Those of us who have been marked by the scars of emotional and physical abuse in childhood or as adults know how deep the trauma can penetrate. Our bodies heal, we grow and we cast off many of the superficial appearances that marked us as victims, but the emotional aftershocks remain long afterwards.
Since the early days of psychiatry we’ve known that abuse can put sufferers at risk of depression, self-harm, addiction and PTSD but it’s only recently that the effects it has on the very development of our brain became clear.
Our brain’s reactions to any stimuli are an exercise in constant communication between two parts. The cool, rational outer brain which comprises our cortex and deals with problem-solving and learning, and the instinctive limbic system which controls our emotions and base urges including the instinct to survive. Here you find the amygdala and hippocampus.
Far before the rational reasoning of our cortex kicks in, our...