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Childhood Trauma and the Lasting Effect into Adulthood

July 10, 2018

 

 

Children who have experienced events they perceive to be unsafe can have a lasting effect that impact them in adulthood. When childhood trauma is avoided, a sense of fear and helplessness can carry over into adulthood. Childhood trauma can result from events that have a negative impact on their sense of safety, including:

  • An unstable or unsafe environment

  • Separation from a parent

  • Serious illness

  • Intrusive medical procedures

  • Sexual, physical, or verbal abuse

  • Domestic violence

  • Neglect

 

Symptoms of Trauma

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-V), the criteria for PTSD include:

 

1. The person was exposed to a stressor where the person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence.

 

2. Intrusion symptoms where the traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in the following way(s):

  • Unwanted upsetting memories

  • Nightmares

  • Flashbacks

  • Emotional distress after exposure to traumatic reminders

  • Physical reactivity after exposure to traumatic reminders

  • Avoidance of trauma-related stimuli after the trauma.

 

3. Negative thoughts or feelings that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Inability to recall key features of the trauma

  • Overly negative thoughts and assumptions about oneself or the world

  • Exaggerated blame of self or others for causing the trauma

  • Negative affect

  • Decreased interest in activities

  • Feeling isolated

  • Difficulty experiencing positive affect

 

4. Trauma-related arousal and reactivity that began or worsened after the trauma, in the following way(s):

  • Irritability or aggression

  • Risky or destructive behavior

  • Hypervigilance

  • Heightened startle reaction

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Difficulty sleeping

 

To be diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms must be present for more than one month, symptoms create distress or functional impairment, and symptoms are not due to medication, substance use, or other illness.

 

Healing from Trauma

While emotional trauma is a normal response to a disturbing event, it becomes PTSD when your nervous system gets “stuck” and you remain in psychological shock, unable to make sense of what happened or process your emotions.

 

Trauma Recovery Tip #1 - Get active

Do something active outside to get the natural benefits from sunshine and increase the “feel good” chemicals in your brain.

 

Trauma Recovery Tip #2 - Mindfulness

Try a mindfulness activity to practice being in the moment without judgement. Mindfulness can help you with focus and becoming more aware of your mind, body and soul.

 

Trauma Recovery Tip #3 - Avoid isolation

Connecting with family, friends, pastor or counselor can help you heal, just by spending time with them. If you feel comfortable it’s okay to ask for support from others. Volunteering can be a way to find healing by helping others.

 

Trauma Recovery Tip #4 - Take Care of Yourself

Exercise, eat healthy, get plenty of rest and avoid alcohol and drugs.

 

 

Reach out to a Professional to Get the Help You Need to Recover from Trauma

Recovering from trauma takes time, and everyone heals at their own pace. But if months have passed and your symptoms aren’t letting up, you may need professional help from a trauma expert.

 

Seek help for trauma if you're:

  • Having trouble functioning at home or work

  • Suffering from severe fear, anxiety, or depression

  • Unable to form close, satisfying relationships

  • Experiencing terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks

  • Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma

  • Emotionally numb and disconnected from others

  • Using alcohol or drugs to feel better

 

When deciding who to work with, look for a therapist who is an experienced trauma specialist. Choosing the right therapist, one who you feel safe with, respected and understood, is extremely important when working through your trauma.

 

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