Early life stress may lead to PTSD despite loss of memory of the trauma

November 10, 2014

A recently published study out of the University of California at Los Angeles and the University at Albany has shown that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) may develop in people who have no memory of the trauma. These findings are significant on the subject of dissociation. It supports the understanding that the process people undergo when they suffer serious or ongoing trauma may include dissociation from the the pain or intensity of the experience which may lead to long-term memory loss of the incident. However, dysfunction in the body’s stress response system nonetheless occurs.

The researchers found that levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in the brain were increased in those who underwent early-life traumatic events and that despite the lack of memory of the event itself, the subjects continued to experience anxiety and fear when faced with similar situations. Stating that early life stress is particularly impactful, the study made the finding that traumatic experiences may cause life-long harm to “the ability to cope with future stressors and emotionally salient events.”

The study is published in the recent issue of the journal of Biological Psychiatry: Amnesia for Early Life Stress Does Not Preclude Adult Development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Rats.

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