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Scars of Child Abuse Becoming More Visible


"It's sort of like rumbling around in somebody's trashcan looking for beer bottles to prove that they're an alcoholic," says Saunders.

"If you rumbled through 100 trashcans and in 20 cases you found 30 beer bottles and everyone else only had one or two, then there is a greater likelihood that someone in [the houses with more bottles] in an alcoholic. But you don't know if they had a party that weekend or what went on just by looking at a particular marker," Saunder says.

But, he says, the research is promising and may someday allow researchers to reduce the impact of abuse with early treatment to prevent psychiatric problems.

Newport agrees. He says the findings give hope that drugs used to treat depression may actually be used to prevent depression in women with a history of childhood abuse. Currently, his team is continuing to follow the women in the study and treat them with antidepressants.

"We're investigating the use of an [antidepressant] to see if it not only would provide symptomatic improvement to women who are depressed, but might also reverse these biological changes we've detected in women who were survivors of child abuse, whether they are depressed or not," Newport says.

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