eight percent actually develop PTSD during their lifetimes. This complex disorder involves re-experiencing, avoidance and increased arousal following exposure to a life-threatening event.
PTSD also appears to have a heritable component. According to the authors of the report, recent studies estimate that genetic factors account for roughly 30 percent of the difference in PTSD symptoms.
“Although the 5-HTTLPR genotype [gene mutation] alone did not predict the onset of PTSD, it interacted with adult traumatic events and childhood adversity to increase the risk for PTSD, especially for those with high rates of both types of trauma exposure,” the authors wrote.
These researchers believe that the genotype may influence the way the brain processes the neurotransmitter serotonin, which affects an individual’s anxiety levels and can change the way neurons react to fearful stimuli.