A recent study found evidence that child abuse, and trauma from abuse, causes actual changes in the body.
I came across some interesting- to- me stuff, and thought it might be interesting -to- other- people too. So I'm going to write about it as I understand it, given their excessive (IMO) use of ultra big words and fancy terms.
The study focused on epigenetic changes in children who had been abused. "Epigenetic" is when a gene changes in response to something external. So, lets say you put a hot dog in the microwave for too long and it splits (but on the inside where you can't see it, to make the example work). It started as a hot dog and is still a hot dog. It's still made out of beef or whatever, but a part has been changed. The microwave caused an epigenetic change.
When a child is abused, it flips a switch in their bodies and changes their genes. The switch makes stuff called "methyl group". Methylation can wake up certain genes and put other genes down for a nap. The genes have now been changed, and are activated for cancer, autoimmune disease, mental disorders, and diabetes.
Here is a very readable link for details Abuse Casts a Long Shadow by Changing Children's Genes
The gene that helps manage stress, NR3C1, was altered following traumatic abuse. And guess what NR3C1 affects? Cortisol! And the Adrenal gland! It makes a burst of energy and amps up vigilance while shutting down processes that are not important during the perceived emergency.
So does it seem like kids with RAD are stuck in fight or flight? They are!
Like the kid wakes up already amped and on edge? Yes!
Like once she gets going in a meltdown she can't pull herself out of it and it goes on forever? Totally true!
Research in epigenetics proves children are not resilient (I so totally fucking hate that phrase). They are changed by what happens to them. It also shows why a child who experienced traumatic abuse as a baby for example, has problems from it decades later.
The good news is, this is not bad news! Before the study on children was a study on rats that was essentially the same. When the rats were later paired with nurturing mothers, the gene went back to the way it started. No one has figured out how to reverse the change in a human yet, but there is a huge puzzle piece filled in.
The next time someone says, "you're too hard on her/ too easy on her, have you tried *fill in the blank?*", you can tell them this: "We are trying our best to help her but her NR3C1 gene has been methylated and epigenetically altered, what do you suggest?".
Epigenetics yo'! This stuff is so cool!