Childhood Trauma... signs to look for

What is Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma refers to the exposure of a fearful, dangerous, violent, or life-threatening event that occurs between ages of 0-18.

An event becomes traumatic when we face or witness a threat to an acute loved one or ourselves that cause extremely distressing and painful emotions. Life experiences that are considered traumatic varies between children.

These negative reactions to a traumatic event can have lasting damages to a child’s overall well-being (mental, physical, social, spiritual health).

Types of Childhood Trauma:

Abuse: Physical, Emotional, Sexual

Neglect: Physical, Emotional

Household Dysfunction: Incarceration, Parental Separation or Divorce, witnessing mother being treated violently, Alcohol/Substance Abuse, Mental Illness, and Death

The negative reactions of stress and fearful emotions from being exposed to traumatic events can overwhelm a child ability to cope with stress as they move through their childhood into adulthood. The impact of stress can emerge immediately after exposure or later in life and can last for short-term or long-term. Signs and symptoms of traumatic stress may vary between children considering factors of the type of trauma, age, and duration of exposure.

Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Constant feelings of fear, anger, tension, feeling emotionally upset

  • Reports of feeling depressed

  • Reports of fear or anxiety, or getting startled easily

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Suffering from nightmares, disrupted sleep or trouble sleeping

  • Changes in appetite or weight loss

  • Isolation or trouble forming relationships

  • Difficulty paying attention in school

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Crying spells

  • Loss of interest in activities

  • Poor academic performance (Lower grades)

  • Complain of physical aches or pains

  • Engage in risky behaviors (Substance use, Drinking, Sexually active)

  • Self-harming behaviors (Unexplained injuries scratches, cuts, bruises, bumps

Recognizing early warning signs can help you notice changes in your child’s mental and physical health state and find the appropriate resources and support. It is critical to address the impacts of the traumatic exposure to reduce the long-term adverse effects to your child’s development and future well-being

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