Together We Heal

Together We Heal is for any who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. We provide a safe forum for survivors of abuse to share, learn and heal. We work to expose sexual predators and their methods of getting into our lives.

The Abused Addict – How Trauma Can Change Your DNA

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Months ago I was a guest blogger on “Rachel Grant Coaching” and came across some fascinating research regarding how trauma can impact the DNA of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Did I read that correctly? Childhood Sexual Abuse can alter my DNA???

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I move on like others are? I stopped using drugs to numb my pain from being sexually abused, and I am facing my demons with a sober mind. Why am I stuck, feeling depressed, anxious, having all of these negative thoughts when I know there is light at the end of the tunnel, not an oncoming train?!

I have since learned that the damage done was much farther reaching than I could have ever imagined. I wondered why it felt like it was taking me longer to work through my struggles than others who had “just abused or were just addicted to drugs regardless of sexual abuse.” I recently found a potential reason behind this struggle.

Without getting so nerdy that you are bored to tears, here is the bottom line. Researchers and scientists have documented for the first time that childhood trauma leaves mark on the DNA of some victims. These changes have been shown in three genes: the FKBP5, the 5-HTTLPR, and the CRHR1.

They have determined that some abused children are at a higher risk of anxiety and mood disorders due to traumatic experiences that can induce lasting changes to their gene regulation. As a result, those affected find themselves less able to cope with stressful situations throughout their lives, frequently leading to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety disorders in adulthood. Therefore, they are less able to process and work through their personal challenges, sometimes even leading to suicide.

We talk about DNA as if it’s a template, like a mold for a car part in a factory. But DNA isn’t really like that. It’s more like a script. Think of Romeo and Juliet, different directors using different actors produce different versions. Both productions used Shakespeare’s script, yet the two are entirely different. Identical starting points, different outcomes.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.

More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction.

The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation’s worst health and social problems is likely to begin by understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.

Possible legal and policy implications of this area of research remain far in the future, but could include identifying earlier critical periods for childhood intervention programs, better understanding abuse as a mitigating factor if the person is later convicted of a crime related to an abnormal stress response, or calculating damages in a civil lawsuit against the abusive caregiver. The most significant implication is better understanding epigenetic pathology caused by childhood abuse and neglect, which may be an important part of a multi-faceted approach towards treating survivors of abuse who continue to suffer from its lasting effects.

So once again, here is an even stronger validation by scientists on the cutting edge of DNA study why we MUST do all we can to prevent childhood sexual abuse in order to ensure that children do not suffer the trauma and long-lasting effects.

Doctors and scientists hope these discoveries will yield new treatment strategies tailored to individual patients, as well as increased public awareness of the importance of protecting children from trauma and its consequences. And isn’t that the true bottom-line—protecting children from trauma in the first place?

References

– MPI of Psychiatry, Munich Germany, 2003-2012
– Nature Neuroscience 2012
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention
– Maggie Brown, MS, ELS
– Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism
– Colin A. Hodgkinson, PhD
– Pei-Hong Shen, MS
– Dr. Sarchiapone
– The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance, by Nessa Carey (Columbia University Press, 2012).
– Christine Heim, Bekh Bradley, Tanja C. Mletzko, Todd C. Deveau, Dominique L. Musselman, Charles B. Nemeroff, Kerry J. Ressler, and Elisabeth B. Binder
– Benoit Labonte, Volodymyr Yerko, Jeffrey Gross, Naguib Mechawar, Michael J. Meaney, Moshe Szyf, and Gustavo Turecki. Differential Glucocorticoid Receptor Exon 1B, 1C, and 1H Expression and Methylation in Suicide Completers with a History of Childhood Abuse. Biological Psychiatry, 2012
– NIMH
– National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Center for Research Resources
– National Institutes of Health
– Emory and Grady Memorial General Clinical Research Center and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund
– Binder EB, Bradley RG, Wei L, Epstein MP, Deveau TC, Mercer KB, Tang Y, Gillespie CF, Heim CM, Nemeroff CB, Schwartz AC, Cubells JF, Ressler KJ. Association of FKBP5 Polymorphisms and Childhood Abuse With Risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 299 (11): 1291-1305. March 18, 2008.
– Kelly Lowenberg, The Stanford Center for Law and Biosciences
– Moshe Szyf, a McGill University epigeneticist, and Michael Meaney, a McGill University neurologist

Copyright © 2014 Together We Heal, Inc.

Author: Together We Heal

In 2006 David took the first step in a long and painful journey back from the abyss of addiction and self-destruction. He promised his dying father that he would get clean. And he did. But as he cleaned his body and soul, he began to confront the sexual abuse that his addiction had for so long obscured — abuse perpetrated by a church youth minister when David was 12 to 15 years old. Those three years of abuse destroyed the foundation of love and faith that had been built by his family. For 25 years, David kept the abuse secret and lost himself in a fog of drugs and alcohol. He was by turns destitute, at times incarcerated. The promise to his dying father was the catalyst. And the bedrock of his mother’s love and devotion was the foundation on which David rebuilt his life. Therapy, 12-step meetings, and soul-deep determination were the bricks and mortar. David founded Together We Heal to provide fellow survivors and their families, guidance through the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. In 2015 he was asked to become a part of the Child Safeguarding Initiative team with GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to empower the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse. David represents Together We Heal & GRACE across the country as a public speaker and instructor; teaching churches, schools, and families how to talk with their kids about sexual abuse, how to better identify predatory behavior, and how to properly respond to those harmed. "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” - Dr. Seuss

10 thoughts on “The Abused Addict – How Trauma Can Change Your DNA

  1. Thank you for this series and for this vitally important work reguarding preventing child sexual abuse. i myself am a survivor and find it tragic yet also affirming that childhood trauma changes our very DNA. It stands to reason since the insults to our psyche are taking place during developmental stages.i am also an addiction counselor and see everyday the role childhood sexual abuse has in leading to various adfictions as adolescents and adults self medicate to deal with mental illness and emotional issues. Again thank you for shedding light on an important matter that still tends to be a dark subject.

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  2. Please be careful about buying into this theory. There is a danger that a ‘victim’s state’ is entrenched in the biological make up. This could not be further from the truth. Every thought changes our DNA. It is really important to understand that we are essentially just energy and that the DNA is a biological transmitter receiver of this energy. There is so much new information coming out now that informs us that we are very different beings from what we have been taught to believe. Take a look at Gregg Braden’s books, Dr Richard Bartlett, and his work using ‘Matrix Energetics’, another very useful book is ‘Healing Hands of Light’ by Barbara Ann Brennan. The information in these books offers a new perspective on ourselves and our ability to heal ourselves no matter what our experiences may have been. This will empower you to effect changes in your life that you would never have believed possible. Please accept the fact that you have the power to change. You are not a victim of circumstance.

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    • As a skeptic, I have to call you on your false ideas and changing the concept of energy form that used in physics. This is nearly as egregious as the appeal to quantum mechanics made by Chopra.

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      • As a skeptic you would need to make your appeal to the scientists who made the findings, not to me who was reporting them. I’m not the one who has defended a dissertation on this matter, they have.

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      • I would also encourage you to read about the scientist from japan, Masaru Emoto, who has made discoveries about how human emotion has affected the molecular structure of water, of which I’m sure you know by now human make up is appx 80%.

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      • I agree with you 100% that every person has the ability to make positive changes no matter what negative circumstances occurred in your life. My point was not to say, “woe is me I’m stuck”, it was to explain to some of those who may feel stuck and how they can make positive changes.

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  3. Hi Simian, thank you for your perspective. And if I gave the impression that everyone who has been abused will always be changed, then please allow me to clarify. What i was bringing to attention was that it CAN but doesn’t ALWAYS. And if you recall I alluded to your point exactly when I said,

    “We talk about DNA as if it’s a template, like a mold for a car part in a factory. But DNA isn’t really like that. It’s more like a script. Think of Romeo and Juliet, different directors using different actors produce different versions. Both productions used Shakespeare’s script, yet the two are entirely different. Identical starting points, different outcomes.”

    I agree with you completely that we can change our outcome, what I was trying to do was help some of the survivors who may have felt like I did from time to time…confused as to why I felt stuck. And I think this study shows evidence of one possibility. What we all do with this information is up to us…to acknowledge what happened, to gain the tools necessary to heal, and to begin to survive and then thrive. The last thing i would want to do is make folks feel like they had no choice. I just found this to be of use and as one of those tools for moving forward,,not staying in place. I hope I clarified that for anyone who may have misunderstood. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

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  4. Excellent reply! Thank you and best wishes.

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  5. Pingback: Darkness And Light: A Journey To Extremes - Spiritual Unite

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