Saturday, March 24, 2012
Recognizing The Obvious Finally
All of us come into the world with our own genetic predispositions to psychological ills. Depression, anxiety, the whole panoply of adult woes are woven into our genomes. That may not be surprising to scientists, but new research shows that these conditions can start to express themselves much earlier than we knew — sometimes during the first year of life. Trauma can trigger the onset; so can stress, and so can still unknown variables.
Not exactly a duh moment for me, but more of a validation. Yolie and I were outside, as the kids jumped on the trampoline, and she read the article aloud to me from her phone.
...estimates that about 10% of very young children have some kind of clinical emotional condition, about the same rate as the adult population. And while some of those ills are indeed unique to babies, a growing body of research shows that many others — including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social-anxiety disorder, major depression, insomnia, even prolonged bereavement — also afflict young children.
I think it's a very safe bet to believe that children within the foster care system would have a higher rate of this due to many factors, not the least of which could be attributed genetically, but also due to substance abuse, including alcohol, in utero. Add trauma, emotional breaks from multiple caretakers, neglect and abuse. all common factors shared by my children.
...experiments in which preschoolers diagnosed with anxiety conditions are shown either positive images (like a picture of three smiling girls) or threatening images (like a snarling dog). An eye-tracking system follows their gaze. As a rule, anxious kids focus longer on the parts of the pictures that signal danger — such as the dog's teeth and eyes. They even look longer at the girls' faces, in an apparent attempt to see if any less obvious threat lurks. "There appears to be a dysregulation of the fear circuit," says Egger. "This creates a bias in attention to threat, real or not."
I've seen this often in hyper vigilant, extremely emotionally needy kids, factor in their anxiety levels, and the fact that they'd never been either soothed nor reassured as toddlers, never nurtured, and now I have teenagers who still struggle.
Chronic stress can have a similar impact on the brain. In a 2010 study, psychologist Nim Tottenham of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City conducted magnetic-resonance-imaging scans of the brains of 78 children (9 years old on average; babies would never hold still long enough), about half of whom had spent part of their early lives in orphanages. She also conducted behavioral tests on the kids' emotional-regulation skills. In general, she found that the later the children had been adopted — and thus the longer they'd been institutionalized — the larger their amygdalae were. (The amygdala governs emotions such as fear and alarm.) Those kids also performed worse on the emotional test. Another 2010 study of abused children yielded similar findings.
Even the subtler pressures of the home — combative parents, economic hardship, parental substance abuse — can do long-term damage. "Babyhood has its stresses," says Dr. Jack Shonkoff, professor of child health and development at the Harvard School of Public Health. "But the system is designed to get back to baseline. If it doesn't, it can damage brain connections and destroy circuits." It's that damage that helps a genetic predisposition become a full-blown disorder.
I am extremely glad, and grateful, to have had an original social worker explain to me how much my kids needed, or would need, therapy. 25 years ago I bristled I'm sure, naively certain that we wouldn't need therapy, that my love and concern for the kids would be enough. Within a year of beginning, we'd found a good therapist.
I might be socially awkward, but I'm not a dummy.
Even now, with fairly good kids all living here with me now, I don't see us in any less need of therapy, if only to have a fresh, knowledgeable perspective given by Dr. Mandy. I also believe my kids need a confidant such as her, a neutral third party, someone who has a pretty clear indicator of all the nuances in a family like mine.
I love listening to her, literally watching her digest the information and the behaviors and come up with strategies, or at least explanations.
I'm glad that my children don't ever see me self-medicate, that they see me use my gardens as therapy, depending on activity to relieve stress. But I know that's not enough, if anything they'll sneer, "Well, that's you," when I try and illustrate proper ways of dealing with stuff, the implication being I ain't them. Mom's old school and uncool.
Mom's also got too much to do right now to be sitting at the computer, but I feel verbally constipated until I blog each day.
All that rain in the Southeast, a veritable deluge in Louisiana only gave us 5 short minutes of a steady rain, so not enough at all.
Two soccer practices today, finish emptying my bedroom out, routine chores, and I'm seriously contemplating risking the threat of a late frost, going ahead and planting my tender annuals, we've hardly had ay frost all winter long. I cut me a ton of Swiss Chard last night, Lily and I ate the entire pot of it. She'd collected the seeds a year or so ago, these particular plants had become acutely customized to our specific climate, and was some kind of delicious.