Patients would carry soda into Dr. Gerard Clancy’s office, with cigarettes tucked away for after therapy.
Often victims of abuse or violent crime, they would seek soothing but risky behaviors to cope.
Overweight. Chronic pain. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Type II diabetes. His former patients will die younger than they should, he said.
Clancy conducted therapy sessions until he became president of the University of Tulsa in 2016. At his psychiatry clinic, he saw firsthand how a lifetime of unhealthy habits wear on a person suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after a serious threat to his or her well-being.
“It dates back as much as anything to their behaviors and how they live their lives daily,” said Clancy, who remains a prominent leader in Tulsa’s mental-health network. “They walk in with the biggest QuikTrip thing of sugary Coca-Cola as possible. And as soon as they’re done seeing me, they go outside and smoke.
“Part of that is how their brain has been wired.”
Tulsa is at the forefront of revolutionary research to unlock a deeper knowledge of how social, behavioral, physical and environmental factors may affect brain development and health. Oklahoma is No. 1 in the nation in youths up to age 17 who have experienced two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences, according to the 2017 National Survey of Children’s Health conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Trauma at a young age can negatively alter or stunt cognitive development, creating undesirable genetic changes that may even be passed onto future generations, some studies show.