There's a biological reason why abused kids become depressed adults

Young adults who were abused as children share a similar neuroendocrinal trait. When they confront ordinary situations of stress, like taking a test, their brains are flooded with abnormally high levels of the hormone cortisol. According to Queens University psychology professor Karen Harkness:

This kind of reaction is a problem because cortisol kills cells in areas of the brain that control memory and emotion regulation. Over time cortisol levels can build up and increase a person's risk for more severe endocrine impairment and more severe depression.


In her work, Harkness has found that childhood stress can have lasting effects on brain function, exacerbating depression and causing other psychological problems. As cortisol builds up in the brain, it can even cause "blunting" of normal stress responses, leaving young adults completely unable to deal with obstacles most of us would consider tough but surmountable. Her work is just further confirmation of what many neuroscientists have found over the past decade: Psychological horrors don't just haunt our dreams; they change the very structure and function of our brains.

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Biology's not destiny. My childhood is as borked as any sci-fi geek's (and we sometimes seem to be composed entirely of folks with traumatic pasts). I'm a relatively happy adult. You know that "it gets better" video thing for gay folks? True for folks with bad pasts who are determined not to hang onto them their whole damn lives. As long as you decide to get over it, you'll do fine. If you decide to cling to it - well, that's your choice.