What Abuse Does to the Brain

A child who is suffering from abuse

Most abuse is overshadowed by dark secrecy, kept hidden from the rest of us because of fear and shame. Physical, emotional and substance abuse has a lasting impact on the brain.

The problem with abuse is even when the victim gets away from the person who is abusing them, the psychological effects of the abuse can last a lifetime. Many people don’t realize how much abuse can affect mental health, and why it affects it so much. Today we will be discussing the long-term psychological effects of abuse.

It Interferes with Development

When someone experiences long-term abuse, it interferes with the development of the brain, especially at a young age. To cope with such a tough experience, the brain tends to do things in order to repress the brain. For example, in order to cope with the abuse, the brain can alter the patterns of signaling from the pathways that are involved when being abused. This will cause this part of the brain to become underdeveloped from the reduced usage.

By reducing the development of the brain, it can lead to many future problems. This can include learning disabilities and mental health issues among others. It can also interfere with the area of the brain that perceives pain threshold, meaning a person can more easily perceive pain rather than touch.

Nervous Arousal

Abuse can cause what’s called “body dysregulation.” This means that the victims respond to stimuli to an exaggerated degree. This makes their senses hypersensitive and causes them to react to everyday situations much differently than other people.

Nervous arousal means you are more aroused to danger. To most people, this means danger as in seeing a wild animal or being in a dangerous situation. To someone who has been abused, this can mean sensing danger in something as menial as a hug. While this may not seem dangerous to most people, people who have been abused may see human embrace as something dangerous due to their past.


Post-traumatic stress disorder is often seen in people who had been abused in their past. PTSD is an extremely traumatic illness to have as you constantly have to relive your past experiences. Simple things such as loud noises can easily trigger PTSD, and many people may not understand exactly why it’s happening. Just know that when people are reacting differently to events, there’s usually something bigger going on behind the scenes.

Abuse affects people in different ways. One thing is for sure – it takes a toll on mental health. People who have been abused in the past may be suffering, which is why it’s important for them to get the help that they deserve. Holy Cross Counseling can help.

Share this post