The link between a child’s early development and how certain events change their health and well-being in future years.

One-third of youths today manifest some mental health issues such as anxiety disorders by the age of 18. Some even go on to experience depression symptoms induced by stress and learned behaviours. Females are at a higher risk than males of this, and from research, we have acquired that maltreatment from an early age can manifest itself to contribute towards the downfall of mental health in later life.

Studies demonstrate that adverse childhood experiences may lead to altered connectivity in the brain’s fear circuitry — which, in turn, may lead to the development of internalising symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, by late adolescence— especially in females. Girls are known to have poor communication between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex meaning that they are at higher risk of childhood maltreatment leading to issues in later life such as depression and anxiety. Girls experience this due to a lower ability of the prefrontal cortex to inhibit fear through its direct connections with the amygdala.

How early life experiences can be a contributing factor to anxiety and depression

Early life experiences do determine how our brains develop and chronic stress and certain events can significantly alter our cognitive function and processing. This is believed to be due to the brain adapting to such a threatening environment resulting in higher risks of mental illness.

In the early stages of a child’s development, it is vital to provide them with the support, guidance and good upbringing that any caring parent would adhere to minimise symptoms of depression and anxiety in future. This will later manifest itself into their children’s education and so forth.

Treatment options

By identifying childhood maltreatment and the effects, it had on their developing brains it is possible to develop new treatments for internalising the disorder. Support, help and guidance can be given to parents or car givers ensuring that they can provide a positive parenting role, having significant impacts on their children’s brains and mental health.

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