Scientists have found that children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could experience shrinkage in brain structure involved with memory and emotion. This brain disorder could make children less able to deal with stress and even raise anxiety.

In order to cause such brain damage, stress needs to be extreme. So, it is not the stress of doing homework but the one associated with physical, emotional or sexual abuse, witnessing violence or experiencing lasting separation and loss.

Children suffering from PTDS in the study had also elevated levels of stress hormone cortisol that was proven to kill hippocampus cells in animals. If cortisol had the same effects on children, it could lead to raising more anxiety.

The damage occurred in the brain structure could prolong symptoms and interfere with therapy. These children need to be learned how to develop a narrative of the traumatic experience.

Researchers have a lot of additional work to do in order to find why some children are more resilient to stress than others, and what the long-term effects of extreme stress are.

It has previously been established that genes and environment play a role and that PTSD in childhood increases the risk of depression and anxiety in adulthood.

It also needs to be determined whether the smaller hippocampus is a predictor of PTSD or a consequence.