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  • Dr. Stuti Kumar

Childhood Trauma: Recognizing the Impact on Mental Health and Recovery Strategy

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Adverse, upsetting experiences that occur during childhood can have an impact on a child's ability to function and cope. Unfortunately, it occurs far too frequently. Trauma is thought to affect 46% of youngsters at some point in their young lives.


Children are resilient, but they are not indestructible. The phrase "They were so young when that happened, they won't even remember it as an adult" is one that adults frequently use. But it's crucial to understand that early trauma can have a lasting impact.


According to psychologist Yolanda Renteria, LPC, "As children's brains develop, they are learning how safe or unsafe the world is through their experiences." "A child must learn how to defend themselves from things they deem dangerous; these defense mechanisms shape the child's personality, "As a result, it's critical to understand when a youngster may require professional assistance to cope with their trauma. Additionally, early intervention can stop the trauma's effects from lasting into adulthood.

An incident that causes fear in children and is frequently violent, dangerous, or life-threatening is known as a childhood traumatic event. Numerous distinct circumstances can result in trauma, which are also commonly referred to as adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs.


Children may experience trauma from physical or sexual abuse, for instance. Children can suffer psychological effects from one-time occurrences like a vehicle accident, a natural disaster (like a storm), the death of a loved one, or a serious medical event.


Even if it seems normal to an adult, ongoing stress such as living in a risky neighborhood or being the subject of bullying can be traumatizing for a youngster.


Childhood trauma doesn’t even have to involve experiences that occur directly to the child. Watching a loved one endure a major health issue, for instance, can be extremely traumatic for children. Violent media can have this effect too


Traumatic experiences can have an impact on a child's brain development, which can have long-term effects on their physical, mental, and social development.


Impacts on Physical Health:


A stressful event that a youngster goes through can hinder their physical growth.13 Their immunological and central nervous systems' growth may be hampered by stress, making it more difficult for them to reach their full potential.


The chance of developing a chronic illness later in life increases with the number of traumatic events a kid has, according to a 2015 study reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


It specifically mentions how recurring trauma raises a child's likelihood of developing:

  • Asthma

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Stroke and Diabetes

According to a 2019 analysis of 134 different research-based articles, exposure to negative experiences as a child raises the risk of growing up with several conditions, including autoimmune diseases, pulmonary diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, as well as higher pain thresholds.


Impact on Mental Health


Trauma experienced as a child may affect mental health. Among the psychological repercussions of traumatic events are:

  • Control of anger difficulties

  • Depression

  • Emotional angst

  • High-stress levels

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Psychotic illnesses

Complexly traumatized children may even become disassociated. Dissociation entails psychologically detaching oneself from the experience. They may believe they are not in their bodies and are viewing it from somewhere else, or they may forget what happened, leaving memory gaps.


According to research reported in Psychiatric Times, adults who endured traumas like physical or sexual abuse or domestic violence as children have a much greater rate of suicide attempts.


Childhood trauma not addressed


Untreated childhood trauma might result in long-lasting problems since its effects are frequently not healed. A person's ability to avoid some of the harmful effects of trauma, even biologically, is also limited if they do not receive treatment.


One study, for instance, discovered that people with untreated childhood trauma had higher levels of glucocorticoid resistance.20 Depression and glucocorticoid resistance are closely related. These results imply that trauma neglect may contribute directly and indirectly to the emergence of depression.


How to Support Children Who Have Been Traumatised:


A child's chance of developing suicidal thoughts can be decreased by providing them with social support, which can help lessen the effects of trauma on them. Following a distressing occurrence, you can help a child in the following ways:

  • Encourage the child to express and be accepted for their feelings.

  • Help them realize they are not to blame.

  • Respond to their inquiries honestly.

  • Assure the youngster that you will take all necessary precautions to keep them safe.

  • As much as you can, maintain a daily schedule.

Please be understanding as each child heals at their rate. The child may be referred for treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy, or family therapy, depending on their age and needs. Medication may also be a possibility in some circumstances, such as when PTSD has been diagnosed, to assist in treating the symptoms.


How to Recover from Childhood Trauma of Your Own


There are various steps you may take to help you deal better if you had trauma as a child and still need to go through the healing process. The National Institute of Mental Health is one of them. overcoming painful experiences.Spending time with the helpful individuals in your life maintaining a regular eating and sleeping routine Engaging in physical activity, avoiding drugs and alcohol.


You can begin to heal by speaking with a mental health expert. A variety of trauma-informed therapies, including acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), and others, may be employed as therapeutic choices.


You can return to a healthy state of functioning even though there may be some degree of suffering following a traumatic experience, and some children are less influenced by their surroundings than others.


It is never too late to obtain help if childhood trauma has had detrimental repercussions. Trauma treatment can still be helpful and effective, whether you adopted a teenager who was abused more than ten years ago or you never sought treatment for the traumatic events you went through forty years ago.


Written by: Dr. Stuti Kumar, Consulting Child Psychologist



Can you identify some common traumatic events that children may experience? (e.g., physical abuse, natural disasters, loss of a loved one)

  • Physical abuse

  • Witnessing domestic violence

  • Loss of a loved one

  • Bullying

You can vote for more than one answer.


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