June 19, 2024

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Child Trauma?

4 min read
Long-Term Effects of Child Trauma

Childhood trauma is defined as a disturbing event that a child perceives to be life-threatening, violent, and/or dangerous. Trauma causes anxiety as well as significant psychological, physical, and emotional harm. A traumatic event can be a one-time occurrence, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one, or it can be a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or hurricane. Being a victim of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, racism, or bullying, or living in an unstable neighbourhood can all be traumatic experiences. 

Trauma can have a negative impact on a child’s physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. Untreated or unresolved childhood trauma can persist into adulthood. 

As a result, it is critical to identify trauma symptoms in children in the weeks and months following a traumatic event so that early intervention can help minimise and/or prevent long-term consequences.

What is a child trauma signature event? 

A traumatic event is a frightening, dangerous, or violent event that threatens the child’s life or physical integrity. Witnessing a traumatic event that threatens the life or physical integrity of a loved one can also be devastating. Because their sense of security depends on their perceived security with the object of affection. Traumatic experiences can provoke strong emotional and physical reactions that last long after the event. Children may experience fear, helplessness, or anxiety, as well as physiological reactions such as palpitations, vomiting, and loss of bowel or bladder control.

Traumatic Emotional Signs

A traumatised child typically has difficulty identifying, expressing, and managing their emotions. In their emotional state, they may internalise their feelings and have limited language. They may react strongly and unpredictably to stress and have difficulty de-escalating their heightened emotions.

To protect themselves, if the nature of their trauma involves interpersonal relationships, they may become extremely vigilant and defensive when interacting with others. If the child does not have meaningful and trusting relationships, he or she may not learn how to appropriately manage their emotions.

The following are some of the emotional signs of trauma in children:

  • Sadness or a sense of worthlessness
  • displaying outbursts of rage and aggression
  • Being easily scared or terrified
  • Feelings of shame or guilt
  • Feeling down or lonely?
  • Fearful behaviour when separated from a parent

Traumatic behavioural signs 

Trauma in young children can have a negative impact on the developing brain. When the brain prioritises recognising and responding to threats, skill acquisition suffers and development is slowed. The limbic system, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex are among the brain regions affected. The prefrontal cortex regulates emotions, attention, cognition, executive function, and impulse control. 

The following are some of the behavioural signs of trauma in children:

  • Having a low frustration tolerance
  • Dissociation symptoms include withdrawing, closing off, not being present, or shutting down.
  • Having difficulty focusing or concentrating on schoolwork, projects, tasks, and/or conversation Regressive behaviour, in which they revert to an earlier stage of development, such as bedwetting and/or thumb sucking
  • refusing to attend school
  • Frequently crying
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Suddenly gaining or losing weight
  • Changing their eating habits or demonstrating symptoms of disordered eating or an eating disorder
  • Adopting reckless and risky behaviours, such as substance abuse and inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Self-harm behaviours such as cutting or suicidality
  • expressing deep concern for their safety
  • Re-enactment of the traumatic event, particularly in younger children

Physical Symptoms of Trauma

Trauma in children can have a negative impact on how their immune system functions. Exposure to trauma, in particular, causes the immune system to activate inflammatory responses for an extended period of time. This can make children more prone to illnesses like metabolic syndrome, asthma, and infections.

Body dysregulation is another physical sign that a child has experienced complex trauma. Body dysregulation occurs when the body either over-reacts or under-reacts to sensory stimuli. For example, the child may be overly sensitive to noise, touch, light, or odours. They may complain of pain in areas of their body that have no physical cause.  Or they may be desensitised to their physical sensations, in which case they are unaware when their body is in pain or being touched. As a result, they may inadvertently cause physical harm to themselves.

Trauma Therapy

Trauma-focused therapy, also known as trauma-informed therapy, is a catch-all term. It refers to a type of therapy that is specifically designed to address the effects of trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some trauma therapy is:

  • Prolonged exposure therapy (PE), 

              because most people want to avoid anything related to trauma, this modality teaches you how to gradually confront the feelings associated with a trigger in a safe environment. It usually takes three months with one session per week, this method may be beneficial for people who have chronic or recurring PTSD.

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), 

CBT is often considered the first line of defines against injury. It is effective in treating PTSD symptoms. It can help you identify unhelpful thought patterns, learn how to deal with difficult situations, and better understand why others behave the way they do. How long CBT lasts to help recover from trauma There are no restrictions on It can take months or years, depending on the progress.

Some complementary treatments for trauma include:

  • acupuncture
  • deep breathing exercises
  • meditation
  • progressive relaxation techniques
  • tai chi
  • yoga

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