Tag Archives: PTSD

Sexual violence alters the female brain

A new study in Scientific Reports found that prepubescent female rodents who mated with sexually experienced male rodents expressed reduced maternal behaviors necessary to care for offspring, could not absorb information as well, and had increased levels of anxiety caused by hormones.

Image from www.spcaotago.org.nz
Sexual violence alters the female brain, increases anxiety and impacts learning capabilities.  Image from www.spcaotago.org.nz

According to lead author Tracey Shors, this study is vital to understanding how sexual violence affects all living organisms, adding that it’s necessary “to know the consequences of this behavior in order for us to determine what we can do to help women learn to recover from sexual aggression and violence.”

Shors works in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences as a professor.

According to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of women worldwide experience some kind of physical or sexual assault in their lifetime and young, prepubescent girls are much more likely to be victims of assault, attempted rape, or rape. Recent surveys show that as many as one in five female college students experience sexual violence while on campus.

Females who experience sexual violence are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, PTSD and other mood disorders. In spite of the indisputable relationship between mental health disorders in females and sexual trauma, very little is known about how violence affects the female brain. According to Shors, that’s due to the fact that there has not yet been an established laboratory animal model for researching the affects of sexual violence and behavior on brain function in females.

The Sexual Conspecific Aggressive Response (SCAR) model, developed by Shors and her team, sought to determine how stress associated with sexual violence affected female rodents.

Despite the fact that it’s normal for female rats to care for their offspring the females in this study that interacted with the adult male all through pubescence did not show as much maternal behavior as females that were not exposed to the adult male. Less generated brain cells were present in the females that did not learn to care for their offspring when contrasted with females that exhibited maternal behavior.

Although researchers don’t know if this type of sexual violence would have the same effects in humans, research has shown that sexual violence is one of the most likely causes of PTSD in females, which is linked with diminished brain functions related to learning and memory. The offspring of females who experienced sexual violence are at more serious danger for suffering traumatic experiences themselves as they age.

According to Shors, little is known about the brain mechanisms that affect the increase in depression and mood disorders among women who experience trauma from sexual violence, adding that along with these new methods, “we can find out how the female brain responds to aggression and how to help women learn to recover from sexual violence.”

Sexual assault and survivors

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month; it’s only appropriate to explore the effects of sexual assault on that victim’s mental health. Individuals who have experienced sexual assault are three times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder. These disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Continue reading Sexual assault and survivors

From our perspective: It’s an illness, not an infection

Mental illness is becoming more diagnosable and prevalent in today’s society, yet it is still considered taboo. Our question is, why?

Photo from Creative Commons.

A mental illness is not usually a disability that can be prevented. It can also affect people at any age and of any race, religion or income. They aren’t the result of personal weakness, flaw in character or upbringing, and yet many people are outcast and displaced because they live with a mental illness. This would be like outcasting someone with cancer or diabetes. These people can’t prevent their illnesses just as much as a person with a mental illness can’t, but those diseases are far more socially acceptable.

Mental illness is widely misunderstood, so the general public tends to be afraid of the individuals who have this type of ailment. Thus, they shun people who are considered to be mentally ill. Unfortunately, the people who live with these illnesses are the ones who need the most support.

Serious mental illnesses include autism, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder.

The Whim staff feels that our society would be healthier if we were able to easily accept what a mental illness means, instead of just brushing it under the rug.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illnesses as “medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.”

If more people understood that with support these people would be better able to function then it would be easier for everyone to live happy and healthy lives.

We also think that if mental illness weren’t such a taboo subject, then people wouldn’t be so afraid of being diagnosed with one. Thousands of cases of depression and panic disorders go undiagnosed every year because many people do not want to be associated with the disease and they don’t want their peers to think there is something wrong with them. This reaction could potentially be dangerous to the disposition of those going undiagnosed. Untreated depression can, in some cases, lead to suicide and substance abuse. Untreated panic disorders can lead to fear of public situations and anti-social behavior.

The National Institute of Mental Health recently reported that one out of every four adults experience a mental illness every year; that’s about 57.7 million people a year. It doesn’t just influence adults either. The U.S. Surgeon General reported that 10% of children and teens have a serious emotional and mental disorder that causes “significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives,” and it affects their lives at home, their work in school and their relationships with peers.

There are all kinds of resources that are available to people who think they may be living with a mental illness, and those people are usually the ones who need the most help but are instead told to “get over it.” A mental illness is not something to just get over, and it cannot be overcome by willpower alone. We, as a society, need to step up and lend a hand to those in need instead of standing in their way.

Tunnel of Oppression 2010: From Oppression to Enlightenment

Photo by Anna Sacks.

The Tunnel of Oppression is a program that started at the Western Illinois University at Macomb in 1993. Since then the program has spread to college campuses across the United States. The Tunnel’s purpose is to raise awareness about oppressed people and the forms of oppression they endure generated by things like prejudice and discrimination. Radford University has adopted and adapted this program to pertain and relate to the students here at RU.

The program here focuses more on the cognitive effect on its visitors rather than some programs that focus on a more graphic “shock and scar” approach according to DeLoach. The program is presided over by a committee headed by Dave Falletta and Adrien DeLoach. The committee chooses from various topics they’ve brainstormed that Radford students can relate to.

The goal of this particular program is to inform visitors to the exhibit of the challenges their peers with disabilities, which can be invisible to the naked eye, have to face in their regular lives. After choosing the overall theme, the committee chooses what subjects in that theme to address. This year the committee had to choose what disabilities to focus on. They took into account what visitors would find interesting, what challenges members of the community face and what would inspire those in the community to help their peers become successful.

Photo by Anna Sacks.

“We wanted to make it hit closer to home so when students went through they would be more engaged by relating personally to those topics,” Falletta said.

This year’s motto is