Impact of Childhood Trauma is Carried in the Cells of Brain and Body

Recent research has confirmed that exposure to trauma does not merely change us emotionally and psychologically, it also changes us physically.  In fact, the impact of exposure to trauma runs so deep that it has an enduring impact at the cellar level.

This fact was reinforced by research recently performed at the University of British Columbia where it was found that childhood trauma indelibly changed the chemical makeup of certain cells and that these changes lasted well into adulthood.  To reach this determination, researchers examined the sperm cells of 34 adult men and found that changes had occurred to the DNA of certain cells, specifically, methylation was observed.  It had been long believed that DNA was fixed at birth, but now a process known as epigenetics, which includes the impact of environment, can temporarily or permanently change a person’s DNA.

Another study, this one published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, found that childhood trauma has detrimental consequences on the biological stress systems as well as on a child’s cognitive and brain development.

Dr. Tian Dayton made reference to other corresponding research during her opening plenary at the American Society of Group Psychodrama and Psychotherapy’s 64th Annual Conference in San Francisco, California entitled Neuroscience and Psychodrama: Validating the Mind/Body Approach of Psychodrama.  Therein Dr. Dayton indicated as follows:

“The discarded contents of these unconscious memories can fuel problems in thinking, feeling, and behavior throughout life. Traumatized people live, in part, as if the stressor is ever-present, as if a repeated rupture to their sense of self (van der Kolk 1996) and their world lurks just around the corner, i.e. they become hyper-vigilant. Psychodrama allows for these act hungers and their emotional contents, to find their way into action through role-play; to have both a voice and a physical expression.”  She concluded her talk by indicating that;

The field of neuroscience, then, is validating what, we, as clinicians who use psychodrama, sociometry, and experiential group therapy have come to understand well over the years. That the “body is,” in fact,” the unconscious mind.

Because psychodrama is a mind/body form of experiential therapy it is uniquely designed to provide some of the most efficacious treatment for those suffering from childhood as well as adult trauma.