Unrelenting stress can have a negative impact on one’s life. The effects are greater if one starts experiencing symptoms of stress in the early stages of life. While studying the effects of stress on the minds of teenagers, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital and Pakistan’s Khyber Medical University have unveiled how persistent stress early in life can make one prone to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as he/she grows older.
The researchers in their study, titled “Ghrelin is a persistent biomarker for chronic stress exposure in adolescent rats and humans,” found that acute stress can result in a constant rise in the hormone ghrelin in a rat model as well as in human adolescents. The study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry in April 2018 highlighted how the rodents with high levels of ghrelin induced by stress were more likely to suffer from an excessive fear response even after a long time of the stressful experience. However, the vulnerability to heightened response to fear got eliminated with prolonged blockade to ghrelin signaling.
Effect of stress on hunger hormone
Elucidating the findings, lead author of the study Dr. Ki Goosens from the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease said, “Ghrelin is called the ‘hunger hormone’, and while it does play an important role in appetite, it has many other effects. Ours is the first to show that traumatic stress increases ghrelin in humans — specifically in adolescent humans — and the first to look at ghrelin elevation over long time periods after the end of the stressor.”
The researchers carried out a series of experiments to determine the possible long-term effect of excessive stress on levels of hormone ghrelin. For this, the scientists immobilized a group of adolescent rats inside their cages continuously for two weeks to induce increasing levels of stress. The research team also looked into the behavior of the rats classified in the control group over the same study period. They found that the levels of hormone ghrelin in stress-induced rats had not only gone up significantly within the next 24 hours after their last exposure to stress, but also continued to remain high for another 130 days, nearly equivalent to 12 years in the lifespan of human beings.
To understand if the findings on rats conformed to human models too, the researchers evaluated the emotional state of 88 children living in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, an area prone to bombardment and bloodshed owing to terrorist activities. Respondents, aged roughly 14 years during the study, had already experienced some traumatic events. The participants in the control group had not been subject to any such traumatic activity.
The blood tests of the participants showed circulating ghrelin levels in trauma-affected children to be around two times more than those in the control group. The children, along with their wards, were interviewed to understand differences in their sleep patterns, regulation of their emotions and tendency of social isolation and the details were contrasted with participants in the control group. The study revealed that control group participants had a normal body mass index (BMI) compared to trauma-exposed children with a much lower BMI. The findings of the study are important in the sense that ghrelin prevents unstressed individuals from feeling any kind of fear, suggesting a significant therapeutic intervention that could reverse the hunger hormone resistance.
Treating PTSD in adolescents
Adolescents are more vulnerable to emotions. It is necessary to keep them shielded from any incidents or accidents that may trigger manifestations of PTSD during their later stages. In addition, it would be helpful to identify individuals more likely to feel stressed so that they can be treated with therapy and medication before their emotional condition worsens.
If your teen has experienced any incident that has led him/her to feel stressed out, it is possible that he or she may suffer from teen posttraumatic stress disorder. Specialists involved in teen PTSD treatment recommend early medical interventions to prevent worsening of the mental condition. Sovereign Health is a leading mental health care provider in the U.S. Call our 24/7 helpline number for more information about our world-class facilities in your vicinity treating teen PTSD. You may also chat with our online counselor for more details about our evidence-based PTSD treatment for teens.