What factors in early life increase the risk of developing NEAD later?
These are sometimes called “predisposing factors”. These can include:
- Genetic Factors: Little is known about how inherited factors can contribute to people being more or less likely to develop NEAD. However, we know that NEAD is more common in women. We also know of disorders similar to NEAD (such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)) that there are genes which increase the risk of developing this problem. These genes are one of the reasons why one person will develop PTSD after a particular traumatic experience, whereas another person (who has had the same experience) does not.
- Stressful experience: Around 90% of patients with NEAD report that they have had experiences in the past which were so stressful that they could explain ongoing emotional problems. The most widely studied form of traumatic experience is sexual and physical abuse in childhood. The reported rates of sexual or physical abuse in patients with NEAD vary widely, but some studies have found that about one quarter of women with NEAD report some form of early life abuse. Men with NEAD report abuse less commonly. Stressful experience can leave some people in a permanent state of increased alertness (like when you are anxious in the dark and listen out for the slightest noise). Being in this state may make people more sensitive to relatively minor changes around them (like sudden noises, flashing lights or arguments going on around them).
- Family Problems: Some studies suggest that patients with NEAD are more likely to have been neglected by their parents in their early childhood than control populations, or that they have experienced their families as less supportive and communicative and more critical. People with NEAD are also more likely than people with epilepsy to have a family history of psychiatric disorder or epilepsy.
- Personality Factors: NEAD is not associated with one particular personality type. However, some people with NEAD have a tendency to experience emotions more strongly than others and to be subject to sudden changes of emotions. Other people with NEAD have unusual levels of control over their emotions and are not aware of small (but perhaps important) changes in their emotions.
- Psychological health: People with NEAD are more likely to have disorders such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.
- Physical health: Having physical health problems increases the risk of developing NEAD. The risk of developing NEAD is also higher in people with epilepsy. This may be because other conditions cause changes in the brain, which make it harder for people to deal with distressing situations. However, other illnesses can also affect how people feel about themselves and may cause NEAs by affecting their emotions or thinking.
- Cognitive Factors: There is no typical pattern of problems with brain performance in people with NEAD. However, a substantial proportion of people with NEAD perform below expectation on tests of attention, memory and mental processing. Problems with brain performance do not only occur in people with physical disorders of the brain but also when people are anxious or depressed.
For more information about what factors can then lead to NEAs starting,click here.