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It is a tragedy when a child is traumatized by situations that are outside of his or her control. Even more tragic is the fallout that childhood trauma can cause later on when they reach adulthood. It’s bad enough to have been abused or neglected as a child. But the symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood can be truly devastating.
What is Childhood Trauma?
We may first think of physical abuse when we hear about childhood trauma. However, there are actually many ways a child can be traumatized. Many of these events or situations can leave a child with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Consider these ways a child may experience trauma:
- Physical abuse. Physical beatings perpetrated by an adult on a child are brutal examples of childhood abuse and trauma.
- Sexual abuse. An adult parent who sexually assaults his or her child is the most heinous example of child abuse.
- Neglect. Neglect is when a parent fails to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect can be either emotional or physical in nature.
- Raised by an addicted parent. A child with a drug or alcohol-addicted parent lives in a constant state of chaos, as well as having their safety compromised.
- Death of a parent. When a child faces the untimely loss of their mother or father it can be very traumatizing.
Effects of Childhood Trauma
When a child grows up in a less than ideal home, you just want to hope that they are resilient and can rise above it. However, a landmark study called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) provided a sad picture of childhood trauma. ACE studied 17,000 kids over a four-year period to better understand the long-term effects of adverse childhood events. ACE focused the study on these ten adverse events:
- Physical abuse.
- Sexual abuse.
- Emotional abuse.
- Physical neglect.
- Emotional neglect.
- Parental divorce
- Witnessing domestic violence.
- Mental illness within the home.
- A family member in jail or prison.
The study found that the long-term effects on a child’s adult life are profound. Many of the kids in the study grew up to have poor health, mental health, and substance use disorders. ACE is also linked with poverty and early death.
Symptoms of Childhood Trauma
When the child experiences a traumatic event or an ongoing adverse situation, they become overwhelmed by a sense of danger. Children do not have the capacity to reason why their parents would harm them. They don’t understand that the parent is addicted, mentally unfit, or in some other way compromised. All they can feel is fear and that they are in danger.
Here are some of the signs of trauma in a child:
- Bad dreams, nightmares, or night terrors.
- Wetting the bed even though formerly potty trained.
- Expresses a fear of dying.
- Has emotional reactions when exposed to triggers or reminders of the trauma.
- Irritability, agitation.
- Angry outbursts, violent behavior.
- Clingy behavior.
- Has trouble concentrating.
- Extreme emotional reactivity.
- Loses interest in activities they once enjoyed.
- Physical complaints, like stomach distress and headaches.
- Regressing to a younger age.
5 Ways Childhood Trauma Can Affect Adults
Even decades after the trauma, an adult can display the after-effects of the event. These are some of the most common symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood:
- Substance abuse. Substance abuse is a maladaptive response to the anxiety and depression that develops later in life. The adult relies on the substance to numb the emotional scars left by the trauma.
- Relationship struggles. Adults who carry the burden of childhood abuse or trauma with them every day will often struggle in relationships. They may have a hard time forming deep and lasting bonds with a partner.
- Depression. Dysthymia, or persistent depression, is a long-term effect of childhood trauma. This may be expressed by irrational feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or shame, feeling that they were somehow to blame.
- PTSD. PTSD is a prolonged trauma response that does not resolve. Symptoms of PTSD include emotional detachment, substance abuse, nightmares, hyper-arousal, guilt, flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and depression.
- Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID is when someone forms a dual personality as a response to trauma. An alter-ego is a safe place, a reprieve from the difficult emotions caused by the trauma.
Trauma Treatment Options
There are several treatment options for someone who is suffering the effects of childhood trauma, at different levels of care. They include:
Trauma retreats. A trauma retreat is designed just for people who have experienced trauma and need some specialized support. The trauma retreat blends therapy with holistic methods and also spa treatments.
Outpatient. Outpatient support is available in three levels of care. Basic outpatient may be weekly therapy sessions and joining a support group. The IOP offers treatment three times a week, or about nine hours per week. PHP is the highest level of outpatient treatment. It involves five days a week of participation in therapy and various activities.
Residential. The inpatient or residential setting offers a more intensive and tailored approach to trauma treatment. Residential programs are in a private home setting that is located in a beautiful location, which is perfect for healing. They feature daily therapy sessions, both one-on-one and group therapy. Therapies designed for treating trauma include exposure therapy, CBT, and cognitive processing therapy, as well as medication. These programs also include holistic activities like meditation, massage, and yoga.
If you are suffering from the long-term fallout of childhood trauma, there is a treatment option that can help you. Take back your life, and reach out for help and support today.
Mental Health Hope Offers Solutions for the Treatment of Trauma
Mental Health Hope can provide timely guidance for those with symptoms of childhood trauma in adulthood at no charge. Our compassionate team is here to offer treatment solutions to assist you in your journey to wellness. Please reach out to us today at (877) 967-9274.