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Stress in early childhood can unleash lifelong health problems

News Desk
Published: 25 January 2017 Wednesday, 05:54  AM

Stress in early childhood can unleash lifelong health problems

Bonn, Jan 25 ( Constant family quarrels, parents separating or even the birth of a little brother or sister can be tough on a young child, and this psychological stress may affect that child later in life, according to new advice.

That is why both parents and children need support to deal with stressful situations, say the experts of the Society for Psychosomatic Medicine and Medical Psychotherapy.

Parents should seek help when they go through a crisis or feel tensions within the marriage, ideally before the child notices there is a problem.

"Parents should bear in mind that young children in particular are very closely attached to them emotionally," says Maria Grosse Perdekamp, of the German Conference of Education Counselling.

"They are highly sensitive to the state of mind of the people they are closest to."

Under sustained stress, a child`s body permanently releases too much of the stress hormone cortisol. That affects brain functions, particularly in areas responsible for concentration and self-adjustment.

Children who are exposed to several stress factors at once are significantly more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol in their youth. They face twice the risk of suffering depression, while they are five times more likely to develop an eating disorder.

According to recent studies, this can reduce their life expectancy by up to 20 years, warns Ulrich Egle, a Swiss professor who specializes in the issue.

When it is too late for education counselling, the child should receive psychological treatment, Egle says. Parents should consult a therapist who specializes in children and adolescents.