The Lasting Effects of Psychological Trauma on Memory and the Hippocampus

Excerpt from a research paper written by J. Douglas Bremner, M.D.:

The invisible epidemic of childhood abuse and other psychological traumas and stressors represents a major public health problem in our society today. Childhood sexual abuse alone affects 16% of women (about 40 million) in the U.S.A. (including rape, attempted rape, or molestation) at some time before their 18th birthday.

Childhood abuse is the most common cause of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women, which affects 8% of the population at some time in their lives, although there are a range of other types of psychological trauma that can also lead to symptoms of chronic PTSD, including car accidents, combat, rape and assault. Some of the symptoms of PTSD, which include intrusive memories, nightmares, flashbacks, increased startle and vigilance, social impairment and problems with memory and concentration, may be related to the effects of extreme stress on the brain.

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