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The Dangers of Childhood Stress in a Child's Overall Development

Academic status is one factor that causes stress among children / Photo by Getty Images

 

Childhood stress may be present in any child regardless of their family background, race or gender. At a young age, children are the most vulnerable ones that's why their early years must be properly guided and supported by the people around them. In fact, previous studies showed that their experiences during their childhood can greatly affect their future. 

In an article by the Mail Online, the Office of National Statistics reported that one in ten children is suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression. About one million kids between ages 5 and 15 across the globe are experiencing this and the numbers are continuing to increase. 

With this being said, children who are suffering from stress may have future problems in their development. Although the rising levels of stress may not be the same as depression, it has been proven to be associated with anxiety and depression in their adolescence. 

The Status of Childhood Stress

For kids whose bodies and minds are still growing, facing and experiencing the world can be very challenging, especially when there's no parental supervision. Childhood stress has several factors to consider but according to a recently conducted study by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 50% of children's greatest cause of stress is their academic status. This just shows that studying accompanied with a lot of books to read and assignments that need to be done, makes them feel so much pressure. Most of the time, people around them put too much emphasis on the importance of succeeding in life that kids tend to worry about their future more. 

Additionally, family matters and social life can also contribute to childhood stress. Since they are in the age where they are still not mentally and emotionally developed enough to manage stress, children tend to stay and suffer the consequences of it. Unlike adults who can have their escape plans to cope up, kids are prey to what's going on around them.

Karen Sullivan, a natural health expert and author of "Kids Under Pressure," explained that children have still no freedom to escape from stress. For instance, a family quarrel or misunderstanding happened in the house, they are more likely to experience so much stress because they still haven't figured out how to remove themselves from that situation. 

Even what they see on television can also cause stress to children. They tend to worry about his/her safety and the people around them when they see disturbing images, watch news about war, terrorism or natural disasters. It may be challenging to recognize when kids are experiencing stress but short-term behavioral challenge such as acting out, mood swings, bedwetting or changes in sleep patterns can be clear indications. They may also have a hard time concentrating or completing their school requirements and isolate themselves away from their loved ones. 

 

Childhood stress can create vulnerabilities to mood and anxiety disorder in the future / Photo by Getty Images

 

Childhood Stress Linked to Anxiety and Depression

In a study conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University, they explained why childhood stress can create vulnerabilities to mood and anxiety disorders in the future. They found out that mast cells can be responsible in some of the changes people see in neuro-development after a childhood trauma, which can also be helpful in preventing in developing psychological disorders. 

The researchers used rats in proving this claim. They compared the well-being of both stressed and unstressed rats, and at the same time, looked at the effects of prenatal stress. They found out that stress happened in different periods of time had different impacts on them. Also, the researchers have seen significant differences in mast cell activity in the brain during chronic exposure to stress. 

Additionally, the study also showed that mast cells release histamine, a chemical usually linked with allergic responses. These cells can potentially alter brain development. Kathryn Lenz, the study's senior author said: "These childhood traumas, such as living in an abusive home or being neglected, can contribute to a wide array of problems down the road, including drug and alcohol addiction, depression and anxiety and even cardiovascular disease." 

How Stress Affects Our Brain

The impact of stress can be seen in our physical, emotional, and mental health. However, professors at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore revealed that there are also physiological repercussions of stress on the human brain. According to the study, stress not just declines our memory but it can also make the brain physically shrink.

In finding the truth about this, the researchers analyzed more than 2,000 healthy and middle-aged participants. They found out that participants with high levels of cortisol or "stress hormone" in their blood have smaller brain volume than average. It indicates that a physical reduction happened when these people experienced stress. 

According to the Cosmopolitan, when cortisol maintains at a high level in a human's brain, it's more likely that its function will be lesser for a longer period of time. 

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