Childhood trauma triples risk of developing serious mental health disorders during adulthood

New research suggests that those who suffered psychological trauma during childhood have a significantly higher risk of developing a mental disorder during adulthood.

The study, published in the journal, European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, was led by Benedikt Amann, MD, a researcher in the Mental Health Research Group at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) in Barcelona, Spain. In a meta-analysis, Amman and a team of researchers analyzed nearly 100,000 cases to determine whether trauma experienced at a young age can put adult patients at a higher risk of mental health problems.

According to the study, childhood trauma comes in many forms, the most common being emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, in addition to emotional or physical neglect and bullying. Trauma can damage the brain, and result in both physical and emotional consequences. The most common mental disorder experienced by those with trauma is anxiety. However, other pathologies such as psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bipolar disorder have also been linked to trauma.

Researchers analyzed a total of 14 reviews and meta-analysis on the subject published to date in specialized journals. Their analysis revealed a direct link between trauma at a pediatric age and mental health disorders developed during adulthood. They found childhood trauma could increase risk of adulthood mental health disorders threefold.

These results, said study author, Bridget Hogg, MSc, researcher at IMIM, highlight the importance of getting a full patient history.

"It is necessary to guide the patient through their life history, to really review what has happened to them,” she said in a statement. “Currently, we question what isn't working, but not what has happened in their life, because this requires opening up potentially painful subjects, and it is avoided."

To Amann, these results indicate the need not only for treatment of psychological trauma but also efforts to prevent it.

"On the one hand, we must treat psychological trauma in our patients, but we also have to take action in the political and social spheres and invest more in prevention,” he said. “For example, by educating families and setting up programs to prevent bullying, which is a very important risk factor in terms of suffering a mental disorder, both for those who receive it and for those who perpetrate it"