Emotional abuse of children results in adult PTSD and opioid misuse

Emotional abuse of children results in adult PTSD and opioid misuse

During their journey from an infant to an adult, children transverse through different life stages, which need both physical and emotional nourishment for healthy growth and development. Children who are either deprived of their necessities or are exposed to any kind of abuse during childhood tend to develop both physical and mental abnormalities.

In the United States, childhood emotional abuse is defined as an “injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of the child as evidenced by an observable or substantial change in behavior, emotional response, or cognition” and injury as evidenced by “anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior.” In short, emotional abuse refers to actions and behaviors of parents, caregivers or other people from the society, which may have a negative impact on a child’s mental health. It includes insulting, neglecting, threatening and name-calling.

Past studies have depicted detrimental effects of emotional abuse on mental health of children. A recent study has suggested a possible association between childhood emotional abuse and development of mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and opioid misuse in adulthood.

Impact of emotional abuse on children

The research published in the journal Addictive Behaviors in February 2017 suggested that victims of childhood emotional abuse have the likelihood of developing rash or risky behavior in adolescence with increased risk of PTSD in adulthood. Their unforgettable, unpleasant experiences may even lead them to opioid use.

While differentiating between sexual and emotional abuse, the researchers emphasized that the blame falls squarely on the victims when they are emotionally abused. They are called by various names, ridiculed for being weak and helpless and told they are not good enough to be cared for. This kind of rebuke makes the victims believe that they deserve what they are experiencing, which adversely affects their ability to cope with difficult emotions and situations. In the desperation of overcoming such strong emotions of fear and helplessness in combination with PTSD symptoms, people practice a strategy of avoidance and fall prey to opioid use.

According to the scientists of the University of Vermont who carried out the study, although opioid use might help relieve symptoms of PTSD in children with a history of emotional abuse, it has side effects. Sadly, the problems associated with opioid use during the research were as severe as PTSD. Therefore, it is imperative to address both problems simultaneously.

Usually, separate treatment modalities are used to treat drug addiction and mental health issues. Mental health counselors sometimes fail to recognize any other underlying problems related to substance abuse. Dr. Matthew Price, senior author and assistant professor in department of psychological science at the University of Vermont suggests that when emotionally-distraught individuals trapped in past experiences turn to opioids to self-medicate, it makes sense to address both the problems together.  The study strongly suggests the need for exploring an integrated approach to treat PTSD and substance abuse simultaneously for better outcomes.

Road to recovery

Parenting is a difficult job. The growing years are marked by a lot of changes in children including functional developments in the brain, behavioral transformations and emotional adjustments. Sometimes, parents or teachers lose their cool and yell at children or use demeaning words. They may unknowingly hurt the sentiments of their children that may leave a deep and long-lasting effect on the young minds. It is important for parents and elders at home to look for symptoms that hint at something not going right and seek professional help immediately.

Adolescence is a risky period of substance abuse as it offers an easy route of escape. A detox program aims at preparing the body for proper recovery by eliminating toxins from the body. A good detox program is a comprehensive mix of therapies, medication and lifestyle changes that also manages withdrawal symptoms and craving for the drug.

The California Detox Helpline offers information related to evidence-based detox and rehab centers in California. In case you are looking for residential treatment centers in California, you may chat online with our treatment experts or call the 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 for instant help.