When children are abused, it can alter their brain development and leave them at risk for developmental problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and mental problems. Our bodies are wired with a complex, natural alarm system designed to protect us against threats from predators and other aggressors. This system is often referred to as a “fight-or-flight” response.
Cortisol plays a large role in the body’s natural alarm system. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is activated in the body to help counter abuse or other acts of violence. When it is released in the body, Cortisol increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances the brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions of the body that would be nonessential or even detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It changes immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.
The body’s natural alarm system is usually self-regulating and automatically decreases hormone levels and enables your body to return to normal once a perceived threat has passed. However, for children who are victims of sexual abuse, clergy abuse and/or domestic violence, the threat of danger is always present and their fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. Children who are sexually abused often feel like they have no control over the situation. The less control you have over potentially stressful events and the more uncertainty they create, the more likely you are to feel stressed. This long-term activation of the stress-response system and the resulting overexposure of Cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all of the processes in the body. For this reason, many children who are survivors of sexual abuse are left unable to regulate their emotions such as anger and fear. They are also more at risk for developing physical and emotional problems such as sleep disorders, digestive problems, depression, obesity, memory impairment and eczema.
Individual and Group Counseling for Children in Atlanta, Georgia
Individual and group counseling can help children who have been abused to process old hurts and feelings and to regain balance in their lives. However, sexual abuse is a highly complex issue with many ramifications, and counseling requires highly specialized skills and insight to optimize recovery. If you have been the victim of sexual abuse or if you have a child who has survived sexual abuse, please contact our Atlanta Child Abuse and Developmental Problems Experts today. If you would like to make a donation to help children find hope and healing, please give us a call today.