The damage of toxic stress

Early Childhood Development

The damage of toxic stress

Not all stress is bad, but severe stress that exposes Your Child to neglect or violence can cause mental problems for Your Child that last a lifetime.. 

Why is stress so dangerous?
Excessive activation of stress response systems affects the brain and other organ systems in many ways. When we feel stressed, our body prepares us to respond by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones, such as cortisol. When this stress response is extreme and long-lasting, and supportive relationships are unavailable — it can overload our biological system. This is then called toxic stress. 

Toxic stress disrupts the healthy development of brain architecture. Experiencing toxic stress during the early years can affect our learning, behavior, and health throughout our entire lifespan. If a child experiences too much toxic stress, the foundation gets hurt, and the brain can be damaged forever. 

What to do?
Try to protect Your Child in the early years from stressful situations and from people that could hurt your child. Even though it’s passive, neglect also seriously hurts a child.

If such stressful situations cannot be avoided, for example, because Your Child is sick and needs to go through painful medical procedures, make sure you are there to give emotional support. Strong emotional support by at least one primary caregiver can drastically reduce toxic stress. Unlike adults, young children often cannot express their needs verbally and often feel completely alone with their fears. 

If you are going through a difficult time with your partner or are having financial problems, look for help from outside — maybe the grandparents can help your child to grow up without much exposure to a lot of stress. 

The first 3 years of life are the most important in a person’s life. We need to do all we can to protect this little human from the dangers of this world — even if these dangers are not that obvious at first. They will later be.


Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat (OB-GYN) (6 February 2019)


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